The Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A Florida judge has ruled that the state can move ahead with a $536 million plan to buy land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration.

Palm Beach County District Judge Donald Hafele says in his order Wednesday that the South Florida Water Management District proved the proposal has a "valid public purpose."

South Florida water managers plan to buy 73,000 acres of farmland from the company to construct reservoirs and water treatment marshes.

The deal also leaves open the option for the state to purchase more land from the nation's largest cane sugar producer.

But U.S. Sugar's main rival, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indians had argued the deal was an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and could further delay Everglades restoration efforts.