PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Plans are supposed to be moving forward to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, but what's the hold up?
That's what U.S. Rep. Brian Mast wants to know and he expressed his concern earlier this week that the Army Corps of Engineers will miss an important deadline.
"I do try to be the most active participant I can. Every single day in that fight for our waterways. That's what I asked to do, and that's what I'm trying to do now," Mast said in a press conference on Friday. "They have a very difficult job to do but they are working through it every single day.”
He sent a letter to the Corps hoping to meet with them about moving forward on the project. The congressman says he asked for the meeting after the Corps said it needed more time to think over plans.
"We're constantly going back and forth. This is a very big thing that we're trying to work through, the kidneys of Florida," said Mast.
The reservoir is meant to catch excess water from Lake Okeechobee, in hopes of preventing toxic algae flowing into the Treasure Coast. It's the result of Senate Bill 10, a piece of legislation that was once controversial until senate leaders worked to rewrite the plan so that agricultural land would not be affected.
The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to start working together with South Florida Water Management District on construction plans by Aug. 31 but they haven’t even started. That deadline is bound by law since it was set by the Florida legislature.
But representatives with the Corps clarified the stipulations of that deadline.
The state of Florida passed a law with timelines specific to the state agencies," said Commander Jason Kirk, district engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville office. "Those timelines are not specifically binding on the federal government."
The Corps hopes to have new information on funding and logistics on the $1.6 billion project sometime in September.
"I do note want to be overly specific on timelines because this is a new idea from the state. We got the interest letter just two months ago, so I'm talking to our headquarters in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. as well," said Kirk. "We're working through several different options on how we're approaching that legislation."
Mast is also asking for monthly updates from the corps as he continues to follow along with this project.