WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-21) today demanded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) comply with federal law requiring them to develop a plan for new infrastructure to stop harmful discharges to the northern estuaries.  Under Rep. Mast’s Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan–signed into law in 2022–the USACE is required to submit a plan to Congress, including yearly interim reports, for the construction of new infrastructure to completely eliminate harmful discharges to the estuaries.  The Army Corps failed to submit the first interim report at the end of December 2023 and is currently in violation of federal law as a result.

“The east and west coasts are currently being pummeled by harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and there’s a law in place to stop this,” Rep. Mast said.  “Yet, the Army Corps is willfully breaking this law, refusing to develop the Congressionally-mandated plan to protect Florida’s public health.  The Army Corps must comply with the law immediately.”

In 2022, Rep. Mast passed the Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan (NERP) as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA). This bill requires the USACE to develop a plan for new infrastructure to completely 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. The USACE is required to submit the comprehensive plan to Congress no later than the end of 2025 with yearly interim reports.

The USACE missed the deadline for the first yearly interim report at the end of 2023, and when Rep. Mast’s office inquired as to the status of the report, the office was told that no progress had been made on implementing this law.  As a result, Rep. Mast is now demanding the USACE come into compliance with the law and requesting all internal documents from the USACE related to implementation of NERP, including:

  • Any outreach made to the State of Florida, the South Florida Water Management District, or other relevant federal, state, and tribal agencies with the intent of attempting to comply with this law,
  • Any communication between the Jacksonville District and the Army Corps’ headquarters in either Washington, D.C. or Atlanta regarding this law, and
  • Any legal opinions or memos regarding the Army Corps’ requirements under this law.

This letter follows the USACE’s decision to indefinitely discharge massive amounts of water from Lake Okeechobee into the northern estuaries beginning February 17, 2024, causing substantial ecological damage and putting lives at risk.

The full text of the letter can be found here.