Hurdles ahead on Everglades deal

The lead negotiator for the state's Big Sugar deal acknowledged Wednesday that serious hurdles remain, including figuring out whether water managers can afford to pay $1.34 billion in the middle of the worst economic crisis in decades.

Mike Sole, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said he recognized the contract he crafted with U.S. Sugar also would need broader political support -- especially from Glades communities and state lawmakers -- to survive.

''We can either let the opportunity slip through our fingers or continue to pursue the opportunity,'' Sole said during a conference call with Eric Buermann, chairman of the South Florida Water Management District, which narrowly approved the controversial deal 4-3 Tuesday. ''This is just the beginning,'' Sole said. ``We have a lot of work ahead.''

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