WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, which includes U.S. Congressman Brian Mast’s (FL-18) Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan and 6 other provisions written by Rep. Mast to protect the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Worth Lagoon.  The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 384 to 37.

Rep. Mast’s Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan (NERP) builds on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) by requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take action to address harmful algal blooms and end the toxic discharges that continue to plague the northern estuaries.  The goal of CERP is to restore America’s Everglades, but it was never intended to completely eliminate harmful discharges to the northern estuaries.  For example, CERP projects are expected to eliminate only two-thirds of discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary.  NERP would work to eliminate the remaining discharges not stopped by the completion of CERP projects.

“The Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan is landmark legislation and a major victory in the fight to permanently end toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” Rep. Mast said. “At my urging, this bill also includes $100 million for critical infrastructure that will protect the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Worth Lagoon.  This is the most important piece of legislation for our waterways in years.” 

In addition to the Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan, the bill also includes six other major provisions written by Rep. Mast:

$100 Million to Protect Our Estuaries:

Water quality in the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Worth Lagoon has degraded substantially as a result of toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee, as well as pollution from agricultural and municipal sources.  Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach Counties have all been plagued by toxic algal blooms as a result, and public health is put at risk. 

This provision will authorize $100 million in new funding for Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach Counties to build water infrastructure designed to improve water quality in the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Worth Lagoon.  The funding is directed to be used for local water projects, such as septic to sewer conversions or construction of new waste and stormwater treatment infrastructure to improve water quality in the estuaries. 

Improving Water Quality in the Indian River Lagoon: 

The ongoing Indian River Lagoon - South (IRL-S) Project is a multi-billion dollar investment in one of the most biologically diverse estuarine systems in the continental United States.  Unfortunately, this project is at risk of major delays due to inflation and other cost overruns.  Congressional action is needed to ensure this project has enough funding to stay on track. 

Rep. Mast wrote this provision to authorize the additional funding needed to keep the project on schedule.  More information on this critical project is available here

Developing New Technology to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms:

Previous iterations of WRDA have included provisions written by Rep. Mast to develop new technology to combat harmful algal blooms, primarily focusing the research and development efforts on the source of the blooms in Lake Okeechobee. 

This year, Rep. Mast added a provision authorizing the Army Corps to develop new technology and tools to predict, detect, prevent, treat and eliminate harmful algal blooms specifically in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee. 

Expediting Completion of the EAA Reservoir: 

The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir was authorized through a provision written by Rep. Mast in WRDA 2018, and in 2020, Rep. Mast secured language that clarified a “new start” designation was not needed for the Army Corps to begin construction.  Despite the clarification of Congressional intent provided in the last iteration of WRDA, the Army Corps has failed to adequately prioritize this vital project. 

WRDA 2022 includes report language written by Rep. Mast that requires the Army Corps to prioritize and expedite completion of the EAA Reservoir.

Removing Legacy Nutrients from Lake Okeechobee:

Phosphorus and nitrogen feed harmful algal blooms. Unfortunately, large quantities of these nutrients have accumulated in muck at the bottom of Lake Okeechobee.  Even if ongoing pollution was completely eliminated, these legacy nutrients could continue to fuel harmful algal blooms for decades to come.

Rep. Mast’s amendment authorizes the dredging of legacy nutrients from Lake Okeechobee for environmental purposes, including the removal of excess phosphorus.  Removing these legacy nutrients from the lake is critical in the fight to combat harmful algal blooms. 

Defending Military Personnel from Harmful Algal Blooms: 

Military personnel working on and around Lake Okeechobee are routinely exposed to harmful algal blooms, often for more than eight hours per day.  These blooms regularly test above the level that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated is dangerous to human health, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s, ALS, liver disease and more.  Often, the physical impacts of this exposure may not be evident for decades.

Rep. Mast’s amendment requires the Army Corps to note in the file of personnel every time that they are exposed to harmful algal blooms that exceed the level the EPA has determined to be unsafe.  This tracking is critical to ensuring that personnel are able to receive the care and compensation necessary should they face these disastrous health impacts.  


The Water Resources Development Act is a biennial bill that authorizes new water infrastructure projects and makes improvements to water programs across the country.  In previous iterations of the bill, Rep. Mast has successfully included provisions that mandated the rewrite of the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) and authorized the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir.