Red tide, oil drilling and harmful algal blooms were at the center of the discussion Wednesday at a Florida congressional delegation hearing in Washington, D.C. chaired by GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan and Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings.
On the agenda were some of the most pressing water quality issues currently affecting the Sunshine State.
It was the first meeting of the Florida congressional delegation in 2019. Some 16 congressmen attended -- more than half of the state delegation.
“Few issues can unite our delegation like water quality, from clean oceans to the estuaries to the Everglades,” Buchanan said. “Florida is the only state on the mainland with two coastlines. My goal was to see if we could reach a consensus and it was obvious that we all agree we need to take swift action to keep our oceans and waterways clean.”
Buchanan said he was very pleased to see most members joining him in support of greater funding for research into red tide and harmful algal blooms. And many members also agreed that drilling off of Florida’s coast should not be allowed.
Hearing panelists included Dr. Michael Crosby of Sarasota, president & CEO, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium; Adam Gelber, director, Office of Everglades Restoration Initiatives, U.S. Department of the Interior; Col. Andrew Kelly, commander, Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Noah Valenstein, secretary, Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Garrett Wallace, Florida government relations manager, The Nature Conservancy.
In 2018, Buchanan and Hastings backed a proposal signed by President Trump to provide more than $100 million to combat harmful algal blooms like red tide. Last year, a Buchanan proposal to increase funding for red tide research was also signed into law.
Buchanan recently co-introduced the bipartisan Florida Coastal Protection Act, which would make permanent the current moratorium on oil drilling slated to expire in 2022. He also applauded Gov. Ron DeSantis’ early focus on protecting the state’s environment and natural resources.