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.