Everglades FIRST Act Instructs Army Corps To Expedite Required Studies
Following the recent passage of S.B. 10 by the Florida Legislature, U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today unveiled the Everglades FIRST (Flow Increases Rely on Storage and Treatment) Act. The bill will expedite the federal timeline for the completion of reports that are required before Everglades restoration projects, including the S.B. 10 southern reservoir, can move forward.
“We cannot afford to wait another eight to ten years to begin construction on a southern reservoir. Every summer with toxic algal blooms means more businesses are forced to close, more people lose their jobs and more children get sick,” Rep. Mast said. “Now that the Florida legislature has passed S.B. 10, the federal government needs to step up and do its part to get this project done as quickly as possible.”
The Everglades FIRST Act prioritizes projects designed to fix water reservoir storage capacity issues around Lake Okeechobee to minimize future discharges into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, as well as related harmful algal bloom events that negatively impact our community. The bill instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite completion of required reports and construction for the following projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan: Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoirs, Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project, Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project, and the Western Everglades Restoration Project.
In expediting these projects, Rep. Mast aims to improve surface water reservoir storage capacity in South Florida to meet the goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, to achieve the full benefits of the Central Everglades Planning Project, and to produce environmentally-beneficial changes in flow volumes in the Caloosahatchee, St. Lucie, and Loxahatchee Rivers, and Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park.
Environmental groups immediately praised the introduction of the legislation:
“Bullsugar thanks Congressman Mast for introducing his Everglades FIRST bill to expedite holistic planning of CERP storage projects both north and especially south of Lake Okeechobee, so we can end toxic discharges, restore Everglades National Park and recharge drinking water for 8 million Floridians as quickly as possible,” Bullsugar Co-Founder Chris Maroney said.
“The bill reaffirms the federal government’s commitment to restoring America’s Everglades,” Senior Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association John Adornato said. “Through Representative Mast’s leadership, Congress will be able to compliment the great step taken by the state of Florida to store, treat, and send water south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, providing significant relief to the park’s estuary and surrounding communities.”
“Congressman Mast has demonstrated impressive leadership for America’s Everglades and the majestic St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries,” Audubon Florida Deputy Director Julie Hill-Gabriel said. “By expediting the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir project, the Everglades FIRST Act answers the call of countless advocates who refused to stand by as toxic algae lapped at their coasts. On the heels of Florida legislation that also advances this water storage project south of Lake Okeechobee, this bill demonstrates the federal commitment to moving forward together on this crucial restoration project.”
“We greatly appreciate Congressman Mast’s leadership toward fixing Florida’s water quality challenges,” President and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association Mike Nussman said. “Florida is the ‘Fishing Capital of the World’, and the future of our industry is dependent on clean waters and abundant fisheries. The Everglades FIRST Act will help ensure Everglades restoration is completed in an expedited and comprehensive fashion.”
“Congressman Mast’s Everglades FIRST Act will give Everglades restoration a much-needed boost,” Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief said. “Growing up in South Florida, I learned early on about the important role that public lands like the Everglades play in our everyday lives. I’m grateful to Rep. Mast for showing exactly the type of leadership we need to restore these cherished wetlands.”
“By focusing on supporting the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Central Everglades Planning Project, Congressman Mast’s Everglades FIRST Act can bring attention to the Congressionally-authorized projects and inspire more efficient efforts between the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District,” Temperince Morgan of The Nature Conservancy’s Florida Chapter said.
The bill will be formally introduced during a pro forma session on Thursday, May 11, 2017 with 7 co-sponsors: Francis Rooney (FL-19), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Bill Posey (FL-8), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), John Rutherford (FL-4) and Claudia Tenney (NY-22).
Text of the legislation is available here.