As the ongoing debate between environmental groups and South Florida farmers and water users over the Lake Okeechobee water levels continues, Congressman Brian Mast (R) recently called for an increase in federal control of water, which would diminish state water rights in an attempt to solve South Florida’s water problems.
The state takes over control of water when there is a water shortage, and under the new plan, the federal government would keep it.
During a January 12th Project Delivery Team meeting held as part of the Lake Okeechobee Systems Operating Manual (LOSOM) planning, an aide to Rep. Mast urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain control of Lake Okeechobee water during water shortage periods.
Currently, federal rules during a water shortage ensure Florida water managers can provide water to users that hold permits, which includes the aforementioned farmers, cities such as West Palm Beach, tribal nations like the Seminole Tribe of Florida and ecosystems like the Florida Everglades.
In fact, for the last 70 years, the schedules governing Lake Okeechobee management have all included a zone where the State of Florida was in control of the water management decisions.
In other words, under Mast’s plan, the “Free State of Florida” would lose its management control of Lake Okeechobee once the water levels reached critical levels.
During the meeting, representatives from cities, utilities, farmers, and the Seminole Tribe expressed concern over the plan, which could diminish the state’s ability to provide users with water during drought periods. Additionally, Governor Ron DeSantis’ appointed members of the South Florida Water Management District advocated for maintaining state control.
Concerns over the controversial plan were echoed recently by Rep. Greg Steube ®, who represents an area of the state on the shores of Lake Okeechobee.
“My request is simple – LOSOM should clearly state that Florida has control over its water management decisions, well before a water shortage level is reached,” wrote Steube. “State control is needed to ensure that there is water available for existing legal users and the environment, under normal conditions, not just in times of shortages.”
The controversial measure to give the Biden Administration de facto control of Florida’s water has been supported by other radical environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, which has received millions from groups linked to George Soros. During the Trump Administration, the Center for Biological Diversity proudly boasted about suing President Trump “hundreds of times.”
Rep. Mast has flirted with these left-leaning groups in the past, likely in an attempt to boost his environmental bona fides in a congressional district that is considered “purple.”