Red Tide Institute Advances in Florida Senate

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY MAR 21, 2019

Will Florida lawmakers commit $18 million to funding red tide research? Legislation filed by state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota passed through its first major committee vote Wednesday evening, with members of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee unanimously advancing the legislation.

Gruters told lawmakers it’s critical to address harmful algal blooms with long-term research. “When red tide comes and hits us, there is a rush to fund research,” he said. “When red tide is gone, those research dollars disappear.”

But he said the Sarasota community and Florida’s Gulf Coast can’t endure more seasons like 2018, when fish kills dotted beaches with dead sea life and hotels suffered cancellations by vacationers fearful of the polluted waters.

“We were probably at the center of the red tide event last year,” Gruters said. “It had a devastating impact on our local economy as well as marine life in our area.”

His bill would fund a red tide institute at Mote Marine Laboratory with $3 million annually for the next six years.

Mote officials said scientists there have turned much of their focus on red tide already, privately funding development of ozone treatments to kill red tide and using state emergency funding last year to introduce clay flocculation techniques for removing algae. “This is technology we can actually use in the field,” said Mote lobbyist David Shepp.

The bill now heads into difficult appropriations debate. And companion legislation carried by state Reps. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, and Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte is still waiting for its first committee vote.

But Gruters feels confident the bill will be part of the budget this year. That’s largely because Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has made water quality improvement a part of his agenda during his first year in office, included the red tide initiative in his own budget. Knowing the Senate is led by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, Gruters believes the project has some of Tallahassee’s most important leaders on board.

“The governor is leading the environmental charge here, and the Senate President understands what we went through because we were ground zero for red tide,” Gruters said.

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