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Red tide

Tampa Bay

Rick Scott asks for special center to combat red tide

Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a ‘Florida Center for Red Tide Research’ to study the causes of red tide and research ways to mitigate its effects.

In a letter to FWC on Thursday, Scott praised ongoing efforts to study the K. Brevis bacteria and its resulting red tide blooms but said more must be done.

“This year’s devastating bloom has left no question — we must increase our efforts to find a cause and solution for naturally occurring red tide,” Scott wrote.

In all of his correspondence regarding this summer’s red tide bloom, Scott consistently refers to the outbreak as naturally occurring and points out it happens almost every year dating back to 1844.

While that’s true, critics argue the problem has been exacerbated by nutrient pollution (i.e., fertilizer runoff), a finding supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“Algae is naturally occurring, but when you add nutrients from fertilizer and manure runoff and sewage overflow and all these things coming from Lake Okeechobee and the Mississippi River, paired with warm water, it just goes into this toxic brew and you get these massive blooms,” said Frank Jackalone, Florida chapter director for the Sierra Club.

Jackalone said Scott’s efforts are a distraction from his environmental policy failures: “He’s running for U.S. Senate, not Governor. He’s had eight years to do something about this.” 

Still, Scott is asking for several other mitigation and prevention efforts. In his letter, he encouraged the FWC to formally request additional research funding and to create a competitive grant fund for businesses to encourage innovative solutions.

He’s also asking the Legislature to reconvene the state’s Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force.

To date, the state has allocated $14 million for mitigation and compensation associated with this year’s bloom that’s affecting much of Florida’s Gulf Coast from southwest Florida to Clearwater.

Crews continue to patrol waters just offshore to collect dead fish before they reach the shore, but dead fish and other marine life still are making their way to the beach causing rancid smells.

Toxins in the air also create minor to severe respiratory discomfort. The effects can be worsened for people with respiratory problems like asthma or emphysema.

Red tide also is causing problems for businesses near the beach as visitors continue to avoid contaminated beaches.

Florida hasn’t seen an outbreak this bad since 2005 when the event lasted an entire year and created a dead zone void of oxygen.

Part of Florida’s current mitigation efforts is funding for the state’s Redfish hatchery to recover that species’ population.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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