The U.S. House of Representatives today passed $15.25 billion in emergency funding to address those impacted by hurricanes. The bill includes $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief Fund, $7.4 billion for Community Development Block grants to be used in the wake of hurricanes and $450 million for the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program.
“With FEMA set to run out of money today, this emergency funding is a strong and necessary step in the right direction,” Rep. Mast said. “Although I’m returning to Florida to be with our community during Hurricane Irma, I will not stop fighting for the resources we need to address this devastating storm.”
According to FEMA’s Administrator Long, the agency is currently spending between $150 to $200 million per day, and had a Disaster Relief Fund balance of $917 million, with $461 million in the Majors account and $456 million in the Base account (as of Thursday, September 7, 2017). Even with the addition of the Congress-passed $7.85 billion, FEMA estimates that it will only be able to continue providing support and relief efforts through September 30, 2017.
Members of the Florida Congressional Delegation will today be sending a letter to leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives calling on them to vote on additional resources for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.
“With a full legislative agenda pending this month, it is imperative that the House can reassure our constituents and our local governments that there will be adequate funding to address their critical needs during and after this devastating natural disaster,” the letter reads. “Once again, we urge your immediate consideration of additional emergency funding for FEMA to continue servicing disaster events.”
Rep. Mast also addressed the broader package, which includes a 3-month debt ceiling extension and a 3-month continuing resolution:
“It was wrong to attach must-pass funding for FEMA to the debt ceiling and continuing resolution. I do not support raising the debt ceiling without reforming the broken system that has led to out-of-control spending, but this FEMA funding is too critical for Florida to allow this bill to fail, which is why I stayed to vote on it.”
The bill has already been passed by the Senate and now heads to the President’s desk for a signature.
Rep. Brian Mast
Harmful Algal Blooms Solutions Act will
Incentivize Development of Innovative Technology
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today announced the Harmful Algal Blooms Solution Act establishing a competitive program to award prizes for the development of innovative, environmentally safe solutions to combat harmful algal blooms.
“When I talk to experts about the challenges of cleaning up harmful algal blooms, one of the most frequent roadblocks I hear about is the difficulty in scaling technology to the size needed to clean huge bodies of water,” Rep. Mast said. “This new program would go a long way toward improving the type of technology that cleans algae out of fish tanks to be able to keep our rivers clean.”
The bill instructs the Secretary of Commerce to create a program that will recognize and award financial prizes to individuals who develop technology to assist with the 1) large scale physical removal of algal biomass, 2) removal of, or rendering harmless, harmful algal bloom toxins in the environment, 3) reduction of available nutrients that fuel harmful algal blooms, and 4) real-time monitoring of harmful algal blooms and early-warning systems.
In order to implement the program, the Secretary of Commerce must establish a board to administer the program made up of federal officials, state officials in impacted states and non-government experts. The board will operate as a public-private partnership, soliciting private donations to fund the awards, as well as determining specific award categories and amounts.
The introduction of the bill builds on Rep. Mast’s successful effort to secure more than $1 million in research and development money to combat harmful algal blooms as part of the Make America Secure Appropriations Act passed by the House of Representatives in July.
More Than $150 Million Allocated to Everglades Restoration
Mast Amendments Provide Money to Prevent Harmful Algal Blooms
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today successfully secured more than $150 million in federal funding to combat harmful algal blooms and restore the Everglades. In addition to millions of dollars in funding for new and ongoing Everglades restoration projects, the Make America Secure Appropriations Act included two amendments authored by Rep. Mast to research and develop technology to prevent harmful algal blooms.
“After last summer, our community knows far too well what environmental disaster looks like. The great news is that this bill includes over $150 million that will directly help the Everglades and our coastal environment, including my amendments to combat harmful algal blooms,” Rep. Mast said. “But our work is far from done, which is why I will continue my fight in Congress to build a southern reservoir and take every possible step to clean up our water.”
The bill includes $82 million for Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation and $76.5 million for South Florida ecosystem restoration. Additionally, the bill includes two amendments authored by Rep. Mast to research and develop new technology to combat harmful algal blooms:
Department of the Navy Research Laboratory – $598,000
The Environmental Sustainability Development Project under the Naval Research Laboratory works on coastal contamination and contaminated sediments. Funding for this program was originally cut in the proposed Department of Defense appropriations bill by $598,000 compared to FY2017 enacted levels. Rep. Mast’s amendment successfully restored the program to full funding.
The Aquatic Plant Control Research Program – $500,000
Rep. Mast’s amendment increased funding by $500,000 for the Aquatic Plant Control Research Program, which is the nation’s only federally authorized research program directed to develop technology for the management of non-indigenous aquatic plant species, such as harmful algal blooms.
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.
Joint Israeli-American Arrow Technology Thwarts
Long-Range Missile Attacks, Key Defense Against Terror
Congressmen Brian Mast (FL-18) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) today announced the bipartisan U.S.-Israel Joint Missile Defense Act to further develop the Arrow 3 system to help advance America’s interests in the volatile region and protect our vital, democratic ally. The Act will authorize the Secretary of Defense to conduct a test in the U.S. in 2018 of the exoatmospheric anti-ballistic missile defense program.
“Following my time in the Army, I chose to volunteer alongside the Israeli Defense Forces because our countries share the common ideals of freedom, democracy and mutual respect for all people,” Rep. Mast said. “There is undoubtedly a mutual benefit to the security of our nations in collaborating on missile defense. This bipartisan legislation would expedite the development of the Arrow 3 long-range missile defense system, which is absolutely critical to Israel’s defense and stability in the Middle East.”
“As the threat of terror explodes in the unstable Middle East, it’s critical that we defend our vital ally, Israel, and strengthen our military partnership. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to advance the Arrow 3 long-range missile defense system — another critical step toward protecting Israel and the region from the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.” Rep. Gottheimer said. “With a fully-operational Arrow 3 system, Israel will maintain its qualitative military edge by preventing long-range missiles from striking Israeli targets.”
The grave threat of missile attacks on Israel has been growing in both capacity and strength. Last year, Iran successfully launched two “Qadr II” ballistic missiles at a target in southeastern Iran approximately 870 miles away, in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. The missiles were inscribed with the slogan, “Israel should be wiped off the Earth.” Hezbollah, designated by the Department of State as a terrorist organization, has an arsenal of approximately 120,000 to 150,000 rockets aimed at Israel.
Prior to his election to Congress, Rep. Mast followed in his father’s footsteps by serving in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years. Following his service, Rep. Mast volunteered to serve alongside the Israel Defense Forces to show support for the freedom Israel represents throughout the Middle East and the world.
The text of the U.S.-Israel Joint Missile Defense Act can be found HERE.
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.
Mast Helps Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Award Congressional Gold
Medal to Americans Killed During Attack on Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) introduced legislation this week with Congressmen Stephen Lynch (MA-8), Duncan Hunter (CA-52) and Susan Davis (CA-53) to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Glen A. Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith in recognition of their contributions to our nation. These four Americans honorably served the United States and were killed during the September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress to express public gratitude for distinguished patriotism and heroism.
“These four Americans worked daily to advance the ideals our nation was founded on and lost their lives in the service of our country during the attack on our diplomatic mission in Libya,” Rep. Mast said. “Our bipartisan legislation recognizes their bravery and sacrifice with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor that Congress has to bestow.”
“Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith served our nation with bravery and distinction,” Rep. Lynch, who is the lead sponsor of the bill, said. “We owe it to their families to honor their legacy, courage, and selfless sacrifice with the Congressional Gold Medal. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to honor true American heroes.”
Ambassador Stevens, a native of Grass Valley, California, served in the United States Foreign Service for 21 years as a leading American diplomat renowned for his commitment to advancing democracy and partnership with nations around the world. Mr. Doherty, a native of Winchester, Massachusetts, and Mr. Woods, a native of Portland, Oregon, were security contractors who previously served as combat-decorated Navy SEALS for a combined 32 years protecting American diplomats, their fellow servicemen and women, as well as the American people. Mr. Smith, a native of San Diego, California, served in the United States Air Force for six years and was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal prior to joining the State Department with posts in Baghdad, Iraq, Brussels, Belgium, and The Hague.
In particular, H.R. 2315 authorizes the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate to make appropriate arrangements for the posthumous award, on behalf of the Congress, of a gold medal of appropriate design in commemoration of Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, J. Christopher Stevens, and Sean Smith in recognition of their contributions to the Nation. The full text of the legislation is available here.
Mast Calls For Robust Funding To Fix Treasure Coast Water Quality Issues
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today testified before the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development about the pressing need to fund U.S. Army Corps of Engineers infrastructure projects impacting the Treasure Coast:
Chairman, Ranking Member Kaptur, and the rest of the members here, I appreciate you letting me address you. I’m here to advocate on behalf of robust funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, basically to advance and expand their river and harbor maintenance, flood and storm damage reduction, shore protection, and environmental restoration missions.
In my Florida Congressional District which spans St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach Counties, the most pressing issue that folks face are the harmful and unnatural, massive discharges – sometimes up to 7 million gallons of freshwater per minute– directed by the Corps of Engineers out of Lake Okeechobee and into the heart of our coastal, saltwater estuary.
These discharges, imposed by the federal government, turn the nation’s most species-diverse saltwater estuary – the Indian River Lagoon – into an algae-infested toxic waterway that surrounds hundreds of thousands of residents.
And the resulting algal blooms kill beloved wildlife like manatees and dolphins.
These toxins released by the algal blooms can hurt people through the water and air – children can’t go swimming or play near the water, and elderly residents must stay really inside of their homes if they live near the toxic air.
These blooms also destroy our economy because you can’t sell a house that sits next to toxic water. Nobody wants to go on vacation near. Nobody wants to go boating or fishing or anything like that in a giant stew of algae.
As a result, local small businesses – our bars, shops, and restaurants, paddleboard and outdoor recreation stores, gas stations, and fishing charters – they’re all suffering.
As Vice Chair of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee you can count on it being my priority to pass a Water Resources Development Act that includes more CERP project authorizations.
And from an appropriations standpoint, I can tell you that more funding is needed to allow the Corps to quicken the pace of the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
Just my ask to you all: let’s fund this, get it off the books, and get Florida’s water system repaired.
More funding is needed to accelerate the construction of already-authorized CERP projects including Indian River Lagoon- South, and the Central Everglades Project, among others.
There are also a number of CERP projects that are still awaiting authorization, in part, because of funding and legal limitations on the Corps of Engineers with respect to study investigations.
I would respectfully ask the Subcommittee consider increasing the appropriations for Army Corps investigations, and to raise the cap on the number of study starts for environmental restoration projects the Secretary of the Army can greenlight each Fiscal Year – one a year simply isn’t sufficient.
Finally, I’d like to welcome the Chairman, Ranking Member, every member of this subcommittee, down to the Treasure Coast to witness firsthand the devastating impacts that we see around Lake Okeechobee discharges and harmful algal blooms.
During a speech on the House Floor today, U.S. Congressmen Brian Mast (FL-18) called on President Donald Trump to create an Everglades Restoration Infrastructure Taskforce as part of his promised trillion-dollar investment in American infrastructure:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of including Everglades restoration in the President’s infrastructure plan for America.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is the most ambitious ecosystem restoration ever attempted, and represents the ultimate infrastructure package for Florida.
But many critical projects—designed to end harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges and algal blooms into my community—are far behind where they should be and becoming far more costly by the delay in full funding.
The President has touted his record of building world-class projects ahead of schedule and under budget, so I’m calling on him to create an “Everglades Restoration Infrastructure Taskforce,” secure the full funding and accelerate projects to completion.
Mr. Speaker, my constituents have waited long enough to realize the massive benefits of Everglades restoration. Now let’s seize this moment and put this President and this Congress to work to finish the job.
Thank you, I yield back.