Last week, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., came out swinging when he spoke at the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Monthly Meeting calling to keep Lake Okeechobee “at a lower level during the dry season to mitigate the need for discharges during the summer months.”
Currently, the South Florida Water Management District keeps the lake at an authorized regulatory range from 10.5 feet to 17.5 feet. Mast, a freshman in Congress, wants the South Florida Water Management District to pledge to lower the lake to 10.5 feet by May 15.
“This morning I spent an hour at the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Meeting working to lower Lake O to prevent discharges,” Mast said at the meeting on Thursday.
“This is what I was told: ‘We’re not in the business of picking winners and losers.’
“But we know that’s just not true,” Mast continued. “When the towns on the west coast ask for more water during the winter for the Caloosahatchee and are denied but then those same towns are sent toxic water during the summer, you are picking winners and losers.
“When you artificially inflate the height of the lake because you have 5.5 feet worth of water permitted for agriculture and then discharge toxic water to the east and west each summer, you are picking winners and losers,” Mast insisted. “They say they have no choice because of emergency conditions, but their decisions are causing the emergency conditions.
“They push the blame to the Army Corps, saying they have no choice because LORS forces their hand, but today they again admitted they already have the authority to draw down the lake to 10.5 feet,” Mast added. “So, I’m still waiting for an answer: why won’t you work with us to keep the lake lower during the dry season? I think the 5.5 feet of water permitted for agriculture speaks for itself.”
Mast is a top target for Democrats next month and polls show he can expect a close contest from attorney Lauren Baer.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.