Reconstitute Harmful Algal Bloom Task Forces?

Water quality is an issue in the Florida Senate race, allowing critics of the candidates’ proposals to raise real solutions.

One candidate:

In August, [Florida Senator Bill] Nelson co-introduced legislation with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that would direct the federal Interagency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms to study the causes and consequences of algae in Lake Okeechobee and around Florida’s south and southwestern coasts.

NOAA: cynaobacteria in Lake Okeechobee
Image: NOAA, 9 September 2018, in Cyanobacteria bloom continues, by Katrina Elsken, Glades County Democrat, 19 September 2018.

The other candidate:

In a letter Thursday to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, [Rick] Scott urged creation of a Florida Center for Red Tide Research and reestablishment of the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force. He also called for seeking a funding increase next year from the Legislature for research, as the current outbreak has persisted for 10 months and is believed to have caused the deaths of thousands of fish, manatees, sea turtles and dolphins.

The quotes are from Jim Turner, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Sep 21, 2018, 1:43pm, Scott seeks red tide research, draws criticism,

The algal-bloom task force, created in 1999, remains in state law but hasn’t been funded since 2001. Numerous conservation groups have called for restoration of the task force’s funding. All 12 Florida Waterkeeper organizations signed a letter to state lawmakers in November 2017 to renew the task force.

Yes, I signed that letter as Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS. We all have another one in the works for this year.

Some people say at least one of the candidates is doing this as a political stunt. Be that as it may, at least something is finally happening.

As Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, pointed out,

the state needs to address impacts of climate change, agricultural and stormwater runoff and a lack of mandatory septic-tank inspections.

Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone was more blunt:

“The only way to reduce the occurrence, size and severity of harmful algae blooms is to stop the pollution that is feeding it at its source. We need prevention, not more studies.”

Both of those critical statements got published because of the politicians’ proposals, so making it an election issue opened a window to air real solutions.

It’s time to do something. Thomas F. Armistead, Engineering News-Record, 5 September 2018, Florida Project Could Help Address Runoff, Algae Blooms,

“This year is historic,” Caloosahatchee Waterkeeper John Cassani says. “I’ve worked on the river for 40 years; I’ve never seen anything like this, where 65 miles of the river has cyanobacteria blooms in one stage or another.”

And, as I keep reminding John Caassani, any task force is only as good as its members, so any HAB that gets reconstituted or created needs to have people like him on it.

Then onwards to the source of the problem: agricultural and other human runoff.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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