Senator Rubio is Leading Efforts to Combat Florida's Algal Blooms

Algal blooms are once again wreaking havoc on Florida’s marine ecosystems and coastal communities. Following subsequent periods of heavy rain and blistering heat, a whopping 90 percent of Lake Okeechobee is now covered in algae.

The Army Corps often redirects this contaminated water to the neighboring St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers to alleviate pressure from the lake’s ailing dam. When released, this algae-ridden water suffocates marine life, diminishes water quality, and replaces the rivers’ pristine blue hues with startling shades of bright green.

Floridians will continue to suffer pronounced consequences should these algal blooms persist. Water laced with algae contains a number of neurotoxins that pose serious health risks when ingested, including affecting liver function.

Beyond its effects on public health, the Okeechobee algal blooms significantly impact the tourism and fishing industries, both of which play crucial roles in the success of coastal economies and the state as a whole. Unhealthy coastal waters deter would-be beachgoers and put a major dent in the tourism industry, which employs over one million Floridians and generates 23 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue. The algal blooms also kill off large numbers of commercially valuable fish, leaving fishermen with insufficient catch supplies to sustain their livelihoods.

It is clear that algal blooms adversely affect the quality of life and economic stability in Florida. Fortunately, thanks to Senator Marco Rubio’s leadership on this issue, Floridians can feel optimistic about prospective solutions and rest assured knowing that a strong voice is fighting for them in Washington.

Over the course of the past several months, Senator Rubio has spearheaded a number of actions that have helped to limit the impacts of the state’s algal bloom epidemic.

In June and July, Rubio successfully persuaded the Trump Administration and the Army Corps to reduce and delay Lake Okeechobee discharges and approve the Central Everglades Planning Project. This project will result in the construction of a reservoir that will facilitate diverting Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades. The reservoir will allow water that would otherwise pollute the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers to be stored, treated, and later released to irrigate crops in agricultural areas surrounding the Everglades.

In August, Senator Rubio played an instrumental role in securing $5 million in funding for the EPA to address the algal blooms and devise innovative monitoring and preventative strategies. This financial support will help to propel solutions and better prepare the government for future algal bloom conditions

Senator Rubio’s commitment to this issue has not been limited to the past several months, however. Throughout his entire tenure in the U.S. Senate, Rubio has been a fierce advocate for Everglades restoration and investment in water infrastructure projects.

By bringing attention to these issues and generating effective solutions, Senator Marco Rubio is leading the fight to reduce the impacts of algal blooms on Florida’s citizens, wildlife, and economy. The American Conservation Coalition stands with Senator Rubio as he works vigorously to offer solutions to this issue, and we urge other elected officials to join him in these efforts to save Florida’s priceless coasts.  

 

Ronnie Thompson