Last year, I brought Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, other members of this committee and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to our district to see our water issues firsthand, and over the last several months, I’ve been collecting stories from people all across our area to highlight to leaders in Washington how dire our situation really is.
Now, I have good news: Congress has heard our pleas, and water infrastructure leaders have now committed to authorizing the EAA southern storage reservoir this year once the Army Corps completes their review.
Building on the millions of dollars that we secured earlier this year to combat harmful algal blooms, I also secured big wins today as part of this year's Water Resources and Development Act. The committee adopted several of my amendments for our community into this infrastructure bill that then passed the committee unanimously.
Here are some of the highlights:
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule Review
Problem: The Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation project is on track to be completed in 2022. Once that project is complete, it will have a significant positive impact on the flood control mission that the Army Corps administers. The Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule determines when water must be discharged from the lake, based in large part on the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. The Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule was last updated in 2008; therefore, discharge decisions are still being based on data that is over a decade old.
Solution: This amendment directs the Army Corps to update the Lake Okeechobee Review Regulation Schedule (LORS) starting in 2019 to ensure the most up-to-date flood control data is available upon completion of the dike in 2022, ensuring that discharges from Lake Okeechobee are only done when absolutely necessary.
Engineering Research and Development Center Harmful Algal Blooms Program
Problem: When harmful algal blooms are present in Lake Okeechobee and the Army Corps discharges water into the estuaries, the rate of flow is almost 11 billion gallons of toxic water flooding into the rivers per day. Currently, there is no filtration system capable of sufficiently cleaning water at that rate.
Solution: This amendment authorizes a five-year program for the Army Corps’ Engineering Research and Development Center to identify and develop technology for the large-scale filtration of water, including early detection, prevention and management of harmful algal blooms. The amendment funds the program at $3 million per year.
Technical Assistance for Non-Federal Sponsors
Problem: The lack of technical assistance made available to the South Florida Water Management District’s work establishing the post-authorization change report for the EAA southern storage reservoir was one of the biggest challenges in getting that report to the Army Corps for approval in a timely manner.
Solution: This amendment directs the Army Corps to provide technical assistance to feasibility studies paid for by non-federal sponsors, expediting completion of studies and increasing the likelihood that the final report will be determined to be feasible.
Also included in the bill were two efforts that I've championed:
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.
There is a lot more work to do, but today is a great day in the fight to secure the environmental, social and economic future of our community.