Sep 18, 2018

Environmental Groups Oppose Emergency Estuary Protection Wells

$10 million dollar plan to reduce polluted lake water receives mixed reaction

There are plans to spend $10 million to build injection wells.
There are plans to spend $10 million to build injection wells.

There are plans to spend $10 million to build injection wells to dispose of Lake Okeechobee overflow, according to My Palm Beach Post. The wells would pump the overflow 3,000 ft underground. The plan titled “Emergency Estuary Protections Well” is being called a quick solution to reduce the polluted lake water being discharged into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Environmental groups oppose the plan and argue that it is a waste of freshwater that is needed during the dry season.

The test wells have been approved by the South Florida Water Management District governing board. The plan may include up to 60 wells. Each well would cost more than $5 million and pump 15 million gallons of water per day.

“Restoration is about capturing the water, cleaning it and redirecting it to where it should go,” said Shannon Estenoz, chief operating officer of the Everglades Foundation and former vice-chair of the water district’s governing board . “The biggest problem is when we throw the water away in the wet season and then when the drought hits, we don’t have it.”

Estenoz said the district only should do the projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration, projects that work toward a repair of the Everglades. She believes the deep injection wells are “1940s thinking,” or a time time when unwanted water was channeled places it shouldn’t be leaving parts of the Everglades too dry, while other parts drown.

However, officials in the district said these deep injection wells would reduce flows to the estuaries while other projects are happening.

“We are running this with the thought that these will work in conjunction with restoration, not replace those projects,” said Ansley Marr, the district’s chief of state and agricultural. policy during a board meeting. “Estuaries derive benefits from these wells under any CERP condition.”

The plan for the 10,500 acre above-ground reservoir and 6,500 acre stormwater treatment area will seek money from the 2020 federal budget if it is approved by the end of the year.

“This is good news for America’s Everglades,” said Celeste De Palma, director of Everglades policy at Audubon Florida.

In June of this year, the district decided to pursue the wells with the idea that they would only be used when there is excess water in the lake.