The election is over. Now the work starts.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast yesterday called for the resignations of the South Florida Water Management District board members, including Executive Director Ernie Marks, for the board’s recent shady dealings with leasing land to a sugar company in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The lease could obstruct planning and construction of the proposed and federally-approved EAA reservoir which is intended to help divert some of the damaging discharges from Lake O to Florida’s estuaries.

Mast said board members “have been derelict in their duties, and I think they should be replaced,” as quoted in The Stuart News. Mast is also chairman of governor-elect Ron DeSantis’ 40-member environmental advisory committee, and Mast has pending legislation to change Lake O’s operational priorities.

Let’s hope this means the gloves are off in the decades-long fight to change the way the state runs its water management in South Florida.

Consider this: The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) does not consider the contents of the water they move around the South Florida water management system. They do not consider if their actions will lead to animal and human illness. That has to change. The USACE can’t be allowed to ignore the fact that their actions are poisoning people. Entire communities along the Southeast and Southwest coasts are in danger from the continuing biological, economic and social damages from blue-green algae and red tide, and it’s long past time to make changes to law that allows these toxic blooms to continue.

Back in September, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL 18th District) introduced H.R. 6700—the Stop Harmful Discharges Act—and the bill would force the Army Corps of Engineers to take into consideration the health and safety of humans along the coasts. H.R. 6700 would update the priorities—first created in the 1940s and long outdated—of the Lake O and South Florida water management system to ensure that human health is taken into consideration.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is a life issue and a quality of life issue. It’s not just a Florida issue, either. It’s an issue for anyone who visits Florida or cares about Florida’s wildlife and ecosystems. We need our representatives to come together to support this bill. We need politics to work for us—now.

Mast will not only need local support to get this bill passed, but the support of other legislators from around the nation—both Republican and Democrat. If you live in Florida and care about the water, call your representative to urge them to support this bill. If you live anywhere else and care about Florida, call your representative and urge them to get behind this bill. If you are part of a conservation group, local, regional or national, talk about this bill to get support for it from your group. If you own a business that has been impacted by the toxic green and red tides, for the sake of your future you need to contact your representative. Everyone should support the bill that takes away the USACE’s ability to poison our communities as an official policy.

In many ways, it is mind blowing that the government needs to be told in law not to stop harming its citizens. But that is where are, and that is why everyone should support Rep. Mast’s legislation to stop the USACE from poisoning Americans.

It’s clear from more than six decades of fighting the discharges that it’s not going to be resolved easily. It’s clear from the actions of the South Florida Water Management District in the last month that getting the S.B. 10 reservoir built will face hurdles. Passage of Mast’s H.R. 6700 can change the status quo and force The US Army Corps of Engineers to manage the water management system for human safety before any other priorities.

I recently spoke with Congressman Mast for a new documentary, which is part of the upcoming TV show Florida Sportsman Watermen, premiering in the spring. In the documentary series, we’ll be investigating Florida’s ongoing water crisis and the way forward to preserve the nature of our state.
In this brief video from the first documentary about the decades-long battle to maintain and save Florida’s southern estuaries, I interview Congressman Mast about the crisis and about Mast’s legislation to change how Lake O is managed.

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