Our beautiful Treasure Coast is always just one heavy storm away from turning into a toxic mess.  In 2018, we saw it first-hand - pristine water turned green and a disgusting stench filled the air.  Throughout the rainy season, businesses had to close, and beaches were left empty.

We need to do everything possible to prevent a repeat of 2018.  That’s why implementing the Lake Okeechobee System Operation Manual (LOSOM) is so important.  As a result of a law I wrote, we’ve been working for four years to implement a new schedule for the management of Lake Okeechobee.  The goal is to reduce toxic discharges to the Treasure Coast.  And we were very close to the finish line.

However, in March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) threw an eleventh-hour wrench into the plan, putting us at risk of another rainy season with disgusting, poisonous water in our community.  While they had every opportunity to raise concerns during the LOSOM Project Delivery Team (PDT) discussions over the past four years, they remained silent throughout dozens of meetings.

Now, our community could face another catastrophic summer season, and we are forced to use the same bad game plan we had back in 2018.  NOAA and NMFS are working behind closed doors with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and as a result, the implementation of LOSOM is delayed for at least six months.  Our community deserves to know why the federal government is failing us once again.

That’s why yesterday I demanded an explanation from an NMFS bureaucrat, and not surprisingly, his answer was more nothing.  He was unable to offer any insight to the decision, and he blamed staff shortages for not attending the crucial meetings that affect countless endangered species and their ecosystems.  For an agency whose mission is the ‘conservation of protected resources’ and ‘healthy ecosystems,’ you think they could’ve managed to spare a few hours every month to engage in a project that has the potential to dramatically improve the environment off of Florida’s coasts.

Moving forward, my goal is to make sure that NMFS’s decision does not undo all of the work of the last four years and that LOSOM is implemented as soon as possible so that we can end toxic discharges and make sure our community isn’t poisoned by our own government.  As always, I’ll keep you updated every step of the way.