Commentary: U.S. Sugar deal has flaws but also benefits Everglades

Like everything involving the Everglades, the state's agreement to purchase 72,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land for $536 million has its share of champions and critics. But though it's less than perfect, the deal is worth doing.

Backers say it's a long-term investment in Everglades reclamation -- the biggest land acquisition ever that will go a long way to help clean Florida's environmental jewel. Skeptics say it's a costly taxpayer bailout of U.S. Sugar that will steal funding from other restoration projects.

Some criticism is justified. The 2008 agreement, struck behind closed doors by Gov. Crist and U.S. Sugar, wrongly shut out other Everglades stakeholders, such as the Miccosukee Tribe and Florida Crystals. The initial plan to buy all the company's holdings for $1.75 billion has been downscaled twice. But the state is still paying too much.

The latest plan, beset by delays and lawsuits, is set to expire March 31 unless the South Florida Water Management District's governing board, the buyer, extends the deadline.

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