STUART, Fla. — The city of Stuart will announce its support for the Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan during its City Council meeting Monday night.
The bill, authored by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop an infrastructure plan to eliminate regulatory discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary.
Mast introduced the legislation April 13 during a news conference held in downtown Stuart.
"There's no issue that impacts our community at a deeper or more destructive level than discharges from Lake Okeechobee," said Mast. "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.
CERP, or the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, was passed in the early 2000's and was meant to restore America's Everglades, but never focused on harmful discharges into the northern estuaries.
According to Mast, CERP projects are meant to eliminate two-thirds of discharges.
NERP would be responsible for the last remaining third.
"We are downstream of a potential disaster this time of year, every single year, and that potential disaster are those harmful, regulatory discharges," said Stuart Mayor Merritt Matheson.
Matheson said the toxic algal blooms are harmful to the city's economy, to the estuary and to human health.
"To be as clear as possible, Stuart residents, and surrounding residents on the St. Lucie Estuary, receive absolutely no benefit to those regulatory discharges," said Matheson.
Matheson said each year, the corps focuses too much on guaranteeing water supply for stakeholders.
When lake levels are too high in the wet season, he said the corps is then put into a pinch having to choose between flood protection and harmful discharges.
Right now, the lake sits at 13.1 feet.
Matheson said when the city enters the wet season near 13.5 feet, the chances for regulatory discharges are much higher than when entering the wet season only at 12 feet.