Everglades restoration deal gets an extension

WEST PALM BEACH — Florida water managers have approved a contract extension for a bold plan to buy land from the nation’s largest cane sugar producer for Everglades restoration.

The board of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees restoration efforts, voted Thursday on a six-month extension.

The deal was proposed by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. It calls for the state to pay $536 million for 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land in the Everglades.

Critics call it a waste of taxpayer money that will only slow other key restoration efforts, but Crist says it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to help clean the Everglades, long polluted by fertilizers and urban runoff.

The deal is also being legally challenged. It heads to the Florida Supreme Court next month.