Mast Issues Warning Against “Bait And Switch”
Proposal That Would Increase Discharges To St. Lucie
At Rep. Mast’s urging, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today announced Balanced Alternative CC as their preliminary preferred alternative for the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). Following the announcement, U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) sent a letter to the Army Corps reiterating his support for this selection and warning against a “bait and switch” proposal that would increase discharges to the St. Lucie. The Army Corps will finalize the selection at the beginning of August and make further “optimizations” to the plan until mid-October.
“Today is the outcome we’ve been working towards for years, but it’s far from a checkered flag, and we can’t let our foot off the gas,” Rep. Mast said. “Optimization can’t be used as code for ‘bait and switch.’ The east coast has made compromise after compromise, and we will not accept more discharges that harm our communities while we receive no benefits.”
In the letter to Army Corps Jacksonville District Commander Colonel Andrew Kelly, Rep. Mast also called on the Army Corps to incorporate elements of Balanced Alternative AA during the optimization process to further reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries by sending more water south in the dry season. He expressed adamant opposition to a proposed “bait and switch” alternative plan, known as SR 3.5, which would double the volume of discharges to the St. Lucie compared to Balanced Alternative CC.
This announcement follows a nearly three-year long development process as a result of legislation passed by Rep. Mast in 2018 to change the way the Army Corps manages Lake Okeechobee for the next decade or more. Rep. Mast has fought throughout the process for a plan that sends more water south to the Everglades in the dry season in an effort to prevent toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the east and west coasts.
In early June, Rep. Mast led stakeholders from around Florida—including east, west and south of Lake Okeechobee—in calling on the Army Corps to select Balanced Alternative CC with additional changes to send more water south and further reduce harmful discharges to Florida’s east and west coasts.
As currently written, Balanced Alternative CC would eliminate approximately two-thirds of all discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary and would more than triple flows south from Lake Okeechobee toward the Everglades. The plan also substantially increases the percentage of time the Caloosahatchee receives optimal flow levels and nearly eliminates regulatory discharges to the Lake Worth Lagoon.