By: Tyler Treadway, Treasure Coast Newspapers
WEST PALM BEACH — The South Florida Water Management District Thursday agreed to spend nearly $7.2 million to drill a test well for a proposed project to send excess Lake Okeechobee water deep underground rather than discharge it to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
District officials say 30 to 60 deep water-storage wells drilled at sites around Lake O could dramatically reduce the need for damaging discharges to the estuaries.
Critics say the wells wouldn't be as effective as the district claims, could pollute aquifers needed for drinking water and could detract from larger projects needed to curtail discharges.
Sending the water "down a hole" is also wasteful, Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, told the SFWMD board Thursday.
"You should be sending it south to the Everglades and to recharge aquifers," Perry said.
Completing projects that will send clean water south will take "decades" to complete, countered board member Brandon Tucker, "and we need solutions right now, today."
Tucker said "nine out of 10" Martin County residents he talks to about the wells are "excited about them as an interim solution." Grumbles could be heard in the audience, which included several Martin County residents…