Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Cabinet give green light to Miami-Dade SR-836 project – CBS Miami
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami / NSF) – While questioning the future of the project, Gov. Ron DeSantis and a divided state cabinet on Tuesday backed Miami-Dade County as it seeks to expand a freeway across the wetlands associated with the Everglades.
DeSantis, along with Attorney General Ashley Moody and CFO Jimmy Patronis, rejected an order recommended in March 2020 by Administrative Judge Suzanne Van Wyk that the proposed route does not comply with the local global plan and may be incompatible with efforts to protect the Everglades.
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The ruling is expected to trigger further legal challenges against the planned extension of Kendall Parkway to the Dolphin Freeway, while DeSantis added that the road may not pass the clearance process. The 13 to 14 mile extension is aimed at relieving traffic in the Kendall area.
“It has not been approved to be consistent at all with everything we do with the restoration of the Everglades. I mean, it’s not like it’s going to happen, ”DeSantis said. “I mean, they have to go through all of these environmental reviews. And so, I think it’s premature to say it’s going to do some things, because I think if some of the things that are happening that are positive are happening, I don’t think it will be allowed by South Florida Water Management. District.”
Voting against the Cabinet decision, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said she understood the need to improve traffic around Kendall, but that a balance had to be maintained between growth and the environment.
After the meeting, Fried issued a statement that the project “will undermine the restoration of the Everglades and endanger Miami-Dade’s wildlife, farmlands and water supply, without adequately reducing urban sprawl. “.
Van Wyk issued the recommended order after the project created challenges from parties such as the Tropical Audubon Society.
Critics have argued that the highway will hamper Everglades restoration efforts and increase urban sprawl, while providing only minutes of assistance to commuters.
“The judge found, unsurprisingly, that the construction of a highway 14 miles outside of (county urban development boundaries) is inconsistent with the requirement of the Audubon Company Compa Plan. “This is an unassailable finding, because the county’s own experts have said, and it is a quote, that the amendment to the plan will not shift the mode of travel from single-occupancy vehicles to public transport.” It does not reduce dependence on the use of personal cars.
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After the meeting, the Sierra Club called Tuesday’s decision “political favors.”
“Instead of chopping off the Everglades Snakeway’s head, they fed him by ignoring the compelling evidence presented by the plaintiffs, the urgent pleas of the Everglades attorneys and the findings of Judge (Van) Wyk after a careful review of the records and cases. expert testimonials, “Diana Umpierre of the Sierra Club said in a statement.
Deputy County Attorney Dennis Kerbel said the road is necessary to improve mobility, especially for Kendall residents, and will not impact Everglades restoration efforts.
“It’s not in the Everglades. It’s miles from Everglades National Park. It traverses wetlands that have been identified as part of the comprehensive Everglades restoration plan, ”Kerbel said. “The feedback we have received from the Water Management District is that the Everglades Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CERP) project for the region is going to be a transportation channel. And the data showed that the road could be built in a coherent way with a canal, and therefore would preserve the existing project.
Kerbel added that the county’s current policy “favors the restoration of the Everglades, as it requires that land for wetland mitigation be purchased as much as possible around this proposed extension.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Tropical Audubon Society announced its intention to challenge the decision “to threaten the restoration of the Everglades and risk the water safety of Miami-Dade County.”
“Because the governor has been a strong advocate for restoring the Everglades, the decision truly came as a big surprise,” said Tropical Audubon Society executive director Paola Ferreira. “This reckless move is inconsistent with Miami-Dade County planning laws, as well as the significant funding, time and effort invested in the restoration of the Everglades by the federal government, the State of Florida and the County of Miami-Dade. Putting the county’s water safety at stake is also reckless.
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