Last week, Congressman Francis Rooney met with local leaders from community and non-profit organizations in a public meeting to address the impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) on human and sea life.
Congressman Rooney said, “The environmental destruction created by last year’s HAB outbreak was overwhelming and required local municipalities to remove 2,000 tons of sea life from our beaches and shorelines. Grouper, manatees, dolphins and sea turtles are some of many marine creatures that washed onto our beaches and led to massive loss of income to our real estate, fishing, and tourism industries. We are still suffering from the long-term sea life dead zones.
“I know that our community is also concerned about the impacts of toxic algae for residents living near the canals, and the dangers to pets and wildlife that are exposed to HABs. I am grateful to the local leaders and community members who attended this meeting to seek solutions for combatting these issues going forward, and I look forward to our continues partnership to fix our water quality.”
Below is what local leaders and environmental stakeholders are saying about this important discussion:
“I think this meeting was really productive because the people who were here are people who understand and know what’s going on in the region, in South Florida. And there are lots of things that we try to work on, we try to make a difference, but we run up against a wall. And that wall is often a regulatory wall, it can be a state regulatory wall it could be a federal regulatory wall. And these people are discussing some of their frustrations asking for help from congressman Rooney whose office is saying he will at least listen and maybe look into it. Every little bit helps.” said Judith Hushon, Board Member at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
“The biggest impacts from last year’s events was that public health was front and center. It was very evident that we didn’t know what we needed to know, and we weren’t collecting the information that we need to collect to make better decisions. My request of the congressman is we look to establish the research and set the standards needed to protect public health.” said Rae Ann Wessel of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
“As summer arrives, we wait with trepidation to see whether it brings a repeat of last year’s waterborne calamities of red tide and blue-green algae. We’re helpless, in the short term, to do much about it. Heavy rains will necessitate the release of large volumes of water from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, creating the freshwater mix that encourages algae blooms. Warm temperatures and fertilizer runoff add to the recipe. Potential solutions involving billions of dollars in investments to store and treat even more billions of gallons of water will take years to complete. So, the best we can do right now is talk about things. That’s exactly what’s been happening. U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney convened a meeting of government scientists, health experts and local officials last week to talk about ways to better communicate and respond to the next crisis.” said Brent Batten of the Naples Daily News.
“I think what Congressman Rooney heard today were some very specific concrete ways that we could get federal dollars and federal resources acknowledged to help us solve these problems; short term problems like just alerting the public when there are blue green algae and what concerns should they have in what areas, to the longer-term solutions of obviously getting $200 million a year for Everglades restoration from the federal budget, which we desperately need.” said Conservancy of Southwest Florida President and CEO Rob Moher.