Sugar land deal for Everglades now sure, but smaller

If Charlie Crist were a car salesman, the $1.75 billion buyout of a sprawling sugar empire he pitched as the salvation of the Everglades more than two years ago might be likened to a Ferrari Enzo. Expensive, flashy but ridiculously impractical.

One economic meltdown and three downsizings later, water managers are poised to drive off with what amounts to a Honda Civic of an Everglades restoration land purchase. Not nearly all they wanted but all they can afford.

After a last uneventful review of the controversial deal on Friday, the South Florida Water Management District moved within a single step of buying 26,800 acres of citrus groves and cane fields between the Glades and Lake Okeechobee from the U.S. Sugar Corp. All that remains for Tuesday's scheduled closing is to electronically transfer $194,234,087.08 of district money into the accounts of the state's largest sugar grower.

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