The Florida delegation, led by U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., met on Wednesday to focus on water quality issues including red tide, energy exploration and toxic algae.
Sixteen of the 29 members of the Florida delegation attended the meeting which is the first the delegation has had this year.
Buchanan said the good attendance showed how important water issues are in the Sunshine State.
“Few issues can unite our delegation like water quality, from clean oceans to the estuaries to the Everglades,” Buchanan said on Wednesday. “Florida is the only state on the mainland with two coastlines. My goal was to see if we could reach a consensus and it was obvious that we all agree we need to take swift action to keep our oceans and waterways clean.”
Buchanan noted most of the members wanted more funds to battle toxic algae and red tide while insisting a majority of the delegation wanted to ensure there was no oil drilling off the Florida coast.
The delegation heard from Adam Gelber, the director of Office of Everglades Restoration Initiatives in the U.S. Department of the Interior; Col. Andrew Kelly, the commander of the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Florida Department of Environmental Protection Sec. Noah Valenstein; Michael Crosby, the president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium; and Garrett Wallace, the Florida government relations manager of the Nature Conservancy.
“Coastal water quality issues are of significant importance to all Floridians,” said Hastings at the end of last week when the meeting was announced. “Last year, Florida faced an environmental disaster with serious economic consequences, when toxic algae coated both coasts. The devastation closed beaches, made Floridians sick, and harmed all aspects of our fishing, tourism, and recreational industry. It is critical that we reach across the partisan divide to truly solve this pressing problem.”
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.