Legislation to Address Harmful Algal Blooms Advances

Algae bloom extending from from the northern shore of Lake Eerie, captured by the Landsat-5 satellite on Oct. 5, 2011. (NASA)

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee, applauded the House passage of S. 2200, which reauthorizes the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA). The legislation has already passed the Senate.

Much of this legislation is the companion bill to Bonamici’s H.R. 4417, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act. Harmful algal blooms, which are associated with climate change, harm fisheries and threaten public health. With the new law, NOAA and the EPA will be able to continue to help communities prepare for, mitigate and respond to harmful algal blooms (HABs).

HABs occur naturally but can be triggered by environmental stressors that are linked to climate change. As harmful algal blooms die and decompose, they consume oxygen, leaving oceans and waterways in a hypoxic state that can result in the formation of dead zones where marine life cannot survive. This decimates fisheries and the economies and communities that rely on them. Harmful algal blooms in drinking water sources can produce toxins that threaten public health.

The bipartisan legislation will improve existing law by establishing a process for NOAA and the EPA to declare an “event of significance” to allow states and local governments to access disaster funds when hypoxia or HABs will likely have detrimental environmental, economic, subsistence use or public health consequences. The bill also expands the Interagency Task Force to increase collaboration. —U.S. House of Representatives

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