A bill to protect Florida’s waterways from harmful algal blooms passed Congress nearly unanimously this week and will now head to the president’s desk.
The South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act will for the first time require a federal task force to research algal blooms in Florida and develop a plan to prevent them.
According to U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., the act amends the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, which was reauthorized in 2018 by legislation drafted by Mast and the former Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
The bill directs a harmful algal bloom task force to research the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to algal blooms in the Greater Everglades region, including the impact of habitat restoration efforts. South Florida ecosystem on the distribution of algal blooms, according to Mast.
The task force will then submit a plan to Congress to reduce, mitigate, and control the algal bloom in Florida.
For years, the task force has focused on reporting algal blooms in areas like the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River. Never before had there been a report specific to Florida.
“It’s a big workgroup. It’s great to have them brought to South Florida, and it’s a big deal for our area,” Mast told WPTV.
The task force is made up of groups like NOAA, CDC, and the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We had to work with people in other states to convince them that a lot of their issues were resolved,” Mast said. “We need to shift the focus of this program to another place where it’s needed more.”
With a few mostly algae-free summers behind us, Mast hopes this is another way to continue that streak, protecting tourism, recreation, local economies and public health.
“They don’t want to have to worry about their kids being poisoned. That’s what it’s all about, minimizing it, ending it, making sure it doesn’t happen,” Mast said.
The bill was passed unanimously by the US Senate.