I've spent about six hours watching the webcast of the 12/2/08 workshop, which is available on the District's website in the "River of Grass" section.  I used a lot of "fast forward". I commend it to those with patience.  These are my personal comments on the public speaking portion and the general outcome:
28 +2 public signed up to speak; I think 26 +2 did.  The clear vast majority advocated delay the decision on the land acquisition until there is more information on the economics and a plan for jobs after seven years.  Most were residents of Clewiston, South Bay and Belle Glade.  It's all about jobs, jobs, jobs.  Protests were heard that OTTED hasn't proposed any plan to save jobs; there was a lot of anti-Crist sentiment.
No one seemed to understand that Sugar is going to run out of soil and productive time no matter what happens, sooner or later.
The big hangups are the leaseback and the lack of an end game.  $50.00 per acre is obviously about 25% of fair market value, and there was lots of sentiment for competitive bidding of the leases.  $150.00 per acre was again offered by the Coop.  The question was raised: Why can't USSC lease for just $50.00 and then turn around and sub-lease for $150.00.  The answer is: thre is nothing to prevent that in this deal.  "Unfair Competitive Advantage" was the cry.  Ruthie Clements pointed out that Talisman is currently leased to Florida Crystals for $59.10 per acre per year.
The other big hangup is the uncertainty in the credit market.  The District does not know what interest rate it may be paying or whether the bond issue will even float.  Of course, the contract allows them to back out if financing proves un feasible.
No one had any answers for what happens after seven years?  What's the long range plan?  There simply isn't one.  The broad general consensus was "Postpone the decision until those questions are answered."
Rumberger offered luke warm support by the Everglades Foundation, but said the lease fee should be $150.00 per acre.   Gaston Canten of Florida Crystals again reiterated that they were willing to support the flowway, and trade lands, but "Call us in seven years".  "Unfair competition", he said.  Nat Reed was the only voice in total support of the deal: "The Everglades cannot be retored without a major acquisition.  Get the land." he said.  Mark Kraus said that ASR is a non-starter but the EF supports the acquisition.  Jacquie Weisblum of Audubon of Florida said they question the leaseback and sublet, and I do too.
We'll hear more discussion and staff reponses to the GB's questions on 12/15, but I predict the Board will vote no on 12/16 unless there are some major concessions by USSC on 12/8.
I gathered from GB members' comments that Buerman, Meeker, Estenoz and one new member whose name I didn't catch seem to favor the deal, but  there might be a tie vote or a deadlock on the 16th.  Collins is the most vocal against the deal, but the others seemed seriously skeptical, including Dauray and Rooney.
It will be interesting to see what USSC's Board does on Monday 12/8.  Will they authorize delay in the deadline to accept the contract or offer more than $50.00 per acre per year?
Stay tuned!
W.E. "Ted" Guy, Jr.
Stuart, FL 34997