U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18)’s South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act today passed the House of Representatives. The bipartisan legislation will require the first-ever federal assessment and action plan to reduce harmful algal blooms in Florida.
“At our urging, the EPA released a report in May stating that harmful algal blooms in concentrations above eight parts per billion were harmful for human contact. Last summer, water discharged into our community contained 495 parts per billion of this toxin,” Rep. Mast said. “A primary driver of this disaster is the federal patchwork of bad ideas and projects that have manipulated our waterways without regard for our public health. That’s why it’s so ridiculous that a federal program created specifically to address harmful algal blooms has never even done a study focused on Florida. This bill will force that to happen and create a blueprint for the federal government to finally coordinate a real, comprehensive effort to combat harmful algal blooms in our community.”
The South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act amends the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, which was reauthorized in late 2018 by legislation written by Rep. Mast and Former Senator Bill Nelson (FL). 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 a Florida-specific report. The bill directs the task force to complete an assessment that examines the causes, consequences and potential approaches to reduce harmful algal blooms in the Greater Everglades region, including how ongoing South Florida ecosystem restoration efforts are impacting the distribution of algal blooms. Based on the assessment, the task force then must submit a plan to Congress for reducing, mitigating and controlling harmful algal blooms in the Greater Everglades region.
The legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Senator Marco Rubio (FL).
“I thank Congressmen Mast and Waltz for their leadership on this important effort in the House,” Sen Rubio said. “By directing the existing federal Interagency Task Force to assess the situation caused by blue-green algae and red tide in southern Florida, the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act seeks to focus federal resources on understanding these issues and developing an action plan to bring much-needed relief to impacted communities. I urge my colleagues to act quickly and pass this bill in the Senate to help solve these challenges faced in Florida once and for all.”