WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – South Florida water managers have approved Gov. Charlie Crist’s deal to buy farmland from U.S. Sugar Corp. for use in Everglades restoration.

The South Florida Water Management District voted 6-1 Wednesday to pay $536 million for 73,000 acres from the company, in the final step to approve the deal.

U.S. Sugar is the nation’s largest cane sugar producer. The size of the purchase has been trimmed since it was announced last year to trim the cost.

The plan is to convert farm land into conservation land, allowing water to be naturally cleaned and stored before flowing south into the Everglades.

Florida Crystals, the state’s second largest sugar producer, has filed a lawsuit to block the deal, calling it an unfair advantage for its competitor.

AP-ES-05-13-09 1856EDT

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