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Rubio, Scott, Mast, Soto Reintroduce Bill to Address Harmful Algal Blooms in South Florida
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) and U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL) and Darren Soto (D-FL) reintroduced the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act, legislation that would direct the Interagency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) to assess the causes and consequences of HABs in Lake Okeechobee and around Florida’s southern coastlines identify needed resources, and develop a plan of action to address these challenges. Rubio first introduced this legislation in August 2018. The legislation passed the House of Representatives in the 116th Congress.
After completing the required assessment, the Task Force would be required to develop an Action Plan in coordination with the state and local stakeholders to reduce, mitigate, and control harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. This plan would include steps to:
- Address monitoring needs identified in the assessment;
- Develop a timeline and budgetary requirements for deployment of future monitoring assets;
- Identify requirements for development and verification of HAB predictive models; and
- Propose the development of an early warning system for alerting local communities to HAB risks to human health.
“Harmful algal blooms can sicken Floridians, damage local economies, and devastate our ecosystems,” Rubio said. “We need to focus federal resources on understanding our blue-green algae and red tide problems in South Florida, and to develop an action plan with the State of Florida to meaningfully address these challenges.”
“As Governor and now as Senator, I’ve worked with leaders across our state to address the harmful algal blooms that plague Florida’s waters,” Scott said. “Today, I’m proud to join Senator Rubio to build on these efforts by reintroducing the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act to expand research and our understanding of blue-green algae and red tide. We must keep working to protect Florida’s beautiful waters, environment and natural resources for future generations.”
“We continued to make great progress in our fight for clean water last Congress with legislation to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee and accelerate construction of the EAA Southern Storage Reservoir, but there is still much more to be done,” Mast said. “Our waterways continue to be decimated by harmful algal blooms – some more than 60 times more toxic than the EPA’s human health standard – yet there has never been a federal Everglades-specific analysis designed to combat these algal blooms in the first place. This bill will change that by requiring a comprehensive plan for the state and federal government to work together to clean up our waterways.”
“For years, we’ve seen how harmful algal blooms have decimated ecosystems in the Greater Everglades region, devastating the local economy and environment,” Soto said. “Without a coordinated assessment and action plan, contaminated waterways will continue to threaten our public health and the Florida way of life. Our bill directs urgently-needed federal funding and resources to advance restoration and improve water quality throughout the Sunshine State.”
An extended timeline of Rubio’s efforts to fight the South Florida algal blooms can be found here.