June 17, 2014

Portman Algae Bill Passes the Senate, Heads to the President for Signature

The Program Includes a New Emphasis on Protecting the Great Lakes from Harmful Algal Blooms

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced final passage of his legislation, the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013.  This legislation, authored by Portman and Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)  would reauthorize the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, which was first enacted in 1998 and reauthorized in 2004 and 2008 (16 U.S.C. 1451 note).  For over a decade this program has served as the federal government’s research and response framework for harmful algal blooms.  Senator Portman negotiated a new Great Lakes section for the program that will ensure federal agencies prioritize monitoring and mitigation efforts on fresh water bodies such as Lake Erie.

“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,” said Portman. “For the first time, we will prioritize the protection of Ohio’s fresh bodies of water, which is critical for our tourism and fishing industries. I’m pleased that my bill is headed to the President for signature, and will continue my work to ensure our bodies of fresh water are protected.”

“Ohio Farm Bureau appreciates Senator Portman's leadership in reauthorizing this important legislation,” said John C. (Jack) Fisher, executive vice president, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “There is significant value in having a centralized clearinghouse for data and information as well as having long-term tracking of water quality. The act also provides for nearly real-time status reports of algal blooms, which allows farmers and researchers to determine if current solutions are effective. As the agricultural community continues to implement new practices in order to decrease nutrient run-off, we believe this legislation is an important component in improving Ohio's water resources.”

“Harmful algal blooms are a serious threat to fishing and the recreational use of Lake Erie and other waters in the nation,” said Josh Knights, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy Ohio. “The harmful algal bloom legislation coauthored by Senator Portman provides needed help in combating this threat.”

“Clean water in Ohio’s lakes and streams is vitally important to anglers as well as the state’s economy,” said Nick Pinizzotto, United States Sportsmen's Alliance president and CEO. “We applaud Senator Portman for taking a leadership role via this important piece of legislation that improves the way harmful algal blooms are addressed.”

“Communities across Ohio are experiencing the worst toxic algal blooms in a generation, costing Ohioans millions of dollars in clean-up costs and lost recreational days,” said Kristy Meyer, managing director of agricultural, health & clean water programs at the Ohio Environmental Council. “Thanks to Senator Portman recognizing that a healthy environment equates to a healthier economy and better quality of life we will see movement towards healthier waterbodies in Ohio.”

“As a business owner that operates around Buckeye Lake, I want to personally thank Senator Portman for fighting for companies in Ohio that are negatively impacted by harmful algal blooms.  This bill will allow us to work together to not only protect Ohio's natural resources, but good jobs in our state,” said David Levacy, Owner, Buckeye Lake Marina and Fairfield County Commissioner.

“Passage of Senator Portman's Algae Bill is great news for Lake Erie and the country,” said Jeffrey M. Reutter, The Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program Director.  “Excessive nutrient loading, and the Harmful Algal Blooms it causes, is the biggest problem facing the Lake Erie ecosystem, the fishing and tourism businesses that depend on it, and the health of everyone who drinks water from Lake Erie and surface water from anywhere in the country.  This problem in national in scope and deserves national attention and the financial resources this bill will provide.”

Just recently, the Ohio EPA issued harmful algae warnings for Buckeye Lake in Columbus. This is the 4th consecutive summer that algae warnings have been issued for Buckeye Lake.  $700,000 has been spent by Ohio EPA over the last four years on efforts to reduce algae blooms at Buckeye Lake. In 2013, the city of Toledo was forced to spend $3 million to protect the city's water supply from Lake Erie's harmful algae and Columbus spent $723,000 to address an algae outbreak at Hoover Reservoir. It costs the city of Celina $450,000 annually to combat algae in Grand Lakes St. Marys.  According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report, U.S. seafood and tourism industries suffer annual losses of $82 million due to economic impacts of HABs.