The co-chairs of Florida’s congressional delegation, Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, and Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings will hold a bipartisan delegation meeting on some of the state’s most pressing water issues.
The meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 8:30 a.m. in 2020 Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington, DC.
The delegation will discuss red tide, harmful algal blooms, beach renourishment and other water quality issues. This will be the first meeting of the 29-member bipartisan Florida congressional delegation in 2017.
“Our pristine beaches and rivers are a draw for Floridians and countless visitors each year,” Buchanan said. “That’s why it’s so important that our delegation works together to ensure Florida’s oceans and waterways are clean and healthy.”
Recently, red tide outbreaks left thousands of dead fish along the Suncoast’s shores. The tide produces a toxin that can harm and kill a variety of animals, including birds, fish, sea turtles and marine mammals such as dolphins and the already endangered Florida manatee. It can also have devastating effects on humans, as shellfish from active red tide areas can cause poisoning.
Panelists will include Sarasota Mayor Willie Shaw and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“Each year, red tide poses a serious threat to Southwest Florida’s wildlife, ecosystems and economy,” Buchanan said. “We need to do everything we can to stop future damage.”
This past summer, record amounts of toxic algae wreaked havoc across Florida, producing a bloom so large it was visible from space. The blue-green guacamole-thick algae, also known as cyanobacteria, forced many Floridians to wear masks near the water and some complained of skin rashes, headaches and respiratory issues, according to press reports.
Harmful algae blooms cause $82 million in economic losses to the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries each year in the U.S., according to NOAA.
Buchanan said he also looks forward to hearing from Mayor Shaw about beach renourishment. In 2007, the congressman secured $1.7 million in federal funding for beach renourishment projects in the 16th Congressional District.