Legislation that would instruct Florida officials to adopt and pursue aggressive algae removal programs cleared a Senate committee Tuesday.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved the measure (SB 834). It would direct the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to identify the best technologies to remove algae, toxins and nutrients from water bodies, develop long-term programs to clean up harmful algal blooms, and develop short-term emergency response action plans.
The bill presses DEP to assess and use the latest, most effective technologies and to give preference to technologies that reduce nitrates and toxins that foster harmful algal blooms, are scalable, and are proven to improve water quality in freshwater bodies.
“As we wrestle with algae blooms in the state of Florida, let’s start to move toward those things that have been proven to be effective, and make sure that we have directions that tell the department, ‘Let’s be aggressive about it,'” said Sen. Jason Brodeur, the Sanford Republican who chairs the committee and sponsored the bill.
The legislation comes amid a multiyear effort for Florida to tackle algae blooms that have become increasingly common and worse in the past decade. Those blooms come from nutrient runoffs and choking water systems throughout the state, particularly from Lake Okeechobee outward to the coasts. The bill’s language cites the state’s 2019 Blue-Green Algae Task Force and its recommendations for prevention, clean up, and mitigation.
Through the end of June, DEP has allocated $14.9 million for grants to local governments, universities and water management districts to develop and test the technologies in locations throughout the state. From these projects and others, the DEP is to develop its long-term and emergency programs. The bill recognizes that funding will be necessary to implement a long-term program and that DEP is responsible.
The bill also has stops at the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government as well as the Appropriations Committee. Republican Rep. Keith Truenow of Tavares is carrying the House counterpart (HB 421).