Innovative funding wins Bond Buyer's 'Deal of the Year' award

The South Florida Water Management District was awarded The Bond Buyer's Deal of the Year Award for its $546.1-million issue of certificates of participation (COPs) to fund Everglades restoration projects. The District issued the AAA-rated insured bonds in November 2006 to help jump start construction of Acceler8, eight projects critical to the overall revitalization of the River of Grass. The District's COPs were the first ever issued for a natural resources project in the U.S...

Dec 14th, 2007

• South Florida Water Management District honored for issuing nation's first municipal bonds to finance natural resources projects

WEST PALM BEACH, FL, Dec. 12, 2007 -- Recognized as the nation's most innovative municipal bond issuer, the South Florida Water Management District last night was awarded The Bond Buyer's Deal of the Year Award for its $546.1-million issue of certificates of participation (COPs) to fund Everglades restoration projects. The District issued the AAA-rated insured bonds in November 2006 to help jump start construction of Acceler8, eight projects critical to the overall revitalization of the River of Grass. Notably, the District's COPs were the first ever to be issued for a natural resources project in the United States.

"This innovative funding mechanism enabled the District to access capital markets for the agency's contribution toward the $10 billion federal-state plan to restore the Everglades," said District Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann. "The impact of our success is truly global. It lets others around the world know that they can procure funding to tackle complex environmental issues today."

The Bond Buyer, a national daily newspaper covering the municipal bond market, considered deals that closed between October 1, 2006, and September 30, 2007, for its 2007 awards. This year's competition, the sixth annual, drew nearly 100 entries from across the country for transactions that financed projects including bridges, hospitals, schools, environmental protection, an airport, military housing and others.

The entries were evaluated by The Bond Buyer's editors and bureau chiefs, who looked for innovation, financial complexity, the ability for a deal to serve as a model for other financings, and the public purpose for which the transaction's proceeds were used. Two finalists -- a large issuer and small issuer -- were selected as winners for each of five U.S. regions. The District was earlier named a large issuer finalist in the southeast region and in New York last night selected as the winner among 10 finalists for the overall Deal of the Year Award.

"We felt that the South Florida Water Management District, by putting its efforts into getting started on these projects to preserve and restore the Everglades, epitomized how innovation in the municipal market can have an impact well beyond the local level and help save a national asset," said Amy B. Resnick, editor in chief of The Bond Buyer.

In 2004, Florida fast-tracked the funding, design and construction of Acceler8 projects through COPs financing to bring positive benefits to the Everglades sooner. As opposed to the "pay as you go" approach, taxpayer dollars needed for construction are significantly leveraged, and the expedited course of action reaffirms the commitment of the State to revitalize the Everglades ecosystem.

"The COPs program is a living, breathing example of how local governments, state and federal agencies can get together and get projects in the ground faster," said District Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle.

Since 2000, Florida has invested close to $2 billion toward the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Just this year, the state expanded its restoration efforts to the northern part of the ecosystem and extended a dedicated trust fund through 2020 to set aside another $2.3 billion in state funding toward restoration of the South Florida ecosystem.

Florida's 2007-08 budget includes close to $200 million for the restoration and protection of the South Florida ecosystem, allocating $100 million for Everglades restoration, $54 million for the restoration of Lake Okeechobee, as well as $40 million to protect the health of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.

For more information about Everglades restoration or updates on specific Acceler8 projects, see: www.evergladesnow.org

The South Florida Water Management District is a regional, governmental agency that oversees the water resources in the southern half of the state -- 16 counties from Orlando to the Keys.

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