U.S. Representative Brian Mast’s (FL-18) legislation to combat toxic algal blooms, the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act, was signed into law today. The bipartisan legislation will require the first-ever federal assessment and action plan to combat harmful algal blooms in Florida.
“For far too long, the east and west coasts of Florida have been treated like Florida’s septic tank,” Rep. Mast said. “This law is an important step in undoing the harm our government caused when it manipulated our waterways to flush toxins into our community with no regard for public health. We must build on this momentum to permanently end harmful discharges and send the water south.”
Rep. Mast wrote the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act and shepherded it through the U.S. House of Representatives, where it was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill was co-sponsored by Representatives Darren Soto (FL-9) and Bill Posey (FL-8), along with other bipartisan Members of the Florida delegation. Senators Marco Rubio (FL) and Rick Scott (FL) championed the Senate version of the bill.
“This law will make a tremendous difference in our ability to develop a comprehensive plan to prepare for and mitigate against the devastating impacts of harmful algal blooms on South Florida’s coastal communities,” Senator Rubio said. “I thank President Biden for finally signing this bill into law so we can begin addressing these serious challenges.”
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.