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A Florida congressman wants FEMA to provide emergency relief for algae outbreaks

Blue-green algae choked beaches on Florida's coasts last summer.
Courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
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Blue-green algae choked beaches on Florida's coasts last summer

Palm City Rep. Brian Mast says algae outbreaks should be treated by the federal government like responses to other natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

A Florida congressman wants the federal government to step in after businesses and homes are affected by outbreaks of red tide and blue-green algae. The bill would compensate economic losses in the future.

The proposal by Brian Mast, R-Palm City, would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine how much economic damage is done by these algae outbreaks to home and business owners.

brian mast
Congressman Brian Mast

Massive outbreaks the past several years have clogged canals and beaches near homes and chased away customers from waterside restaurants and hotels.

It's the latest in a series of moves Mast has made on blue-green algae. Last month, he held a news conference to push for his plan to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from discharging more water from Lake Okeechobee, which has fed algae blooms all the way to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

"Who are we to let anybody — government or otherwise — poison us or poison our kids?" he said.

If Mast's bill passes, he said algae outbreaks would be treated by the federal government like responses to other natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

“If a community gets hit by a hurricane, or a tornado, or a mudslide, FEMA is on the ground within days — if not hours — to help them recover," Mast said in a news release. "But if our community is hit by a disaster almost every summer in the form of toxic algal blooms, and the cavalry never comes. "

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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