Congressman brings stakeholders together to talk water; supports buying land south of Lake O

Aerial tour with DC Committee Chairman Tuesday
Posted at 5:20 PM, Jan 17, 2017

With the St. Lucie River behind him Tuesday, Congressman Brian Mast pointed to the heart of the Treasure Coast.

“This is our home.  This is what drives our economy.  This is what makes us want to live here, the water and the weather.”

The freshman Republican had flown over the area earlier with fellow Congressman Bill Shuster from Pennsylvania, the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The Everglades are a national treasure.  What happens in the Everglades affects Florida, affects restoration," said Congressman Shuster.

Congressman Mast said he didn’t see any algae blooms from above.  It was late January of last year when freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee led to the most recent toxic algae crisis.  The Congressman says he supports Florida State Senator Joe Negron’s push to buy land south of the lake for water storage.

“I will look for land wherever I can find it, whether it’s from the federal government or anywhere else.  I am looking for places to put gallons of water and hopefully put those gallons south of Lake Okeechobee," said Congressman Mast.

The Congressman says while he has heard resistance from the sugar industry to sell land, he said a good first step happened Monday night when environmentalists and business owners met behind closed doors in Palm Beach Gardens for a meeting.

“People from Florida Crystals and from Bullsugar took it upon themselves afterward to look each other in the eyes, walk out with each other, and find a place to sit down for an hour or more.”

Environmental groups placed signs out where the Congressman spoke Tuesday, reminding him of his pledge to save the rivers.

“I was out working on the water today.  It’s very clean.  It’s amazing when we stop the discharges, amazing how it clears up," said Darrell Brand with the Rivers Coalition.

The Congressman said he has spoken with President-Elect Donald Trump in person about the water issue, reminding him that just a few miles from Mar-A-Lago, Peanut Island was nearly shut down during Fourth of July weekend because of algae.