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Bonamici, Mast, Posey Urge House Leadership to Bring Bipartisan Harmful Algal Bloom Bill to a Vote

September 19, 2018
Press Release

 

WASHINGTON, DC [09/19/18] – Today Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Brian Mast (R-FL), and Bill Posey (R-FL) called on House leadership to bring a bipartisan bill to the floor to help communities better prepare for, mitigate, and respond to harmful algal blooms (HABs).

 

“Harmful algal bloom and hypoxia events threaten the health of our oceans, lakes, and rivers,” the Members wrote in a letter. “Our constituents depend on clean and safe marine and freshwater resources and the increasing presence of HABs across the country this year is detrimental to their well-being.”

 

HABs, which occur naturally but can be triggered by environmental stressors, often result in the formation of “dead zones” where marine life cannot survive. This causes significant economic losses for communities that rely on fishing, shellfish harvesting, and tourism. In July, the Representatives introduced H.R. 6645, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2018 to help combat harmful algal bloom events. 

 

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. 
  • Expanding the Interagency Task Force to increase collaboration.
  • Creating a process for HABs and hypoxia forecasting in coordination with the Integrated Ocean Observation System regional partners.

 

“Oregonians are facing the consequences of limited scientific understanding of harmful algal blooms and the dangerous effects of exposure,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Earlier this year, the residents of Salem lacked access to clean drinking water after a bloom in Detroit Lake. Recreational activities were stifled by HABs in the Willamette River this summer. As co-chair of both the House Oceans Caucus and Estuary Caucus, I know that research is needed to help protect the marine and freshwater systems that sustain our region. Congress must pass this bipartisan bill."

 

“The federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, has played a huge role in perpetuating the human health crisis caused by Lake Okeechobee discharges and they need to take responsibility for the damage by helping to pay for the cleanup,” said Congressman Brian Mast. “More than that, the government needs to stop prioritizing special interests over human health and put an end to the crisis once and for all.  We need to pass this bipartisan bill immediately because our community simply cannot afford to wait any longer for the federal resources needed to fix this environmental disaster.”

 

“Algae blooms, like the ones affecting the Indian River Lagoon in my District, occur throughout the country and the world.  Experts still have many questions about the root causes and how to fight them, and related hypoxia events.  That is why we need to continue to investigate health impacts from exposure to harmful algal blooms, and develop new ways to predict and mitigate blooms –  the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act will help us do just that,” said Congressman Bill Posey, Co-Chair of the Congressional Estuary Caucus. 

 

In 2014, Bonamici and Posey, both members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, led the House in reauthorizing the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. Authorization expires at the end of Fiscal Year 2018. Last year, Bonamici introduced similar legislation to reauthorize the NOAA programs and improve response to HABs.

 

The full letter is below:

 

The Honorable Paul Ryan                                             The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker                                                                          Minority Leader

United States House of Representatives                        United States House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515                                                Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:

 

We respectfully ask that you bring H.R. 6645, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act to the House floor for a vote. This bipartisan bill would help communities better prepare for, mitigate, and respond to harmful algal blooms (HABs).

 

Harmful algal bloom and hypoxia events threaten the health of our oceans, lakes, and rivers. Our constituents depend on clean and safe marine and freshwater resources and the increasing presence of HABs across the country this year is detrimental to their well-being.

 

HABs occur naturally, but in response to certain environmental stressors, such as increased nutrient runoff and pollution, changes in water flow, and increased temperatures, colonies of algae can grow excessively and produce toxins. As the algae die and decompose, they consume oxygen, leaving waterways in a hypoxic state that can result in the formation of “dead zones” where marine life cannot survive. This results in significant economic losses for the blue economy, our communities that rely on fishing, shellfish harvesting, and tourism. We must improve our understanding of harmful algal blooms and develop a stronger strategy to help communities better predict and reduce the number of harmful algal blooms and hypoxic events.

 

Congress has recognized the increasing frequency of harmful algal blooms across all 50 states. The Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA), enacted in 1998, established an Interagency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia and authorized funds for research, monitoring, education, and management activities to prevent, control, and reduce HABs and hypoxia. In 2014, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a markup on legislation to reauthorize HABHRCA through Fiscal Year 2018. The bill was reported out of the Committee with bipartisan support and was signed into law.

 

Earlier this year, we introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize HABHRCA through Fiscal Year 2023. Our bill would expand the Interagency Task Force to increase collaboration, and it would establish 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 would also establish a process for sustained operational ecological forecast models for HABs and hypoxia in coordination with the Integrated Ocean Observation System regional partners.

 

 

Our bipartisan legislation will help communities better protect against and respond quickly to harmful algal bloom and hypoxia events. We ask that you consider supporting this legislation and urge you to act quickly to bring this critical reauthorization to the floor. Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

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