U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today announced new bipartisan legislation dedicating more federal resources to combating toxic algae. Building on his Federal Do No Harm Act and South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act, this bipartisan solution will make federal funding available to communities impacted by harmful algal blooms, require a federal action plan to reduce harmful algal blooms in the Greater Everglades region and ensure that a federal program aimed at combating harmful algal blooms is not allowed to expire.
“The federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, has played a huge role in perpetuating the human health crisis caused by Lake Okeechobee discharges and they need to take responsibility for the damage by helping to pay for the cleanup,” Rep. Mast said. “More than that, the government needs to stop prioritizing special interests over human health and put an end to the crisis once and for all. This bipartisan bill will help deliver the federal resources needed to end this environmental disaster.”
In 2016, the State of Florida requested federal assistance related to algal blooms multiple times and was denied. This year, Governor Scott has again declared a State of Emergency, and Rep. Mast has called on the federal government to provide assistance. This bill will build on several bipartisan efforts, including by Rep. Mast and Senator Bill Nelson (FL), to ensure that federal resources are available by authorizing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to declare a “HAB of Significance” when it will have a detrimental impact on a state’s environment, economy, subsistence use or public health. This declaration will authorize the federal government to make federal funding available to state or local governments for the assessment and mitigation of harmful algal blooms.
Additionally, the primary federal program for addressing harmful algal blooms is the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, but the authorization for that program expires this year. Rep. Mast’s bill will also ensure this program does not expire by extending its authorization for five years and increasing its annual funding to $22 million. Under the direction of this existing federal law, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science have developed numerous reports over the last two decades researching harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River and nationally. However, there has never been an Everglades-specific report. With this extension, the task force would be required to complete an assessment that examines the causes, consequences and potential approaches to reduce harmful algal blooms and hypoxia in the Greater Everglades region, including how ongoing South Florida ecosystem restoration efforts are impacting the distribution of algal blooms.
Finally, the bill expands grant eligibility to include proposals for the intervention and mitigation of harmful algal blooms and also directs NOAA to improve their monitoring of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.
The bipartisan bill, called the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2018, is co-sponsored by Representatives Bill Posey (FL-8), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1).
“Harmful algal bloom and hypoxia events threaten the health of our oceans, lakes, rivers, and waterways in Oregon and across the country,” Rep. Bonamici said. “Our bipartisan legislation will help communities better protect against and respond quickly to harmful algal bloom and hypoxia events.”
“Tackling the toxic algal blooms is critical to restoring health to our Indian River Lagoon, and I congratulate Congressman Brian Mast on his creative approach to fighting this issue,” Rep. Posey said.“I’m pleased that our estuary caucus co-chair, Suzanne Bonamici, remains committed to helping in this uphill battle. Together we will find solutions that will benefit all of our estuaries and communities.”