Mast: Sugar Lobbyists Getting “Special Access and Influence” Over Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried Designated Sugar Lobbyists To Represent Her On LOSOM Project Delivery Team
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting the immediate removal of two lobbyists for the Florida Sugar Cane League from the Project Delivery Team (PDT) for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). Participation on the PDT is limited to representatives of government agencies. The public is not allowed to participate except during limited public comment periods during the meetings. Nonetheless, two lobbyists for the Florida Sugar Cane League—which “represents” the U.S. Sugar Corporation—are participating as members of the PDT because they have been designated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, under the leadership of Commissioner Nikki Fried, as representatives of the agency.
“This is a brazen attempt by U.S. Sugar and Commissioner Nikki Fried to skew the results of the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, giving this industry special access and influence that countless citizens of Florida who are deeply concerns about the public health impacts of Lake Okeechobee’s operations do not have,” Rep. Mast wrote in the letter. “I, therefore, request your immediate action to remove Mr. MacVicar and Mr. Baker from the Project Delivery Team.”
The letter from Rep. Mast to the Army Corps of Engineers, and the original designation letter from Commissioner Fried, are attached.
In 2018, Rep. Mast passed a law mandating that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers update the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS), which is the schedule that determines when discharges from Lake Okeechobee occur. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undertook the process to create LOSOM. As part of that process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the PDT consisting of representatives from government agencies at the federal, state and local level to advise the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the process. The public is not included on the PDT; however, because Commissioner Fried’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has elected to designate two sugar lobbyists as its representatives, the industry is getting unmatched access and influence over the re-writing of the system’s operations.
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