Now in his second term on Capitol Hill, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., brought back the “South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act” this week.
According to the congressman’s office, his proposal “will amend existing federal law aimed at combating harmful algal blooms to require the first-ever specific federal assessment and action plan to reduce harmful algal blooms in the Greater Everglades region.”
Mast explained the rationale behind bringing his bill back for a second round.
“We made serious progress last year with the authorization of the EAA Southern Storage Reservoir and the mandate to redo the Lake Okeechobee discharge schedule, but there is a lot more that needs to be done,” Mast said on Monday. “Considering the massive damage algal blooms have caused in our community, it’s ridiculous that a federal program specifically designed to combat algal blooms has never done an Everglades-specific analysis.
“This bill will mandate a comprehensive plan for the state and federal government to work together to clean up our waterways,” Mast added.
The new proposal amends the “Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.” At the end of last year, Mast and then U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., were able to get Congress to reauthorize that program and federal funding. President Donald Trump recently signed Mast’s and Nelson’s proposal into law.
“Under the direction of this existing federal law, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science have developed numerous reports over the last two decades researching harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River and nationally. However, there has never been an Everglades-specific report,” Mast’s office noted. “The South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act directs the task force to complete an assessment that examines the causes, consequences and potential approaches to reduce harmful algal blooms and hypoxia in the Greater Everglades region, including how ongoing South Florida ecosystem restoration efforts are impacting the distribution of algal blooms. Based on the assessment, the task force is then directed to submit a plan to Congress for reducing, mitigating and controlling harmful algal blooms in the Greater Everglades region.”
With Nelson now out of the Senate, Mast has turned to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to introduce the bill in that chamber.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.