WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-21) today sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) urging increased transparency after Jacksonville District Commander Colonel James Booth could not answer basic questions about the benefits of the $1.5 billion Herbert Hoover Dike repairs at last week’s Rivers Coalition meeting in Stuart, FL.

In the letter to Col. Booth, Rep. Mast is calling on the USACE to explain how the repairs to the dike are impacting current lake operations.  Prior to the repairs, the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule for 2008 (LORS08) reduced the maximum depth the lake was allowed to reach due to concerns regarding dike failure.  As a result, discharges to the northern estuaries were required under the schedule at lower lake levels.  Despite the repairs being completed, the USACE is currently still using LORS08 to manage Lake Okeechobee discharges, which has resulted in massive amounts of harmful water from Lake Okeechobee being discharged into the northern estuaries since February 17, 2024.

At the River’s Coalition meeting on February 22, 2024, Rep. Mast asked Col. Booth how the repairs impacted the depth at which there was risk of dike failure.  Col. Booth responded, “I can’t answer that specific question.”  Video of the exchange can be viewed here:

“One benefit from the completed [Herbert Hoover Dike] repair project that is especially important to my Treasure Coast constituents is that it increased the capacity of Lake Okeechobee to hold water without risk of dike failure, which in turn should reduce the need for damaging discharges.  At least, that is how the project was sold to me each time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) came to Congress to ask for federal funding,” Rep. Mast wrote in the letter.  “When I asked this question at the Rivers Coalition meeting, I was told that you were unable to share with our community what the new risk threshold numbers were.  As taxpayers who funded this repair project, we are entitled to this information.”

Rep. Mast has requested an answer no later than March 8, 2024.  The full text of the letter can be found here.