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Rubio Bill to Address Harmful Algal Blooms in South Florida Becomes Law
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) and Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) released statements after President Joe Biden signed their South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act (S.66) into law.
“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,” Rubio said. “I thank President Biden for finally signing this bill into law so we can begin addressing these serious challenges.”
“As Governor and now as Senator, I’ve worked hard to address harmful algal blooms and naturally-occurring red tide in Florida’s waters,” Scott said. “I’m glad to see this important, bipartisan legislation signed into law, which will build on our efforts to protect Florida’s beautiful waters, environment and natural resources for future generations.”
“For far too long, the east and west coasts of Florida have been treated like Florida’s septic tank,” 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.”
Rubio reintroduced the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act in January 2021 along with Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) and U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL) and Darren Soto (D-FL). The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in June 2021 and passed the Senate on March 9, 2022. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 11, 2022.
The legislation 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 to identify needed resources, and develop a plan of action to address these challenges that harm the ecosystems in Biscayne Bay, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, Florida Bay, Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie Estuary, and the Florida Reef Tract.
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.