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Federal judges keeps hope alive for Crist's Everglades land deal

Forcing water managers to build a massive abandoned reservoir would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars but still not do enough to clean up the Everglades, according to an advisor to a federal judge.

If U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno accepts the advisor's recommendation, and he has in the past, it would keep alive what remains of Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial sugar land buy.

The South Florida Water Management District acknowledges it can't afford both projects -- completing a $700 million, 16,700-acre reservoir in western Palm Beach County and buying 26,000 acres for $197 million from the U.S. Sugar Corp. to convert it to reservoirs and pollution cleaning marshes.

Moreno, who oversees the landmark 1992 settlement that forced the state to cut pollution runoff destroying the native landscape, ordered the state in March to revive the reservoir, saying he was tired of waiting for the promising but downsized and repeatedly delayed U.S. Sugar land buy. He assigned John Barkett, a special master he appointed to analyze the complex Everglades litigation, to hash out new construction deadlines and cleanup plans. More from the Herald's Curtis Morgan here.

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