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Politics

Gov. Rick Scott's Fight against Florida Red Tide Continues

October 5, 2018 - 6:00am
Rick Scott
Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is offering $3 million in grants to St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to help mitigate the effects of red tide. 

DEP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have been in contact with each impacted county to ensure they have every resource needed to combat red tide. 

Additionally, DEP and FWC continue to monitor for red tide along all of Florida’s coastlines, and are prepared to deploy resources to the Panhandle as well as additional resources to the east and southwest coasts, as needed. 

Red tide is naturally-occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year. Since 1957, Florida scientists have documented red tide on Florida’s Atlantic Coast nine times. In August, Scott declared a state of emergency due to the impacts of red tide. For more information on red tide in Florida, click here

Said Scott, “In Florida, when presented with problems, we work together and face them head on. Red tide is no different. So far, the state has provided more than $16 million to help minimize the impacts of harmful algal blooms and expand our research and understanding of red tide, including funding to help scientists test innovative solutions for this phenomenon. We will continue to work with our local partners to ensure that their needs are fully met until this year’s red tide subsides.”

The funding is part of the grant program DEP launched in July, which has provided a total of $16 million in funding for red tide and blue-green algae, the governor said. This is in addition to the nearly $2.2 million to test innovative technologies to mitigate the effects of red tide, including expansion of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Ozone Treatment System -- $1.2 million announced for FWC’s redfish hatchery, $100,000 for Mote Marine Laboratory’s red tide response, and $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA to create an emergency grant program to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide.

Not including the $3 million announced today, which will be distributed in the coming days, in total, DEP has provided funding to support efforts to battle red tide and blue-green algae in the following counties:

  • More than $3.3 million for Pinellas County;
  • $750,000 for Manatee County;
  • More than $190,000 for Collier County;
  • Nearly $1.5 million for Sarasota County;
  • More than $330,000 for Charlotte County;
  • More than $5 million for Lee County; and
  • $700,000 for Martin County.

Red Tide Actions the State Has Taken: Fish and Wildlife

-- On Sept. 26, Scott called in to the FWC Commission Meeting following the letter he sent on Sept. 20 urging the Commission to take the following action on red tide:

Create the Florida Center for Red Tide Research, a new resource for local communities impacted by red tide;
Re-establish the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force; and
Request an increase of funding for red tide research during the upcoming 2019 Florida Legislative Session.

-- FWC and DEP have provided an additional nearly $2.2 million to Mote Marine Laboratory for the initiation of its field testing of a specialized clay focused on quelling red tide and expansion of its Ozone Treatment System which takes water containing the algae that causes red tide and filters it, returning clean water back to areas impacted by this naturally-occurring algae.

-- At Scott’s direction, FWC has partnered with world-renowned experts and scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida and DEP to focus on using a form of specialized clay to quell the effects of red tide. See the announcement here.

-- FWC is providing $1.2 million to enhance research and production of redfish at the FWC Stock Enhancement Research Facility at Port Manatee. Learn more here.

-- DEP and the FWC have provided $100,000 in additional funding to Mote Marine Laboratory to support efforts to rescue distressed marine animals, such as dolphins, sea turtles and manatees.

-- Continuation of enhanced water monitoring and testing by DEP and FWC to give scientists the best possible data to work with.

-- At Scott’s direction, FWC has mobilized all available resources to mitigate naturally occurring red tide, and Executive Director Eric Sutton has waived rules through an executive order to expedite the removal of dead fish – regardless of applicable bag, size, or possession limits or of season or area closures – from shoreline, inshore or nearshore areas in the following counties: Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas.

-- FWC law enforcement officers have been actively helping with animal rescue and red tide reconnaissance work.

--Additional biologists and scientists are available to support local government’s response to red tide and protect wildlife.

-- FWC is performing increased aerial surveys of the red tide bloom.

-- FWC is operating the toll-free fish kill hotline. To report fish kills, contact the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 or submit a report online. Reports from this hotline help FWC researchers track and better understand the impact of red tide in Florida.

-- FWC remains available to local agencies and partners in affected areas, including area business and tourism groups in Southwest Florida. Any local agency or group that has any questions or concerns can contact Susan Neel from the FWC at 850-528-1755.

--FWC continues to partner with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to advise residents and visitors of any potential health impacts. Residents and visitors can contact DOH’s aquatic toxin experts at 850-245-4250 or contact their local health department for any concern about health safety.

-- FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory work together to monitor Karenia brevis. This cooperative effort is designed to help mitigate the adverse impacts of red tide. This joint research program that includes red tide monitoring, research and public outreach and education has resulted in better tools and ongoing monitoring for red tides along the Gulf Coast.

-- In partnership with FWC, the Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides (CPR) at the University of South Florida offers a new Harmful Algal Bloom tracking tool that generates a 3.5-day forecast of the bloom trajectories.

-- To protect public health, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Harmful Algal Bloom group closely monitors the status of Karenia brevis on Florida’s coasts, providing technical support to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the agency that regulates approved shellfish harvesting areas.

-- Since 2000, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute established a Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program, which is a volunteer program for citizens to help collect water samples from routine collection points and sites reported for suspected harmful algal blooms. The timely sampling by volunteers allows researchers to provide an early warning of offshore algal blooms and investigate reported events as they occur. The Program needs volunteers to collect samples from all coastal Florida counties. To view more information visit, Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program or use the Volunteer SignUp Form.
 
Red Tide Actions the State Has Taken: Environmental Protection

DEP has provided $16 million in funding to support efforts to battle impacts of red tide and blue-green algae, including grants to the following counties:

  • More than $3.3 million for Pinellas County;
  • $750,000 for Manatee County;
  • More than $190,000 for Collier County;
  • Nearly $1.5 million for Sarasota County;
  • More than $330,000 for Charlotte County;
  • More than $5 million for Lee County; and
  • $700,000 for Martin County.

-- On Wednesday, DEP deployed a team of Florida State Park biologists and staff to assist FWC with investigating a fish kill impacting John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. A team of parks staff continues to expedite clean-up efforts.  

-- DEP continues to perform enhanced water testing, beach cleanup and public outreach, as well as the deployment of additional biologists to assist communities dealing with naturally occurring red tide.

DEP staff continues to communicate frequently with impacted counties to identify additional funding needs or other support.
 
Red Tide Actions the State Has Taken: Health and Safety

DOH has reached an agreement with Mote Marine Laboratory to start air quality monitoring for red tide beginning October 8th. The first three counties to be sampled will be Pinellas, Sarasota and Lee.

Florida’s County Health Departments (CHD) have taken these nine actions:

  1. DOH-Lee has posted and is maintaining red tide signs at more than 180 beach access points along the Lee County coastline. The red tide signs provide details on respiratory issues, health precautions, and resources for FWC, Mote Marine Laboratory and current beach conditions. Environmental staff and CHD leadership are in contact with city and county leadership, as well as local partners, in order to coordinate efforts and messaging. A press release detailing the effects of red tide and resources for mediation was sent out to local media partners. Additional resources, like website materials, social media posts, etc., have been shared with local partners for their use and distribution to their partners. More substantial red tide signs were purchased in August and staff replaced the damaged/missing signs along the beach access points, as well as added additional signs at popular fishing sites and boat ramps. More than 300 total signs have been posted in Lee County.
  2. DOH-Manatee has hosted a discussion with community partners to understand current roles and share resources. The CHD has a distribution list setup to share information quickly with key personnel. They are also helping to coordinate discussions to help our partners meet on a periodic basis.
  3. DOH-Sarasota leadership and environmental staff have been in contact with city and county government and Visit Sarasota in order to coordinate messaging and provide template signage, website links, and creative materials. The CHD has also worked with the county in order to post signs at every beach, provided rack cards to the county and Mote for distribution.
  4. DOH-Charlotte has posted signage along the beaches to advise visitors and tourists about the water conditions. The CHD has performed outreach to their community partners, as well as local government, to share informational resources, creative materials and public health messaging. They also are coordinating efforts and assisting their sister agencies, as needed.
  5. DOH-Pinellas is currently working with the county government to update a red tide webpage that provides public health and safety information. Environmental staff are in constant communication with central office subject matter experts to discuss outreach and other best practices, should they be needed.
  6. DOH-Hillsborough is working with their community and county officials to finalize a joint information system, and continues to monitor the situation.
  7. DOH-Martin has remained in contact with county government staff, sharing DOH approved resources and toolkit information. The department is working with local government to ensure that messages and beach condition information are accurate and consistent, as well as providing public outreach.
  8. DOH-Palm Beach is working with local county and city government to provide DOH resources and information. The department is also working with their regional FWC representative to ensure that messaging and outreach information is consistent.
  9. DOH-Broward is monitoring the situation in nearby counties. They are working with their community and county officials, as well as their FWC regional contact, in order to remain prepared if the bloom moves into their area.

Red Tide Actions the State Has Taken: Business and Industry

At the direction of Governor Scott, VISIT FLORIDA began developing a marketing campaign to assist Southwest Florida communities that will start following this year’s red tide blooms.

-- VISIT FLORIDA created a $500,000 Tourism Recovery Grant Program for Red Tide to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide.

-- VISIT FLORIDA launched a Red Tide Recovery Marketing Program offering six months complimentary VISIT FLORIDA marketing partnership, which includes an enhanced web listing on VISITFLORIDA.com, public relations and social media resources and the opportunity to have a presence in the official Florida Welcome Centers with brochure distribution, lobby booth displays and showcase participation.

-- The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has activated the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to provide short-term, interest free loans to affected businesses.

-- DEO continues to encourage impacted businesses to submit a business damage assessment survey at http://www.FloridaDisaster.biz. Surveys help DEO and their partners determine additional resources that may be made available to help the business community recover.

-- Following Scott's requests, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a disaster declaration on red tide. The announcement from the SBA on red tide is here.

Comments

You guys hit the nail on the head with these comments :)

Scott banned "climate change" but mother nature did not read the memo. Red Tide Rick or maybe S**t Hole Rick for banning septic tank inspections. If you like Red Tide. Green Alge and no tourists vote for Red Tide Rick. The health care crook

Rick Scott you are lucky the fish cant vote!

Too little, too late for Red Tide Rick... He would not have to try to throw money at his problem he created, had he not eliminated several agencies, cut over $700 million from SWFLMD, cut the state EPA in half, deregulated septic tanks in FL eliminating inspections, eliminated all water quality inspections of state waterways... Now, he wants to throw money at the problems he created and somehow try to look like a savior of the state... Baahaahaa, Red Tide Rick is the political equivalent of Munchausen by Proxy...and we are all paying for it. Vote him the hell out!

"Vote him the hell out!" Amen, bro! Shouldabenafelon Scott was the worst Florida governor in my lifetime ... and even his personal financial finagling (like Trump's) seems to be catching up with him now! Get him outta here !!! #VoteBlue

He's about 8 years too late..this is a hail Mary pass to try and cover up all the damage he and his Big Sugar friends have done since he has been in office....gone hunting lately Red Tide Rick? The SFWMD cut backs in funds..the reduction of funds and of regulatory oversight on septic systems..the failure to buy land we all voted for south of the lake to accept water from Lake O..the stacking of SFWMD with political appointees.. the prohibition of the use of word Climate change..etc.. this is the real Legacy of Red Tide Rick..

Yet why hasn't this happened for the last 7 yrs? Just like Scott made the algae problem much worse because big ag, developers ae his buddies...…………..Both problems could be solved cheaply and solve a lot of the springs, river algae problems too...………….But Scott, Putman, repubs can't have that...……………..The solution is easy, just take samples going up the rivers and whomever is polluting gets fined big time...…………..Cheap, easy and puts the cost on those causing the problem...……...Next is convert many septic tanks to other low cost tech which there are many choices with the government doing it like they did the toilet upgrades to stop wasting water...……...There is no need for large land, costly systems to clean , store the pollution because big ag, developers, etc , are not polluting anymore...…………...Some removal of silt/muck which is great fertilizer from Lake Okeechobee, canals, etc where needed, harvesting cattails, etc and some form of commercial fishing to take nutrients out of the system our springs, rivers, lakes would become clear again and be a better tourist draw which repub enabled pollution to thrive, hurting our economy and fouling our state so corporations can make a bigger profit on destroying the state. …………….There is little more fiscally conservative as clean water, air and making those who foul it pay the cost...………..I welcome repubs back into the fiscally conservative fold as corporatists you are just foul, keep putting them ahead of the people...…………...And a good mount of the others are racists ……….Just how low can you go?

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