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Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in Hobe Sound Monday that he has appointed five scientists to a Blue-Green Algae Task Force for the state.
The focus of the task force, according to DeSantis, will be to help lawmakers make informed decisions when it comes to finding ways to reduce nutrients in Lake Okeechobee and the downstream estuaries.
The task force will also help the state prioritize how funding should be spent for projects related to preventing blue-green algae and offer their scientific expertise in making these decisions.
“We want to make sure those choices are informed by the best science and the best research available," DeSantis said.
The task force recommendations will build upon the DEP's updated Basin Management Action Plans data.
It will work with a new Chief Science Officer and the DEP.
The task force includes the following experts:
* Dr. Wendy Graham, the Carl S. Swisher Eminent Scholar in Water Resources in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Director of the Water Institute at the University of Florida.
* Dr. Evelyn Gaiser, whose research has informed the progress of Everglades restoration and is integrated into the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program, which she has led since 2007.
* Dr. Michael Parsons, a professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University and the Director of the Coastal Watershed Institute and Vestor Field Station.
* Dr. James Sullivan, the Executive Director of FAU’s Harbor Branch.
* Dr. Valerie Paul, Director of the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce.
Sullivan said he looks forward to the opportunity to prioritize science over special interests.
“I’ve researched harmful algae all over the world. I’ve been doing that 30 years,” Sullivan said.
The task force could also come up with new solutions, Sullivan said.
“Just hearing a bunch of diverse opinions from different scientists, that usually helps because it fosters critical thinking and how we deal with it. So, good things maybe can come out of it that maybe we didn’t think about before.”
Mary Radabaugh, manager at Central Marine, says the task force is a good step forward.
“Well, I do think it’s a good thing. I think we need somebody that’s keeping record of what’s going on,” Radabaugh said. “We have gone the special interest route and it has not benefitted anyone. So, if the scientists can come up with an agreement and solution that would benefit all coasts, that would be absolutely welcome.”