U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today secured the passage of bipartisan legislation devoting more federal resources to combat toxic algae. Building off of his Federal Do No Harm Act, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2018 will make federal funding available to communities impacted by harmful algal blooms and ensure the continuation of a federal program aimed at combating harmful algal blooms.
“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 Rick Scott again declared a State of Emergency, and Rep. Mast 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 legislation will:
- Reauthorize the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (the major federal program that does research and mitigation work on harmful algal blooms) for 5 years.
- Expand grant eligibility to include proposals for the intervention and mitigation of harmful algal blooms.
- Direct NOAA to improve their monitoring of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.
The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2018 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Nelson and in the House by Rep. Mast. The bill passed the House of Representatives and the Senate as part of S. 2200, the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2018. The legislation now heads to the President’s desk to become law.