Actions speak louder than words & Congress finally acted on Lake O'

Actions speak louder than words & yesterday Congress finally acted on Lake O’ 

Bottom Line: These are stories you shouldn't miss and my takes on them...  

  • Lake O southern reservoir passes U.S. House, will reduce estuary discharges – Palm Beach Post 

Excerpt: The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill today that includes the authorization for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the northern estuaries. 

The bill, called the Water Resources Development Act, still faces Senate approval. But advocates say they are hopeful a favorable Senate vote may happen this month because the language in Thursday’s bill was a compromise agreed to by House and Senate committee members. The bill is also known as America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. 

The $1.4 billion project slated for state-owned land in western Palm Beach County is a partial answer to activists’ calls to “send the water south” and could alleviate the blue-green algae blooms that have plagued the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. 

If approved by the end of the year, the plan for the 10,500-acre above-ground reservoir and 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area will seek money from the 2020 federal budget. Depending on how the money is distributed for the project — the state and federal government are expected to split the cost — the reservoir could take about 10 years to build. 

From Brian Mast’s office: 

“Fixing our water issues is, without a doubt, the most important priority for our community, and this bill is significant progress in our fight,” Rep. Mast said.  “People are getting sick, animals are dying and our environment is being demolished.  We cannot wait any longer to get this bill signed into law.” 

Additionally, the bill includes provisions written by Rep. Mast to re-evaluate the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule with the aim of reducing the frequency of discharges and to develop a massive water filtration system capable of removing harmful algal blooms from water discharged onto the Treasure Coast.  Also included in the bill are two additional 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.  

Hot Take: This is extremely encouraging. For years, we’ve talked about these issues without anything changing because the state, local and federal governments all had to work together. What’s in this bill was already signed into law nearly two years ago by Governor Scott in Florida. That means that should this pass the US Senate, and with Nelson and Rubio on board, you’ve got to like its chances – we’d finally be taking the action we’ve been talking about all of these years. As is cited the project could take ten years to finish, but that’s ten years today or ten years in the future after even more destruction occurred.  

Earlier this year I pressed Brian on this because I was tired of hearing the “we’re working on it but it’s hard” kind of excuses that’d dominated this issue for years. He said he got it and this time was different. That he’d really made headway to get it done. Yesterday he proved it. Now it’s time to get it across the finish line in the senate.  

 

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