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Rep. Brian Mast speaks about Lake Okeechobee water releases and management

Posted at 6:32 AM, Jan 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-21 19:10:14-05

STUART, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Brian Mast spoke about Lake Okeechobee water levels on Tuesday morning, and called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to change its water management, or he says we could see harmful water releases this summer.

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Speaking at his office in Stuart, the congressman said water is the number one thing he works on because it is so important to our community.

Rep. Mast wants the Army Corps to make changes to its management schedule for Lake Okeechobee water releases, adding that the management needs to be about people and about health.

The Republican lawmaker said we've seen harmful discharges for the last 9 out of 12 years and we cannot afford to continue that way.

Rep. Mast's said that in 2018, he passed a law mandating that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers update the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, which determines when discharges from the lake will occur. The Army Corps is currently in the process of writing that updated schedule.

During 2019, the Army Corps allowed Lake Okeechobee to recess naturally, instead of artificially holding excess water on the lake. This helped prevent toxic discharges last summer.

However, the Army Corps recently announced that it will change its strategy for 2020, opting to hold more water on the lake this winter. This will increase the likelihood of discharges over the summer, said Rep. Mast.

"If the Corps of Engineers does not reverse course and push away from 12 feet and try to move lower, then we absolutely face a much greater risk of having toxic discharges in 2020," said Rep. Mast.

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The city of Stuart is also considering filing a lawsuit against the Army Corps for how it plans to handle water management.

The Army Corps said in December it planned to focus on water retention this winter to avoid water supply issues in the summer.