Bonamici Applauds Updated Law to Address Harmful Algal Blooms
WASHINGTON, DC [12/20/18] – Today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), lead Democrat of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee, applauded the House passage of S. 2200, which reauthorizes the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA). The legislation has already passed the Senate.
Much of this legislation is the companion bill to Bonamici’s H.R. 4417, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act. Harmful algal blooms, which are associated with climate change, harm fisheries and threaten public health. With the new law, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency will be able to continue to help communities prepare for, mitigate, and respond to harmful algal blooms (HABs).
HABs occur naturally but can be triggered by environmental stressors that are linked to climate change. As harmful algal blooms die and decompose, they consume oxygen, leaving oceans and waterways in a hypoxic state that can result in the formation of “dead zones” where marine life cannot survive. This,decimates fisheries and the economies and communities that rely on them. Harmful algal blooms in drinking water sources can produce toxins that threaten public health.
“Updating this program and investing in research on HABs and hypoxia will help Oregonians and people across the country who are facing the dangerous effects of exposure to harmful algal blooms in drinking water sources, oceans, and lakes,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Recently we’ve seen harmful algal blooms cut off access to clean drinking water for residents of Salem, and they’ve stifled recreational activities on the Willamette River. Harmful algal blooms in the marine environment produce dangerous toxins that make Oregon’s prized Dungeness crabs toxic and deprive fishing communities of income. As co-chair of both the House Oceans Caucus and House Estuary Caucus, I’m pleased to reauthorize the research programs that help us better predict and guard against harmful algal blooms in marine and freshwater systems.”
The bipartisan legislation will improve existing law by establishing a process for NOAA and the EPA to declare an “Event of Significance” to allow states and local governments to access disaster funds when hypoxia or HABs will likely have detrimental environmental, economic, subsistence use, or public health consequences. The bill also expands the Interagency Task Force to increase collaboration.
In 2014, Bonamici and Representative Posey (R-FL), led the House in reauthorizing the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. In 2017, Bonamici introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 4417) to reauthorize the NOAA programs and improve response to HABs. She also joined her colleagues in introducing H.R. 6645, another bill to reauthorize HABHRCA earlier this year, and called on House leadership to allow a vote on the bipartisan bill before authorization lapsed in September of 2018.