A ‘Water summit’ of sorts took place on Capitol Hill, as a big part of Florida’s congressional delegation questioned experts regarding the ongoing freshwater issues the state has been dealing with, in particularly the toxic algae blooms.
When the Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake Okeechobee, water that is filled with toxic algae, it wreaks havoc to the ecosystem surrounding the lake and hurts local business that rely on clean water to operate.
Congressman Brian Mast has been spearheading this issue, as has Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has committed millions of dollars to help clean up Florida’s waterways.
Mast, whose congressional district is ground zero for the toxic algae water problems, has been pushing to temporarily and seasonally lower Lake Okeechobee’s water level to 10 ½ ft.
Masts move to lower the lake levels has been met with pushback from some of his colleagues in the House like Rep. Ted Deutch (D), who expressed concern over the proposal, and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D), who believes the proposed water level is “too low.”
Mucarsell-Powell pointed out that if there is a drought in certain areas of Florida, namely the Everglades, could be adversely affected by the lowering of the lake levels.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D) said she didn’t “have enough facts” about the issue, but believes that congress needed to “address this issue aggressively,” adding that she was “looking forward for ways the federal government can support the state.”
In his opening remarks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s representative said that his group had “limited authority to address water quality,” but that they were “intimately involved in moving water,” adding that they were also addressing operating issues they have encountered and don’t want to repeat those problems, specifically the issues that relate to Lake Okeechobee operations.
“The Corps is adaptably trying to manage it operates the system.
Certainly, the past few years have demonstrated some issues we certainly don’t want to repeat and in one of those areas we’re talking specifically about Lake Okeechobee operations and desperately trying to kind of change the way we do business. Embarking on effort to potential reset that schedule, reprioritize how we look at Lake Okeechobee water.”-U.S. Army Corps
Rep. Mast’s opening remarks focused on what he calls “share adversity.”
“We never really get to the idea of share adversity if those lake levels get perpetually high moving into the hurricane season because the coasts bear all of the adversity, and there’s not risk to the low side, it’s not truly share. There’s realistic adversity and there’s a potential, or a hypothetical adversity that exists on the other side and we never really reach that parity.”-Rep. Brian Mast
The same representative from the Corps addressed Mast’s water level proposal and shared adversity concerns, saying the corps would be willing to consider lowering the lake levels, and all-but rebuffed Mast by not agreeing or committing to his proposal. In addition, the Corps said it would continue reviewing what water level, if any, they would be comfortable settling on.