SOUTHWEST FLORIDA -- The fight over where to send the water from Lake Okeechobee, in hopes of preventing another algae crisis like we saw in 2016, took an interesting turn on Thursday with an important development and a possible new option.
Instead of battling over sending the water south, east or west, state water authorities proposed sending the excess water from Lake Okeechobee underground.
The plan, which also outlined a combination of water storage technologies, was unveiled for the first time at the Water Resources Advisory Commission meeting on Thursday morning. Some at the meeting said it was a "no brainer" to stop the algae crisis and protect the state's estuary system.
Blue-green algae is a nightmare that state water authorities deal with every spring, summer and into the fall.
"Like everyone else, I do quite a bit of praying for less rain and less storm water run off," says Nyla Pipes, director of the One Florida Foundation.
Now some believe there's a way to prevent another algae crisis. "Which I don't believe has been done, at least in Florida, if not the country," says Bob Verrastro, lead hydrogeologist for South Florida water Management District.
He has presented a plan to use deep well injections, in which Lake Okeechobee runoff would be disposed deep underground.
He knows the idea strikes fear in a lot of people. "People are concerned that deep injection wells could be a cause of fracturing or earthquakes. The good news is that our boulder zone, the aquifer that we are going to be pumping into, is so highly transmissive that injection pressures are very, very low."
Verrastro also tells Fox 4 that the risk for sinkholes is non-existent. "It's 3,000 feet underground, so there's a lot of strata overlining the confining zone that would also structurally hold of the rock in place. So sinkholes would not be forming."
During Thursday's rollout, opponents voiced immediate opposition.
"First drawback, is it takes water out of the system that could be used for ecological restoration," said Drew Martin, conservation chair for the Loxahatchee group of the Sierra Club. "And the second drawback is that it puts water into the pollution of the oceans, because that water is going to run through the boulder zone and and out in the oceans."
"As much as we store north of the lake, we also need to have that south-of-the-lake storage," says Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
The plan is still in the early stages; at least two years away from approval.
"We certainly haven't decided on how many, or where they were going to go, it's a tool", says Verrastro.
The water district would plan to use the deep well injections in conjunction with reservoirs that are being designed and built at the lake.