August 18, 2010
Scientists working on methods to prevent and control harmful algal blooms impacting coastal communities along the Atlantic coast have been awarded more than $1 million for the first year of an anticipated $2 million, multi-year NOAA research grant.
This funding supports three projects under the newly initiated Prevention, Control and Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms program.
Many types of algae are present in Atlantic waters. While most are non-threatening, some are harmful to the marine environment, coastal economies and can even cause serious human illnesses.
Advances in monitoring and forecasting give an early warning of impending blooms but impacted communities and businesses have requested new methods to combat harmful algal species and their costly impacts. The three newly announced projects tackle this challenge by developing methods to prevent harmful blooms from forming and to control or reduce existing blooms or bloom impacts. NOAA’s new program will transition the best of these methods into new coastal resource management strategies.
One of the three projects, to be led by Don Anderson, Ph.D., of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, will test a strategy to reduce or possibly eliminate toxic blooms of the New England alga Alexandrium fundyense in estuaries and bays.
This strategy is of great interest in the region as Alexandrium blooms now routinely force closures of economically important shellfisheries. Researchers will study whether smothering the organisms’ dormant seed-like cysts with thin layers of bottom sediment will reduce the number of newly hatched cells that can get into the water column and initiate a bloom. This approach could be successful in limiting the size of the blooms and shortening the duration of toxicity. Repeated treatments over time may also ultimately prevent the formation of blooms.
Two additional projects will focus on strategies to prevent or control blooms of other harmful algal species in the Mid-Atlantic region.
One team, led by Kathryn Coyne, Ph.D., of the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, will investigate whether a promising chemical isolated from a naturally occurring bacterium can be used to selectively kill cells or inhibit toxin production of Karlodinium veneficum, Prorocentrum minimum and other common harmful algal species that kill hatchery shellfish, produce large fish kills and lead to seagrass die-offs in mid-Atlantic coastal waters. Investigations may lead to a natural product that gives managers a direct way to control or eliminate harmful algal blooms.
Another team, led by Allen Place, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, will test the efficiency of using suspended clays to remove toxic blooms of Microcystis aeruginosa from the water. The team of researchers will also assess whether this technique will have an impact on submerged aquatic vegetation, clams and fish.
“Great strides have been made toward understanding why blooms occur as well as improvements in predicting their occurrence and in monitoring,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. “We are now able to envision situations where we can limit or control blooms, thereby limiting their impacts on human health and Bay resources. We are very excited to be part of this initial research, and to work with NOAA and our other partners to help make this vision a reality.”
This program is authorized by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 and 2004. PCMHAB is designed to encourage the development of promising technologies and strategies to end-users to protect fisheries, coastal resources and public health.
“Harmful algal blooms pose a real and significant threat to humans, animals and the coastal environment,” said Russell Callender, acting director of NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the office that fulfills NOAA responsibilities under the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.
“The new PCMHAB program adds an important focus on developing proactive management solutions so that one day we may even be able to stop some blooms before they start.”
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit NOAA on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/usnoaagov.
HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOM BILL PASSES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
At 10:40 this morning on Friday, March 12, the US House of Representatives passed the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2009. The PURRE Water Coalition has been pushing for this legislation for the last two years and was involved in commenting on the draft prior to its introduction on September 25, 2009.
During the debate on the House floor earlier in the week Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird from Washington State mentioned the support of the PURRE Water Coalition as one of a “broad group of stakeholders.” Prior to final passage, Sanibel Island was mentioned in remarks by Representatives Connie Mack and Kathy Castor.
“There is simply no more beautiful place to vacation than Sanibel and Captiva,” Castor said. “But tourists simply don’t want to visit polluted beaches, and word spreads. It is directly tied to jobs, and if that happened in this economy, it would be very detrimental.”
This legislation would establish and maintain a National Harmful Algal Bloom and hypoxia program. This program would develop and coordinate a comprehensive strategy to address harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. It would provide for the development and implementation of comprehensive regional action plans to reduce harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. It would go a step further and provide the ability to fund research in technology to help communities like Sanibel control and mitigate harmful algal blooms.
In his opening statement prior to a hearing last October, Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird of Washington State said that “harmful algal blooms pose serious threats because of their production of toxins and reduction of oxygen in the water. These impacts include alteration of the ocean’s food web, human illnesses, and economic losses to communities and commercial fisheries.”
It was clear during the hearing this morning that both witnesses and committee members were concerned about the increase in the frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms in both fresh and salt water. These increases can be attributed to changes in water quality, temperature, sunlight and the increase in the amount of nutrients in the water. All of these are challenges we find in water in and around Sanibel.
Rep. Mack pointed out that HABs don’t just affect marine life but the very quality of life for residents and visitors and can even cause death. He remembered growing up virtually “on the water” in Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach when red tide disturbed life for maybe one week out of a year now and then. “Not long ago, we had 13 straight months of red tide. Clearly something is happening, and I’m not sure we can trust the research that’s out there,” Mack continued.
Baird returned to the podium to conclude his remarks in dramatic fashion: “If you’re a hotel owner and you get notice that a red tide is forming off your beach, you can kiss your season goodbye.”
The bill now heads to the Senate where a similar bill is pending. PURRE hopes passage in the House will improve chances for Senate consideration.
- END THIS ARTICLE -
LETTER PURRE SUBMITTED ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE DURING DEBATE:
March 12, 2010
The Honorable Brian Baird, Chairman
Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Baird:
On behalf of the Board of Directors and members of the PURRE Water Coalition I would like to express our continued support for H.R. 3650, the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2009.
PURRE (People United to Restore our Rivers and Estuaries) was started in 2004. We are a growing organization working on remediation and permanent improvement of the water quality in Southwest Florida’s rivers, estuaries, and the Gulf of Mexico. PURRE has become a regional alliance that includes citizens, businesses, and environmental groups dedicated to restoring and protecting the ecosystem in Southwest Florida.
Our organization has grown through the years has become involved in all of the effects of poor water quality – from environmental destruction to economic harm. We work on the local, state, and federal levels with stakeholders and decision makers to find common sense solutions to lower the pollutants going into our waters and to deal with the adverse impacts.
We have seen first hand what a variety of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can do to our beaches and our community. Over the years we have experienced a variety of HABs in our waters including red tide and red drift algae. This bill would help us to manage the impact of these events and we strongly support this effort.
We are grateful for your efforts to reauthorize and expand this program, to continue the research and to provide help to communities like ours with efforts to mitigate and control Harmful Algal Blooms.
We look forward to this bill’s passage and to working with NOAA on this program.
With best regards,
Chairman, PURRE Water Coalition
House Approves Bipartisan Bill to Understand, Prevent, and Control Algal Blooms That Threaten Coastal and Fresh Waters
March 12, 2010 (Washington, DC) – Today, the House of Representatives voted 251-103 to approve a bipartisan bill to address the effects of harmful algal blooms in fresh and coastal waters on aquatic plant and animal life and human health.
“We need to protect our coast, oceans, and citizens from the threats that these blooms cause on our beaches, in the food web, and in economic losses to communities and commercial fisheries,” stated House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “This bill will reauthorize a program that has funded research to advance our understanding and our ability to detect, assess, predict and control these harmful algal bloom and hypoxia events,” said bill author and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA). “Since the last reauthorization there has been an increase in the number, frequency, and type of algal blooms and hypoxic events, affecting more of our coastlines and inland waters.” Harmful algal blooms are a rapid overproduction of algal cells that produce toxins and occur in both salt and freshwater. People and animals are exposed to the toxins when they drink or swim in the contaminated water or consume seafood that has ingested these toxins. The toxins cannot be removed or neutralized through the traditional water treatment methods, like filtering, boiling, or chemical treatments. In addition to releasing toxins, the blooms can block sunlight in water and use up the available oxygen in the water, causing a severe oxygen depletion. The oxygen depletion, called hypoxia, stresses or suffocates marine animals and plants. Environmental changes in water quality, temperature, and sunlight or an increase in nutrients in the water can cause blooms to increase dramatically. Harmful algal blooms also have a negative financial impact on a region, if beaches are closed and fishing is suspended. Harmful algal blooms and hypoxia cost the U.S. seafood and tourism industries approximately $82 million annually, according to a conservative estimate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, H.R. 3650, directs the NOAA to implement research strategies to better understand and respond to algal blooms and hypoxic events. It requires federal agencies to create a comprehensive and integrated strategy to address and reduce harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. The bill also establishes a national program to address marine and freshwater harmful algal blooms across the country in both coastal and inland waters. The bill will give local communities the tools and best practices to understand and respond to harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. It will assist in regional, state, tribal, and local efforts to develop and implement appropriate marine and freshwater harmful algal bloom and hypoxia response plans, strategies, and tools. It will also provide resources for and assist in the training of local water and coastal resource managers in the methods and technologies for monitoring, controlling, mitigating, and responding to the effects of marine and freshwater harmful algal blooms and hypoxia events. The state and regional participation is completely voluntary. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined that the bill does not impose any cost on state, local, or tribal governments. The bill has been endorsed by Environmental Defense Fund, Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Champions, and PURRE (People United to Restore our Rivers and Estuaries). The Science and Technology Committee has been working in collaboration with the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A companion measure, S.952, has been introduced by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and has passed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
January 12, 2010
The Army Corps of Engineers began an 11-day pulse release to the Caloosahatchee Estuary at 11 a.m. today, January 12.
The target flow to the estuary is an average 650 cubic-feet-per-second measured at the Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79).
There will be no flow to the St. Lucie Estuary through S-80 until further notice.
PURRE's position is that any releases under 2,800 cubic-feet-per-second from Franklin Lock into the Caloosahatchee Estuary is acceptable.
October 1, 2009
Yesterday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced almost $500,000 in grants for three projects to better monitor and predict red tide. The projects will focus on the New England coast and in the Western Gulf of Mexico. These grants were issued as part of the ECOHAB program, which was authorized under the original Harmful Algal Blooms bill that PURRE has been working to expand. They expect the cost of these projects to exceed $1.5 million over the next three years. Below is a copy of the release from NOAA; you can read more about the Gulf of Mexico project at: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090930_mexico.html.
Public Policy Director
New Research to Improve Management of Toxic Red Tides
in the Gulf of Maine
September 30, 2009 News Release
Public warning signs like this one appear in areas that have been closed due to high levels of toxin in shellfish.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded $457,000 in competitive grant funding to support three projects to better track and manage outbreaks of toxic algae that threaten public health and New England’s shellfish industry. The grant covers
the first year of what will be multi-year projects.
Anticipated to cost almost $1.5 million over the next three years, they will be carried out by the Woods
Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University
of Maine and the University
Findings will improve forecasts and may lead to novel strategies to prevent and control blooms of the
red tide, or, Alexandrium fundyense algae.
Paralytic shellfish poisoning, a potentially fatal illness contracted by humans when they consume shellfish contaminated by toxins produced by the red tide algae, forces closures of productive shellfisheries every year.
In 2005, lost shellfish sales caused by red tide closures in Maine and Massachusetts alone totaled $23 million. States have rigorous monitoring programs for PSP that ensure seafood safety.
In July 2009, a red tide event also caused an unprecedented near-complete shutdown of shellfish harvesting in Maine. In response, NOAA provided emergency funding to support red tide surveys to supplement forecasts and help managers plan monitoring strategies.
“Forecasts of Alexandrium abundance and bloom extent are critical to help state managers prepare in advance to minimize impacts on local communities,” said Darcie Couture, director of Biotoxin Monitoring from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “With that information as a guide, we can focus our shellfish monitoring efforts to make more selective harvesting closures and, once red tide starts to move out, more efficient re-openings.”
“The work NOAA has supported previously in the Gulf of Maine region has led to remarkably accurate seasonal red tide forecasts--the first-ever predictions of this kind for harmful algae,” said Quay Dortch, NOAA oceanographer and coordinator of the interagency Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms program. “The innovative ideas behind these three new projects will enable us to answer some of the remaining difficult questions to improve predictions.”
Woods Hole researchers will explore how the algae’s cysts, which act like seeds and form the next year’s bloom, are deposited and moved along the seafloor. This knowledge is critical for the seasonal prediction.
Additionally, the University of Maine team will explore how some non-harmful algae in the Gulf of Maine may inhibit Alexandrium’s growth and the University of Texas team will investigate environmental triggers of bloom decline.
“In addition to refining forecasts, these are all important steps toward pioneering unique prevention and control strategies for Alexandrium outbreaks, an area where less research progress has been made,” Dortch added.
The program has been operating since it was first authorized by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act in 1998. NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.
Today the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Environment Subcommittee has approved the bill to control Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs).
The Committee on Science and Technology’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee approved H.R. 3650, the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2009.
The bill was authored by Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) and Research and Science Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Vernon Ehlers (R-MI). This bill requires federal agencies to create a comprehensive and integrated strategy to address and reduce harmful algal blooms and hypoxia (inadequate oxygen in the water).
“Unfortunately, despite years of research, the frequency and duration of the harmful algal blooms and hypoxia are on the rise, and affecting more of our coastlines and inland waters,” said Baird. “This bill directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to implement research strategies and plans to better understand and respond to these blooms and hypoxic events.”
In the release by the Subcommittee, they said, “Harmful algal blooms are a rapid overproduction of algal cells that produce toxins which are hazardous to animals and plants. When the blooms occur, they block sunlight in water and use up the available oxygen in the water, which causes hypoxia, severe oxygen depletion. The toxins the algae create can be dangerous to people when they drink or swim in the contaminated water or consume seafood that have ingested these toxins.
Environmental changes in water quality, temperature, and sunlight or an increase in nutrients in the water can cause blooms to increase dramatically.”
The bill now moves to the full Science and Technology Committee.
Update September 22, 2009
The following is an article by Dan Wexler, PURRE Public Policy Director, written for the local Sanibel and Captiva Island papers about a hearing in Washington he attended last week. Dan wrote to PURRE members:
This is a major accomplishment not only for Southwest Florida but for communities around the country who have similar experiences to ours with respect to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs).
Since I started working for PURRE, we decided that programs to help with forecasting, control and mitigation of HABs was an important part of our efforts. So in addition to advocating for more storage, moving water south, and limiting pollution from various sources, we found that this program and its reauthorization and expansion to be a good cause for PURRE.
As you know, the legislative process can take time. We have been talking about this for more than two years. Mike Valiquette and I discussed this program with Senator Bill Nelson, members of Congress and their staffs to encourage this reauthorization. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to comment on these bills in draft form and met with the chairman of the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee to request last year’s hearing. We also meet with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a regular basis and have provided them with information and photos of our experience.
We plan to continue these efforts so this program can have some impact on our region. While many others are involved here, PURRE has provided a strong voice on this issue.
Public Policy Director
Here's Dan's article:
Washington Hearing on Harmful Algal Blooms a Major Accomplishment
Article submitted by Dan Wexler
PURRE Public Policy Director
Last week I attended a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives about ways to prevent and control Harmful Algal blooms (HABs). The House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a legislative hearing to examine harmful algal blooms, hypoxia (inadequate oxygenation) research and response needs. The goal is to create and implement a plan that would monitor, prevent, mitigate and control both marine and fresh water blooms and hypoxia events. The witnesses were asked to make specific comments on a draft of “The Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2009.”
This legislation directs the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, through an interagency task force, to establish and maintain a National Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Program. This program would develop and coordinate a comprehensive strategy to address harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. In addition this bill would provide for the development and implementation of comprehensive regional action plans to reduce harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird of Washington State said that “harmful algal blooms pose serious threats because of their production of toxins and reduction of oxygen in the water. These impacts include alteration of the ocean’s food web, human illnesses, and economic losses to communities and commercial fisheries.”
It was clear during the hearing that both witnesses and committee members were concerned about the increase in the frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms in both fresh and salt water. These increases can be attributed to changes in water quality, temperature, sunlight and increase in the amount of nutrients in the water. I was impressed at the depth of their knowledge and concern for this issue.
The witnesses included representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York and the University of Michigan.
Suzanne Schwartz, Acting Director of the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, testified that according to one report there are 405 hypoxic zones around the world and that the second largest zone is in the Gulf of Mexico. She pointed out that “there is strong evidence connecting hypoxia and algal blooms with nutrient pollution – excessive nitrogen and phosphorus – in the water, with the most significant sources of nutrients coming from agricultural runoff, largely from the upper Mississippi River Basin, as well as residential/commercial fertilizers, animal waste, sewage treatment plants, and from utilities and vehicles.”
She went on to point out that NOAA provides a conservative estimate that the cost of hypoxia and algal blooms to the U.S. seafood and tourism industries is about $82 million annually.
Dr. Donald Anderson from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has been actively studying red tides and HABs for over 30 years. His testimony discussed the impact of HABs and the increase in outbreaks over the last 30 years. He also gave a perspective on the programmatic needs and a national HAB action plan. He stressed the need for a HAB forecasting system within NOAA to help communities better prepare a response to outbreaks. I met with Dr. Anderson at the Wood Hole Institute and discussed our experience with a macro algal bloom just a few years ago. I was impressed to hear witnesses like Dr. Anderson talk about the need for forecasting, control and mitigation, which is where PURRE would like to see progress.
Representative Connie Mack participated in the hearing. Although Representative Mack does not sit on this subcommittee, he did ask special permission to participate. In his remarks he commented about the increase in red tide outbreaks and stressed the need for peer-reviewed research to avoid duplication of effort. He said it was important to understand the causes of HABs and specifically mentioned Sanibel Island as a community that could suffer serious harm from HAB outbreaks.
There is a companion bill in the Senate that has passed the committee and is waiting for floor action. The House should move to full committee next week and be ready for a full House vote soon. I believe there is a good chance this bill could make it to the President’s desk. With the other priorities in Washington at the moment and a fast approaching close to the fiscal year, I cannot say it will be soon, but we will be pushing for it.
This is an important part of the effort to deal with the effects of pollution in our waters. We at PURRE would like to thank our supporters for the opportunity to work on this legislation. While there has been great success in Florida with projects and programs to stop the pollution with efforts like fertilizer ordinances, increased water storage and the potential to move more water south with the U.S. Sugar purchase, there is not as much in the way of helping communities manage the impact of outbreaks when they occur. We have seen firsthand what happens when confronted with red tide and red drift algae in our community and are fortunate to have a city government that has taken positive steps to help. While this is great news, more work needs to be done.
PURRE will continue its work on passage of this legislation and the program funding. We will then continue to work with NOAA on opportunities to benefit Southwest Florida.
Please contact the PURRE office if you have questions about this legislation or would like more information. Our number is 239-472-2703; email firstname.lastname@example.org; and our Web site is www.purre.org.
Update September 5,2009
September 5, 2009
Part of my work for PURRE involves monitoring what others around the country are doing who face similar challenges with pollution and nutrient from various sources. Below is an article from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay that talks about their push for Climate Change legislation which be considered in Washington this fall. It is a controversial piece of legislation but according to this article will have benefits that could help limit harmful algal blooms which as you know is one of our major concerns. I thought it would have interest to those who are following our efforts in Southwest Florida.
PURRE Public Policy Director
Article from the Alliance for Chesapeake Bay Journal
Senate pressured to pass climate legislation; ocean temps set record
By Staff and Wire Reports
Ocean surface temperatures hit a record high in July, reaching 61 degrees, or 1.06 degrees warmer than the 20th century average.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Data Center said part of the increase was attributed to an El Nino in the Pacific, but other factors such as the continued melting of the Arctic ice cap, which in July was its third smallest size on record.
In September, Congress may also heat up as pressure builds on the the Senate to pass climate change legislation in the wake of action by the House.
In late June, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed sweeping legislation that calls for the nation's first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner, yet more costly energy.
The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats. Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure-only eight voted in favor-arguing it would destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.
The legislation would require the United States to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent by midcentury. That was slightly more aggressive than President Obama originally wanted, 14 percent by 2020 and the same 80 percent by midcentury.
Polluters would be required to buy credits to offset excessive emissions. Credits could be created by reductions at another facility, or from actions such as a farmer planting carbon dioxide-absorbing trees on his land.
U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are rising at about 1 percent a year and are predicted to continue increasing without mandatory limits. Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker called the House passage "a huge victory" and said that "efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will also help reduce nitrogen pollution, the leading cause of the dead zones and harmful algal blooms that are damaging the Chesapeake Bay."
Baker said the legislation would encourage farmers in this region to take actions that not only reduce nutrient pollution but also generate carbon credits, such as planting forest stream buffers.
The bill could also provide a direct financial benefit to Bay efforts, as it creates a fund to help regions take action that help natural resources adapt to the impacts of climate change. A similar provision has been proposed for a yet-to-be released Senate bill. Climate change could dramatically alter the Bay region and make cleanup efforts much more difficult. It's likely, for instance, that storms would become more intense, which would drive more nutrients and sediment into waterways and overwhelm many of the runoff control practices now in use.
"We can't restore the Bay unless we deal with climate change," said Hilary Harp Falk, director of the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Coalition. The recently formed coalition is a network of more than 60 organizations within the watershed that have come together to push for legislative actions that promote clean water.
"This is one of our top issues for 2009," she said. "A lot of the coalition members in individual states are already working very hard on this issue."
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer plans to unveil a global warming bill on Sept. 8, the day after Congress returns from its summer break. Congressional leaders and Obama administration officials have said they would like to pass climate change legislation this fall.
Climate Change & The Bay
Climate change could dramatically alter the Bay ecosystem. Some of the consequences scientists say are likely for the Bay in coming years include:
The frequency of harmful algae blooms could increase as warming conditions and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere create conditions that promote
Winter and spring precipitation is likely to increase, washing more nutrients into the Bay and magnifying the size of its oxygen-starved "dead zone." That would be compounded because water also holds less oxygen as it warms.
Eelgrass, the dominant seagrass in the lower Bay, will decline and possibly disappear because of its low tolerance to warm temperatures.
Changes in Bay salinity and temperature would likely create conditions that make the Bay more conducive to invasive species.
Warmer water temperatures and increased nutrients could increase the abundance of pathogenic bacteria that cause diseases in fish, shellfish and humans.
Increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would make Bay water more acidic, like ocean water. Among the consequences would be thinner oyster and clam shells.
Chesapeake water levels, already rising faster than the global average, will further accelerate, increasing coastal flooding, speeding coastal erosion and submerging tidal wetlands.
Update August 25, 2009
EPA plan may prevent algal blooms
in the Caloosahatchee
by kevin lollar
Ft. Myers News-Press
Aug. 25, 2009
Local scientists and environmentalists say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to set limits on nutrients entering Florida's waters will help prevent algal blooms in the Caloosahatchee River.
The EPA's decision settled a lawsuit filed last year by the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Wildlife Federation and other groups who wanted the agency to set numeric standards for nutrient runoff.
"It's just a better way of assessing how we're doing and what we can do to improve the river," said Marti Daltry, regional conservation organizer for the Sierra Club in Fort Myers. "The EPA will have specific nutrient criteria that say, 'OK, here's the level; you can't go higher than that.'"
Following the extremely wet rainy seasons of 2004 and 2005, nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed caused a series of algal blooms in the river and the Gulf of Mexico.
Macroalgae choke waterways, smother seagrasses and foul beaches, and some microalgae species are toxic.
Macroalgae, which include red drift algae, and microalgae, which include blue-green algae, also cause oxygen depletion, which can kill fish and other organisms. As algae die, they decompose and suck even more oxygen from the water.
"Now, we'll be able to have numeric criteria to reduce source pollutants," said Roland Ottolini, director of the Lee County Division of Natural Resources. "However, it's important to understand that these criteria can change from one part of the state to another. Hopefully, they'll realize that estuary systems in Southwest Florida are different from lakes in North Central Florida. One size doesn't fit all."
Lee County Commissioner Bob Janes, whose district includes Sanibel, said nutrient limits will be good for the river and estuary. "Is it going to have an effect? I hope so," he said. "Will it be the answer? Probably not. It's another piece of the puzzle that we need to put in place. From that standpoint, it will have a positive impact."
Sanibel and Lee County already have fertilizer ordinances aimed at reducing phosphorus and nitrogen runoff. Among other things, the ordinances prohibit the use of fertilizers during the rainy season. Under Lee County's ordinance, fertilizer can't be applied within 10 feet of a water body; for Sanibel, it's 25 feet.
"Lee County has tried to be proactive in working toward reducing any type of discharge that causes adverse impacts," said Kurt Harclerode, operations manager with the Division of Natural Resources. "Our fertilizer ordinance is designed to help each citizen do something to help prevent algal blooms. We all knew (the EPA's nutrient limits) were coming. It means that all local governments are looking at potentially spending major money on water-quality treatment."
According to the settlement, the EPA must propose its new nutrient limits by Jan. 14; the rule must be finalized by October 2010.
"We're excited about this news," said Rae Ann Wessel, natural resources policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. "Everything flows downstream. Even if we didn't have Lake Okeechobee discharges, we have significant inputs from our watershed. We have to look at all these sources to clean up our waters. This is the hammer that makes it happen."
Update August 11, 2009
SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES BILL
TO ADDRESS HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS
On August 5, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation passed the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2009. This is the same bill we wrote to you about earlier this year.
This legislation would develop and promote a comprehensive plan for a national strategy to address harmful algal blooms and hypoxia (inadequate oxygen levels in the water) through baseline research, forecasting, and monitoring. The bill will also help communities detect, control, and mitigate coastal and Great Lakes harmful algal blooms and hypoxia events.
According to the Committee staff, there were minor changes from the original bill. The next stop is the full U.S. Senate, which we hope will take place soon after Congress returns following Labor Day. At the staff’s request, PURRE submitted letters of support for this legislation to Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Bill Nelson (D-Florida).
There is still no companion bill in the House. We will keep you posted as this legislation moves forward.
May 11, 2009
Submitted by Dan Wexler, Public Policy Director
PURRE Water Coalition
Last week (see entry below) I wrote about a new bill in the United States Senate which will authorize money for research and to help communities like ours manage the effects of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). This week I would like to provide more information about HABs.
This information comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
According to NOAA ,“Harmful Algal Blooms are blooms of species of algae that have negative impacts on human, marine environments, and/or coastal economies. HABs include blooms of both microalgae (microscopic, single celled) and macroalgae (seaweeds).”
While there are many different forms of both, the most common for us are red tide and red drift algae.Most algae are very important to salt and fresh water ecosystems and most species are not harmful. However, Harmful Algal Blooms have been reported in almost every U.S. coastal state and according to NOAA they are on the rise. So while we have seen HABs in our waters over the years, and in particular red drift algae, as seen in this photo from 2007, this is a national issue.
Another problem with HABs is oxygen depletion. They can block sunlight that other organisms need to live, and some HAB-causing algae release toxins that are dangerous to animals and humans. It is only a small percentage of algae that produce toxins that can kill fish, shellfish, and other marine life. These can also cause illness in people. Again these are rare but can be debilitating or even fatal.
According to the CDC, “Scientists do not yet understand fully how HABs affect human health. Authorities in the United States and abroad are monitoring HABs and developing guidelines for HAB-related public health action. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added certain algae associated with HABs to its Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List. This list identifies organisms and toxins that EPA believes are priorities for investigation.
The CDC works with public health agencies, universities, and federal partners to investigate how the following algae, which can cause HABs, may affect public health:
There is a lot we don’t know about HABs and both CDC and NOAA are working hard to learn more.
According to NOAA, “The factors controlling HAB development and decline are not well understood for many harmful species. In general, algal growth is enhanced when environmental conditions (such as light, temperature, salinity, and nutrient availability) are optimal for growth.” Many believe the increased nutrients in our waters from pollution are a significant contributing factor to the growth of both red tide and red drift algae.
Also from NOAA, “Perhaps the best known HAB is the ‘red tide’ that occurs nearly every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast and that Spanish explorers first observed in the 16th century! The organism that causes the Florida red tide (which may not always appear red), a microscopic alga called Karenia brevis, produces a toxin that makes shellfish dangerous to eat. It also kills fish, and in some instances, dolphins and manatees. It may also make the surrounding air difficult to breathe due to aerosolized toxins. Scientists have been monitoring and studying the phenomenon for a number of years to determine how to detect and forecast the location of the blooms. The goal is to give communities advance warnings so they can adequately plan and deal with the adverse environmental and health effects associated with these red tide events.”
HABs can also have an economic impact. It is estimated that “they cause, on average, about $82 million in economic impacts to the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries each year. HABs reduce tourism, close beaches and shellfish beds, and decrease the catch from both recreational and commercial fisheries."
The new bill in the Senate is a reauthorization of the original Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act which was signed into law on November 13, 1998, and was reauthorized in December 2004. The Act recognized that many U.S. coastal areas suffer from HABs and hypoxia each year, threatening coastal ecosystems and endangering human health.
This new bill will expand the program so that communities can better predict HAB events and manage the impact.
May 6, 2009
NEW HARMFUL ALGAE BLOOM LEGISLATION
INTRODUCED IN THE UNITEED STATES SENATE
May 6, 2009 -- Last week, Senator Snowe (R) from Maine, along with seven other Senators including Senator Nelson (D) from Florida introduced the Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2009. This bill would enhance existing research programs established in the original 1998 bill and will develop and promote a comprehensive plan for a national strategy to address HABs and hypoxia through baseline research, forecasting and monitoring. It will also address mitigation and control by helping communities detect, control and mitigate coastal algal bloom and hypoxia events.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Harmful Algal Blooms are blooms of species of algae that have negative impacts on humans, marine environments, and/or coastal economies. HABs include blooms of both microalgae (microscopic, single-celled) and macroalgae (seaweeds).”
While there are many different forms of both, our most common – red tide and red drift algae – are both considered HABs. In her remarks to introduce the bill Senator Snowe said that this program has “greatly enhanced our ability to predict outbreaks of harmful algal blooms and the extent of hypoxic zones. But knowing when outbreaks will occur is only half the battle.”
This bill will take the program to its next logical step. It will provide funding for additional research into mitigation and prevention of HABs and hypoxia, and will enable communities like Sanibel, Lee County and others in Southwest Florida and around the nation to develop response strategies to more effectively reduce their effects on our coastal communities.
Senator Snowe went on to say, “While we have made great strides in bloom prediction and monitoring, it is clear that these problems have not gone away, but rather increased in magnitude. Harmful algal blooms remain prevalent nationwide, and areas of hypoxia, also known as ‘dead zones’ are now occurring with increasing frequency.”
She continued, “The amendments contained in this legislation would enhance the nation’s ability to predict, monitor, and ultimately control harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. Understanding when these blooms will occur is vital, but the time has come to take this program to the next level—to determine not when an outbreak will occur, but how to reduce its intensity or prevent its occurrence altogether.
This bill would build on NOAA’s successes in research and forecasting by creating a program to mitigate and control HAB outbreaks.” Most importantly for communities like Sanibel, this bill recognizes the need to improve coordination between state and local resource managers. These are the people who are on the front lines, the people who make the decisions to close beaches, fishing areas and shellfish beds.
While of course these decisions are important to protect human health and life they also have significant economic impacts. To do this, the bill would “mandate creation of Regional Research and Action Plans that would identify baseline research, possible state and local government actions to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of HABs, and establish outreach strategies to ensure the public is informed of the dangers these events can present. A regional focus on these issues will ensure a more effective and efficient response to future events.”
We at PURRE have been talking to Congress about HAB legislation for more than two years now. This bill was developed with the cooperation and coordination with PURRE and other stakeholders around the country. Now that we have a bill in the Senate PURRE will continue to work on its passage and hopefully its implementation.
While there is no companion bill in the House we are working with the House Science Committee to have this bill introduced in that body. As you may recall we were successful last year in working with the Committee to get a hearing on HABs to discuss the extent of the problem.
We will be meeting later this month with both House and Senate staff to continue our efforts to move this legislation.
June 30, 2008
PURRE SUPPORTS LEGISLATION
TO STUDY HARMFUL ALGAE BLOOMS
Water Coalition To Continue Its
Work With Legislators For Bill's Passage
June 30, 2008 - Last week, Florida Senator Bill Nelson, along with Senators Snowe, (R-ME), Cantwell (D-WA), Kerry (D-MA), Vitter (R-LA), Levin (D-MI), Voinovich (R-OH), Boxer (D-CA), Cardin (D-MD) and Mikulski (D-MD) introduced S.3191, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Amendments Act of 2008.
The purpose of this legislation is to develop and promote a national strategy to address harmful algal blooms and hypoxia through baseline research, forecasting, monitoring, mitigation, and control, while helping communities detect, control, and mitigate coastal and Great Lakes harmful algal blooms and hypoxia events.
This bill would extend the authority for the existing harmful algal bloom and hypoxia research, monitoring, and forecasting programs until 2013. The bill would also authorize a total of $70 million per year to support the development of regional research and action plans and to fund competitive research grants. If passed, the measure would more than double the authorized appropriations for this work.
In his statement, Senator Nelson described the impacts of red tide and red drift algae on Florida’s environment and economy. He noted the devastating impacts of frequent red tides along the entire Gulf Coast, including the respiratory ailments and other human health problems that have been reported. He also emphasized the consequences of red drift events.
“While red drift algae lack the toxins associated with red tide, they can nonetheless cause enormous problems along Florida's beaches.… In March 2007, some witnesses described clumps of red drift algae the size of hay bales floating on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, and washing onshore from Fort Myers to Anna Maria Island.”
Red tides and red drift are not Florida’s only concerns when it comes to harmful algal blooms. Senator Nelson added, “Other algal blooms are impairing waterways and causing social and economic problems in my state. Earlier this month, a water treatment plant on the Caloosahatchee River in Lee County had to be closed temporarily due to a bloom of blue-green algae.”
“This legislation is very important to the residents of Sanibel as well as those through-out Southwest Florida,” said PURRE Chairman Michael Valiquette. “As PURRE works and continues to press for policies and programs that limit the pollutants coming into our waters, we recognize that harmful algal blooms will remain a fact of life in Southwest Florida for some time.”
While recent events like the announcement by the Governor about the purchase of US Sugar Corp. will in the long run have a major impact, we need to have the ability to deal with events as they occur. Senator Nelson’s statement said it best: “[M]uch work remains to find solutions that minimize the occurrence of these events and that enable our coastal communities to become resilient to the impacts.”
The PURRE Water Coalition commends Senators Nelson and Snowe for their leadership on this issue. They have worked hard to develop a bill that not only provides resources for research to better understand the science, but also invests in the development of a comprehensive program that will enable communities like Sanibel to become empowered to deal with the impacts of these events.
PURRE will continue to work closely with Senator Nelson to get this bill passed and on the appropriations in the future.