House Passes Bill to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms, Includes Waltz Amendment to Improve Indian River Lagoon Water Quality
Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act, sponsored by Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), which included an amendment drafted by Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) to protect the Indian River Lagoon from harmful algal blooms (HABs). Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the legislation in the Senate.
"As Floridians, water is integral to our way of life,” Waltz said. “Red tide and algal blooms are threatening our coast, rivers and springs,” Waltz said. “If we want to keep our waterways beautiful, we need an action plan and it’s important the plan includes the Indian River Lagoon. I’m glad the House agrees.”
The South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act directs the federal Interagency Task Force to complete an assessment that examines the causes, consequences and potential approaches to reduce HABs and hypoxia in the Greater Everglades Region. Based on the assessment, the task force is then directed to submit a plan to Congress for reducing, mitigating and controlling HABs. Waltz’s amendment ensures that the entire Indian River Lagoon is included as a contiguous coastal water. Other contiguous waters included in the assessment are Biscayne Bay, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, Florida Bay and the Florida Reef Tract.
“Our communities are all too familiar with the massive damage algal blooms can cause to public health and it’s ridiculous that a federal program specifically designed to combat harmful algal blooms has never done an Everglades-specific analysis,” Mast said. “This bill will finally change that by forcing the state and federal government to work together to clean up our waterways.”
“I thank Congressmen Mast and Waltz for their leadership on this important effort in the House,” Rubio said. “By directing the existing federal Interagency Task Force to assess the situation caused by blue-green algae and red tide in southern Florida, the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act seeks to focus federal resources on understanding these issues and developing an action plan to bring much-needed relief to impacted communities. I urge my colleagues to act quickly and pass this bill in the Senate to help solve these challenges faced in Florida once and for all.”
“Clean water is fundamental to our health, quality of life and economy,” said Deb Denys, Chair of the Indian River Lagoon Council and Volusia County Councilwoman. “I’m thankful for Congressman Waltz’s leadership on this bill, which has secured an inclusive consideration of harmful algal blooms in the Indian River Lagoon. Congressman Waltz has ensured that water quality assessments will consider the interconnectedness of Florida’s waterways.”
“This bill focuses much needed federal resources on harmful algal blooms that threaten the health of our Florida surface waters, human communities and economies,” said Duane De Freese, Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon Council and Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. “I look forward to seeing it pass in both chambers. I want to thank Rep. Mike Waltz, Rep. Brian Mast and Senator Marco Rubio for their leadership on this issue. The bill recognizes that regional-scale knowledge and actions are needed to address the HAB problem across connected waters.”
“This is just one step in our ongoing effort to keep our waterways clean,” said Waltz. “I'm glad to join Rep. Mast and Sen. Rubio to improve our water quality in Florida."