Stuart, Fla. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today introduced legislation, The Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan (NERP), to force 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. NERP is modeled after the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) with a focus specifically on stopping harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
“There’s no issue that impacts our community at a deeper or more destructive level than discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” Rep. Mast said. “The Everglades restoration infrastructure authorized by CERP is critically important, but we also must begin planning for what comes after, and that must include fully eliminating harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.”
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.
Under NERP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be required to develop new infrastructure to stop harmful discharges to the northern estuaries and improve water quality for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, Charlotte Harbor, the Indian River Lagoon, the Lake Worth Lagoon and the St. Lucie Estuary. Other objectives of the infrastructure will include restoring natural water flows and hydrological conditions, enhancing habitats, native vegetation and keystone species, and the dredging of nutrient-filled muck from Lake Okeechobee.
The Corps would be required to submit the comprehensive plan to Congress three years after the law was enacted for authorization and funding for the infrastructure projects.
The full text of the bill can be found here.