By Ledyard King
September 27, 2017
WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a bill Tuesday to devote more federal resources to combating algae blooms, part of a growing response by Congress to the ecologically and economically harmful phenomena that have plagued both Florida coasts.
The measure, sponsored by Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, would give the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency authority to declare a severe algae bloom as a nationally significant event.
The declaration would trigger federal resources available to those impacted by the outbreak.
The measure also would authorize — though not guarantee — $110 million over the next five years for research into the causes and control of large algae blooms and hypoxia.
“People come to Florida to enjoy its beautiful beaches and unique environment,” Nelson said in a news release.
“When these toxic algae blooms plague our waterways, they not only hurt our environment, they hurt our local economies, as well. This bill will help make federal assistance available to those hardest hit by these algae outbreaks.”
The bill, passed without opposition on a voice vote, now heads to the House.
Nelson’s bill builds on other legislative efforts on Capitol Hill in the wake of massive algae blooms that have polluted the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast and spilled down the Caloosahatchee River toward Southwest Florida.
Earlier this month, the House passed a catch-all spending bill that included $21.6 million aimed at combating harmful algal blooms and studying the health impact of the crisis.
The amendments providing the money were sponsored by Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, whose district includes the Indian River Lagoon.