Governor Ron DeSantis today announced more than $5 million in grant funding will be awarded to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) as part of Florida’s continued efforts to protect water quality and the Sunshine State’s natural resources. [Read more…] about Governor Ron DeSantis Highlights $5.2 Million in Lake Okeechobee Water Quality Research Grants
Mast Submits Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual Public Comment To Army Corps
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today submitted his public comment to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the scoping process for the re-write of the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS), which dictates when and in what volumes the Army Corps discharges water from Lake Okeechobee to the coasts. [Read more…] about Mast To Army Corps: “LORS Has Been A Total And Absolute Disaster”
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (FL) and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (FL) teamed up to write language authorizing the EAA Storage Reservoir, to be built south of Lake Okeechobee, which is included in the compromise version of the Water Resources Development Act unveiled today. [Read more…] about Mast, Rubio, Nelson Secure Deal For Federal Authorization of EAA Storage Reservoir In Water Infrastructure Bill
Governor Rick Scott today announced that, under his direction, another key Everglades restoration project is moving forward ahead of schedule. This year, Governor Scott included funding to expedite this project in his recommended budget and then signed into law this investment of $6 million to begin construction on the S-333 expansion project by the end of the year. [Read more…] about Gov. Scott: Expedited Water Project Will Help Reduce Harmful Lake Okeechobee Discharges
“This is beyond ‘frustrating’ — this is a crisis.”
Gubernatorial candidate and Palm Beach entrepreneur Jeff Greene this morning surveyed the toxic algae currently covering 90 percent of Lake Okeechobee’s waters. [Read more…] about Gubernatorial Candidate Jeff Greene Surveys Toxic Algae Crisis at Lake Okeechobee
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.
SFWMD Submits Plan to Army Corps For Approval
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18), who has been a longtime proponent of the S.B. 10-authorized EAA Storage Reservoir, is pushing a plan to expedite federal authorization and construction of the reservoir. South Florida Water Management District submitted its plan to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for approval today.
“The water being discharged from Lake Okeechobee onto the Treasure Coast is destroying our community, putting people out of business, killing sea life and even making people sick. This reservoir is a critical step forward to restore our lagoon and beaches, and we cannot afford to wait another two years as it drowns in federal bureaucracy. This exact moment is why I fought so hard to be named Vice Chairman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, and I will do everything in my power to ensure we get this project started without any further delays.”
The Army Corps must review, approve and submit the project to Congress prior to Congressional authorization and construction work beginning, but there is a substantial timing issue that could delay the project by another two years. Federal authorization of projects like the reservoir occur as part of the Water Resources and Development Act, which Congress considers only every other year. Congress is expected to consider the 2018 Water Resources and Development Act this spring, but the Army Corps is not expected to approve the project prior to the bill’s consideration. S.B. 10 set a deadline of October 1, 2018 for this to occur.
To avoid a 2-year bureaucratic delay, Rep. Mast has been pushing a plan to conditionally authorize the project as part of the 2018 Water Resources and Development Act contingent on the Army Corps’ approval. Under Rep. Mast’s plan, the EAA Storage Reservoir would be automatically authorized as soon as the Army Corps signs off on the plan, expediting the overall completion timeline by more than two years. Rep. Mast’s letter to Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster pushing this plan is attached.
Rep. Mast also joined a bipartisan group of his Florida Congressional colleagues on a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (who oversees the Army Corps) supporting the EAA Storage Reservoir proposal and urging expedited review.
South Florida Water Management District’s press release announcing submission of the project to the Army Corps can be found here.
Following is a statement from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on President Trump’s newly-released budget proposal that would require Florida taxpayers to pay $200 million to speed up work on the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee:
“The Trump administration wants Floridians to pay $200 million to speed up work on the Lake O dike. That’s absurd. Floridians shouldn’t have to pay a dime to finish the dike, Congress just gave the Army Corps all the money it needs to fully fund this project and get it done by 2022.”
The president’s proposal that would force Floridians to contribute $200 million towards the federal project comes just days after Congress approved a massive disaster funding bill that gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $10.4 billion to use on projects such as the dike – more than enough to cover the $776.4 million the Corps says it needs to finish the project by 2022.
Governor Rick Scott today announced that he will propose a $50 million investment to expedite repairs for the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee in his 2018-19 recommended budget. This $50 million is part of the Governor’s historic $1.7 billion investment in Florida’s environment announced last week. See more HERE.
Governor Scott said, “Last week, the State of Florida was proud to secure President Donald Trump’s commitment to accelerating critical repairs needed to the federal Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. While this partnership is game-changing, we cannot stop there. These repairs are a priority and that’s why I’m proposing $50 million in state funding to help expedite the project. I look forward to working with the Florida Legislature on this important project so we can protect our pristine environment for our future generations.”
Florida Senate President Joe Negron said, “I appreciate Governor Scott’s leadership in ensuring that we make the best use of both state and federal tax dollars as we work to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike and build additional southern storage through the implementation of Senate Bill 10. I look forward to working with him again this session on these important issues to ensure we have an effective state and federal partnership that leads to the elimination of harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.”
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said, “None of what we announced today would’ve been possible without the heavy lifting and tireless effort of Governor Scott. The fruits of this investment will mean safety and security for the community surrounding the Lake, as well as averting potential environmental dangers. And I’m proud to stand with the governor today and will do all I can to help him hold Washington’s feet to the fire.”
This funding will build on the $50 million in this year’s state budget to kick-start critical repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike. Governor Scott is the first governor in Florida history to invest state money into this critical federal project. This April, Governor Scott met with President Donald Trump regarding the importance of fixing the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike and received his commitment to fixing the dike. Last week, President Trump instructed White House Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney to accelerate the completion of repairs to Florida’s Herbert Hoover Dike. See more HERE.
Full details on the Governor’s proposed budget will be announced in the coming weeks.
Governor Rick Scott today toured the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. Earlier this year, President Trump committed to providing federal support to fix the federally-operated Hebert Hoover Dike and Governor Scott worked with the Legislature to invest $50 million to speed up critical repairs.