The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its annual spending plan for the current fiscal year today. Included in the plan are several projects important to Florida, which U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been pushing for the Corps to fund, including: [Read more…] about Army Corps releases new spending plan
Congressional Water Infrastructure Leaders
Pressure Army Corps to Expedite Review
Rep. Mast hosts Chairman Shuster in Stuart, Fla. on
January 31, 2017 to discuss discharges and water quality.
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today 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 (WRDA) as soon as the Army Corps completes its required review of the Post-Authorization Change Report. Rep. Mast serves as Vice Chairman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.
“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.
Late last week, Rep. Mast convened a meeting with Chairmen Shuster, Chairman Graves and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James (who overseas the Army Corps of Engineers) to discuss the importance of the EAA reservoir. Before inclusion of the authorization in the Water Resources and Development Act, the Army Corps must compete its review of a Post-Authorization Change Report. The Committee leaders urged the Army Corps to expedite review of the proposal and committed to including authorization of the project in WRDA pending the Army Corps’ favorable recommendation.
Following the meeting, the Members of Congress sent a follow-up letter to the Army Corps. Click here to read the full letter.
Army Corps Requested 30-Day Extension to August 1 Deadline
to Begin Working with South Florida Water Management District
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting an “immediate meeting with you to discuss the options the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering” to implement Florida State Senate Bill 10 (S.B. 10). He also requested monthly status updates on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ involvement in the project.
The letter follows a request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a 30-day extension to respond to South Florida Water Management District’s June 24, 2017 invitation to participate in the development of a post authorization change report for the southern water storage reservoir authorized in S.B. 10. The legislation set a deadline for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District to start working together by August 1, 2017.
The text of the letter is below.
July 27, 2017
Colonel Jason A. Kirk
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
701 San Marco Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Dear Colonel Kirk:
Last summer the Treasure Coast experienced environmental disaster firsthand. As a result of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ discharges from Lake Okeechobee, guacamole-thick algae plagued our community, threatened public health, decimated local businesses and killed wildlife.
Since the moment I was sworn into Congress, I have been working to ensure this does not happen again. In addition to my work in Congress, I advocated passionately for the passage of Florida State Senate Bill 10 (S.B. 10) to construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The passage of S.B. 10 was a landmark achievement for our community. You can understand, therefore, why I was disappointed to learn of your request for a 30-day extension in responding to South Florida Water Management District’s request to work together on the project.
I respect the importance of exploring all possible options before reaching a decision, and I appreciate your desire to be thorough. From my time in the Army, however, I also understand the importance of meeting deadlines. The bottom line is our community has waited long enough.
In your July 24, 2017 letter, you stated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is “working through multiple options for the next steps.” Therefore, I am requesting an immediate meeting with you to discuss the options the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering and the issues you are working through. Furthermore, I request a monthly status update on the progress of this project for the duration of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ involvement.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this issue. I look forward to working together on this supremely important project.
Brian J. Mast
Member of Congress
Mast Pushing Army Corps to Work on Southern Reservoir
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today sent a letter, joined by 32 other Members of Congress, to President Donald J. Trump calling on him to nominate a permanent Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to oversee the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps is currently overseen by an Acting Assistant Secretary who has not been confirmed by the Senate.
In the letter, Rep. Mast calls for the President to nominate “an outsider who recognizes the need for transformational change within the Corps, and who is willing to work with Congress to make those changes come to fruition.” Rep. Mast has been pushing the Army Corps to collaborate with South Florida Water Management District on implementing State Senate Bill 10 to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.
The text of the letter is below.
July 26, 2017
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump,
As members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, we write in support of swift action to nominate an Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASA-CW) to lead the critical missions of the Army Corps of Engineers – Civil Works (Corps).
The Corps has a significant role to play in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. The agency owns and operates more than 600 dams, operates and maintains 25,000 miles of commercial navigation channels, maintains more than 900 coastal and inland harbors, and is integrally involved in much of the regulatory processes that must be followed and completed before projects can move forward.
We believe that streamlining much of the Corps’ regulatory responsibilities can save taxpayers millions of dollars and help get projects off the ground and completed much more quickly. While Congress will have the opportunity to make such changes in statute, we embrace the opportunity to work with your administration and particularly a new ASA-CW to improve the implementation of existing regulations and permissions related to infrastructure projects.
We also have concerns that, under the previous administration, the Corps began to move away from its true missions, placing less priority on actually building projects and enabling private investment in infrastructure to move forward. It is therefore of great importance that the new ASA-CW is an outsider who recognizes the need for transformational change within the Corps, and who is willing to work with Congress to make those changes come to fruition.
We share your goal of making significant investments in our nation’s infrastructure, and look forward to working with you to that end. In order to ensure the most prudent and efficient use of taxpayer dollars on much of these critical investments, we respectfully ask that you move expeditiously to nominate an ASA-CW.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter.
Letter Urges Army Corps to Exhaust All Possible Options Before Discharging Water
Mast Calls on Army Corps to Work with SFWMD on Southern Reservoir
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) yesterday sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “exhaust every possible flood-prevention option prior to considering discharging water.” The letter comes on the heels of the discovery of a massive algal bloom in Lake Okeechobee. Last summer, discharges from Lake Okeechobee resulted in harmful algal blooms on the Treasure Coast that caused a massive public health crisis and incalculable economic damage.
In the letter, Mast also urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “work with South Florida Water Management District on a long-term solution that includes implementing Florida State Senate Bill 10, which authorizes construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.”
The full text of the letter is included below:
July 24, 2017
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary of the Army
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310
Dear Secretary Darcy:
The Treasure Coast of Florida is facing an environmental disaster. Last summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to discharge polluted, nutrient-rich freshwater from Lake Okeechobee had dire consequences on the Treasure Coast. As a result of these discharges, our community faced a public health crisis and incalculable economic damage.
My office has been monitoring the situation for warning signs of a repeat disaster throughout this summer, and late last week, I became aware of a massive algae bloom growing in Lake Okeechobee. If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were to transfer this algal bloom into the St. Lucie River through a discharge, it would again cause an unacceptable crisis on the Treasure Coast.
In a column published in the Tampa Bay Times on July 20, 2017, Colonel Jason Kirk noted that heavy rain has caused water levels in the conservation area to hit record highs, preventing water from being sent south out of Lake Okeechobee for several months. Based on information provided by the U.S. Army Corps, however, it is my understanding that the water levels in Lake Okeechobee are currently several feet below the level necessitating discharges, and I also understand that on June 27, 2017, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers took additional measures to mitigate the high water levels throughout the conservation areas.
Should these water levels rise, I am writing to urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to exhaust every possible flood-prevention option prior to considering discharging water. The transfer of algae-filled water from Lake Okeechobee onto the Treasure Coast is simply unacceptable, which is why I have introduced legislation in Congress to hold the federal government responsible for the cost of damages associated with the transfer of algal blooms from Lake Okeechobee into our community.
Understanding that this is a complex problem that will not be solved over night, I also urge you to work with South Florida Water Management District on a long-term solution that includes implementing Florida State Senate Bill 10, which authorizes construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. I will do everything in my power to authorize federal support for this project as well.
Thank you in advance for your immediate attention to this potentially life-threatening situation.
Brian J. Mast
Member of Congress
President Donald J. Trump
Acting Secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers District Commander Colonel Jason A. Kirk
Governor Rick Scott
South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Peter Antonacci
The Army Corps of Engineers today awarded $17.5 million for the Jacksonville Port deepening project in its FY 2017 Work Plan. This funding will begin construction of the deep draft navigation improvements at JAXPORT. Congressman Rutherford has urged the Army Corps for funding to deepen the Jacksonville harbor, which would bring larger ships, economic growth, and jobs to Northeast Florida.
Congressman Rutherford said, “This funding is a great start to the needed dredging at JAXPORT which will allow economic growth and trade to prosper in Northeast Florida. As one of 17 U.S. commercial Ports critical to the nation’s security, the Jacksonville Harbor plays a significant role in the deployment of cargo overseas. It is important that the Port be brought to its fully authorized level, and I look forward to working with the administration so our port can remain the epicenter for national security and job creation.”
See the letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Douglas Lamont requesting new start funding for JAXPORT.