Buchanan Leads Delegation in Confronting Water Troubles

Todays News

Photo courtesy of Buchanan office: U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Oil drilling, algal blooms and manatee deaths were all tackled at a Florida Congressional Delegation meeting in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. With U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, co-chairing the bipartisan meeting, he focused on a number of water issues threatening the region.

“We must come together to find solutions to clean up our state waterways and protect them for future generations,” Buchanan told colleagues.

Another high-profile leader from the Sarasota area, Mote Marine Laboratory President and CEO Michael Crosby, also attended the meeting as an expert witness. The scientific leader urged the Delegation to support resources for science-based seagrass restoration projects. That will help address a surge in manatee deaths this year threatening the fragile sea cow population. Through Oct. 29, Florida has recorded 988 manatee deaths this calendar year, shattering previous mortality records.

He supported efforts by members of the delegation to increase Florida’s dedicated funding for water quality projects. “We really do have a desperate need to provide resources to deal with point source and non-point source pollution,” he said. That will help address red tide, which has threatened Florida’s ecology and economy.

Buchanan called the meeting with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Sunrise. As a South Florida congresswoman, she stressed the need with Army Corps of Engineers leadership to prioritize Everglades restoration once an infrastructure bill emerges from Congress.

There’s some tension right now about how the Army Corps will manage water discharges from Lake Okeechobee. U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, could not attend the meeting but sent his own message regarding a plan under consideration that would lower Lake levels. He said that “would have significant detrimental effects for millions of Floridians, especially those in Lakeside and agriculture communities. The Congressman looks forward to working with colleagues to find a solution that benefits all stakeholders.”

Both delegation co-chairs voiced opposition to any expansion of offshore drilling off the Florida coast.  Buchanan noted that when he arrived in Congress shortly after his initial 2006 election, there was a push to allow drilling as close as three miles off the Florida shore in the Gulf of Mexico. That seemed to dissipate following the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010. Since then, the House has three times voted for a long-term ban on drilling off Florida’s coast.

“Florida’s oceans and pristine waterways are essential to our state’s economy and way of life,” Buchanan said. “I appreciate our distinguished panelists for their participation and thoughtful insight into water quality issues and for their suggestions about how we can work together as a delegation to combat some of the challenges we’re facing.”

Photo courtesy of Buchanan office: U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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