President Signs into Law Portman’s Bipartisan Bill to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia

January 8, 2019 | Press Releases

Law 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 President Trump has signed into law 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 in 2017 with Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Gary Peters (D-MI). 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. 

Harmful algae has become a serious problem for our state, and this law will help our ongoing 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 the president for signing this common-sense legislation into law so that harmful algae doesn’t continue to threaten 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. 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. 

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