Portman’s Bipartisan Bill to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Headed to President’s Desk

December 20, 2018 | Press Releases

Legislation Takes Critical Steps Toward Protecting the Great Lakes from Harmful Algal Blooms 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced today that the House of Representatives has passed his bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, which was first enacted in 1998. Portman introduced the legislation earlier this year with Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Gary Peters (D-MI), which passed the Senate in September 2017. For almost two decades this program has served as the federal government’s research and response framework for harmful algal blooms. Senator Portman first worked with Senator Nelson to reauthorize this program in 2014 and included, for the first time, freshwater bodies such as the Great Lakes into this program. The legislation is now headed to the president’s desk for signature. 

Harmful algae has become a serious problem for our state, and this legislation takes critical steps to continuing efforts to address this issue and protect our Great Lakes. As the world’s largest freshwater system and a source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans, these lakes are indispensable to the health and economy of Ohio and our country,” said Portman. “I want to thank my colleagues in the House for supporting this common-sense legislation and I urge the president to sign it into law so that harmful algae doesn’t continue to threaten to our tourism, fishing industries, and our public health.” 

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are episodes of excessive growth of poisonous or toxic algae that can cause illness or death in humans, pets, wildlife, or food sources such as fish and shellfish.  HABs are thought to be caused by a combination of the right temperature, light, and nutrient conditions.  Other environmental factors, such as the presence of non-native or invasive species, may also contribute to HABs.  HABs occur in fresh and marine waters and result in the depletion of oxygen (hypoxia) in the water. Total costs over the past few decades from fish kills, human illness, and loss of tourism and fisheries revenue in the U.S. has been estimated at more than $1 billion.  The frequency and distribution of HABs have increased considerably across the U.S. in recent years, negatively affecting all coastal and Great Lakes states and numerous other inland states.  

NOTE: Portman and Nelson successfully championed the reauthorization of the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act in 2014. The program has provided research on HABs, including the most recent report, “Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Comprehensive Research Plan and Action Strategy”, completed in February 2016. The program has also provided seasonal forecasting for HAB severity in Lake Erie.