U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today secured several big wins for local water as his committee of Transportation and Infrastructure considered and passed the Water Resources and Development Act. Mast’s successes included the passage of an amendment to develop a massive water filtration system capable of removing harmful algal blooms from water discharged onto the Treasure Coast, passage of an amendment to re-evaluate the Lake Okeechobee discharge schedule with the aim of reducing the frequency of discharges and a commitment from the Committee Chairman to authorize the EAA southern storage reservoir (from Senator Joe Negron’s SB 10) as soon as the Army Corps completes its required review of the Post-Authorization Change Report.
“Last year, I brought Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, other members of this committee and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to our district to see our water issues firsthand, and over the last several months, I’ve been collecting stories from people all across our area to highlight to leaders in Washington how dire our situation really is. Congress has heard our pleas, and water infrastructure leaders have now committed to authorizing the EAA southern storage reservoir this year once the Army Corps completes their review,” Rep. Mast said. “Building on the millions of dollars that we secured earlier this year to combat harmful algal blooms, we also secured big wins in this bill to direct the Army Corps to re-evaluate LORS, which will decrease the frequency of discharges, and develop large-scale water filtration technology to clean water that is discharged onto the Treasure Coast. There is a lot more work to do, but today is a great day in the fight to secure the environmental, social and economic future of our community.”
Yesterday, Rep. Mast announced that he has secured a commitment from Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves to include authorization of the EAA Reservoir as part of this year’s Water Resources and Development Act as soon as the Army Corps completes its required review of the Post-Authorization Change Report. The bill passed by the committee today includes important placeholder language that will be replaced by a full authorization of the project upon a favorable report of the project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Authorization of this storage reservoir is a priority, and we are committed to including authorization of this project in this year’s Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) pending [the Army Corps’] timely and favorable recommendation,” Chairmen Shuster and Graves wrote in a letter led by Rep. Mast to the Army Corps on May 22, 2018.
Also included in the bill are two efforts championed by Rep. Mast:
The St. Lucie Coastal Storm Risk Management Project: This provision authorizes a project in St. Lucie County to restore beaches that have been eroded by storms and establishes a maintenance plan to re-nourish the beach every two to five years.
The Kissimmee River Project: Under this provision, the State of Florida will receive credit toward the state’s 50% share of the total project cost for work the state has already completed to restore the Kissimmee River to a more natural flow, reducing the negative impacts of Lake Okeechobee.
The Water Resources and Development Act passed the committee today unanimously. The bill is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives next month.
Additional Information on Mast Amendments Included in the Bill and Passed By Committee
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule Review
Problem: The Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation project is on track to be completed in 2022. Once that project is complete, it will have a significant positive impact on the flood control mission that the Army Corps administers. The Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule determines when water must be discharged from the lake, based in large part on the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. The Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule was last updated in 2008; therefore, discharge decisions are still being based on data that is over a decade old.
Solution: This amendment directs the Army Corps to update the Lake Okeechobee Review Regulation Schedule (LORS) starting in 2019 to ensure the most up-to-date flood control data is available upon completion of the dike in 2022, ensuring that discharges from Lake Okeechobee are only done when absolutely necessary.
Engineering Research and Development Center Harmful Algal Blooms Program
Problem: When harmful algal blooms are present in Lake Okeechobee and the Army Corps discharges water into the estuaries, the rate of flow is almost 11 billion gallons of toxic water flooding into the rivers per day. Currently, there is no filtration system capable of sufficiently cleaning water at that rate.
Solution: This amendment authorizes a five-year program for the Army Corps’ Engineering Research and Development Center to identify and develop technology for the large-scale filtration of water, including early detection, prevention and management of harmful algal blooms. The amendment funds the program at $3 million per year.
Technical Assistance for Non-Federal Sponsors
Problem: The lack of technical assistance made available to the South Florida Water Management District’s work establishing the post-authorization change report for the EAA southern storage reservoir was one of the biggest challenges in getting that report to the Army Corps for approval in a timely manner.
Solution: This amendment directs the Army Corps to provide technical assistance to feasibility studies paid for by non-federal sponsors, expediting completion of studies and increasing the likelihood that the final report will be determined to be feasible.