FIRST Act Instructs USACE to Expedite Required Studies

Following the recent passage of S.B. 10 by the Florida Legislature, U.S. Congressman Brian Mast yesterday unveiled the Everglades FIRST (Flow Increases Rely on Storage and Treatment) Act.

The bill will expedite the federal timeline for the completion of reports that are required before Everglades restoration projects, including the S.B. 10 southern reservoir, can move forward.

“The Everglades FIRST Act prioritizes projects designed to fix water reservoir storage capacity issues around Lake Okeechobee to minimize future discharges into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, as well as related harmful algal bloom events that negatively impact our community,” according to the Mast’s press release.

The bill instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite completion of required reports and construction for the following projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan: Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoirs, Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project, Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project and the Western Everglades Restoration Project.

In expediting these projects, Rep. Mast aims to improve surface water reservoir storage capacity in South Florida to meet the goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, to achieve the full benefits of the Central Everglades Planning Project and to produce environmentally-beneficial changes in flow volumes in the Caloosahatchee, St. Lucie and Loxahatchee Rivers and Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park.

The bill will be formally introduced during a pro forma session on Thursday, May 11, 2017 with 7 co-sponsors.