As Lake Erie begins its almost annual algal bloom season, Congress has taken steps to reauthorize a program monitoring and mitigating the harmful effects of algae on freshwater systems.
The U.S. House on Monday passed the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, which will require a task force spend 18 months examining the causes and consequences of “hypoxia and harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes” and submit a plan for reducing such blooms.
The threat from blooms on Lake Erie has grown in recent years. Algae producing the toxin microcystin forced Carroll Township to briefly shut off its water supply in August, 2013.
The bill, which originated in the Senate, also expands the program’s task force to include a representative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It will return to the Senate for a final vote following some minor amendments in the House, where it is likely to pass without trouble.
Additionally, the bill provides competitive grant money to maintain water-monitoring programs, research the impact of harmful algae, and monitor responses to harmful blooms in freshwater systems.
Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), who co-authored the bill with Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), said it would help both industry and the environment.
“This legislation takes critical steps toward protecting Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys from harmful algae that has become a tremendous problem for fresh water bodies in our state,” Mr. Portman said in a written statement.
Kristy Meyer of the Ohio Environmental Council praised Mr. Portman for his work on expanding the bill to include the Great Lakes but said it is important not to create redundant programs.
“We’ll be watching it to make sure we’re not duplicating other efforts that are happening,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) praised the bill for expanding efforts to monitor and combat harmful blooms, while protecting the region’s tourism and fishing industries.