Mast proposes comprehensive bill to restore Florida’s Lake Okeechobee estuaries

On April 13, U.S. Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) sponsored legislation that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a comprehensive, multi-year plan to restore, preserve, and protect Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and its coastal estuaries. North.

The Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan (NERP) Act requires the Corps to address harmful algal blooms and end toxic discharges from the freshwater lake, located in southeast Florida, according to a summary of the bill provided by Rep. Mast’s office.

The NERP Act is modeled after the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and would authorize work to eliminate remaining unstopped releases through the completion of CERP projects, the congressman said Wednesday at a press conference at the waterfront. of the St. Lucia River near its Stuart. , Florida, office.

“There is no issue that affects our community on a deeper or more destructive level than the Lake Okeechobee discharges,” Rep. Mast said. “The CERP-authorized Everglades restoration infrastructure is critically important, but we also need to start planning for what comes next, and that must include the complete removal of harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.”

If passed, the Corps would be required to build more infrastructure to stop Lake Okeechobee’s discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, as well as the Indian River and Lake Worth lagoons, the summary states, and to improve the water quality of each of them.

Other infrastructure objectives would include restoration of natural water flows and hydrological conditions; improve habitats, native vegetation and key species; and the dredging and beneficial reuse of harmful silt and mud from Lake Okeechobee, according to the text of the bill.

The Corps will also have to submit its plan to Congress three years after the enactment of the law for the authorization and funding of infrastructure projects.

Rep. Mast said his goal is to consolidate existing/future infrastructure and current projects under one roof with the common goal of reducing damage to lake estuaries, which millions of Floridians use for work, recreation and drinking water.