MARTIN COUNTY, Fla.--U.S Representative Brian Mast announced Friday his plan to file a bill that could help provide more relief should toxic algae blooms return to the Treasure Coast.
Mast introduced the “Federal Do No Harm Act of 2017,” which would direct the president to treat harmful algae blooms caused by Lake Okeechobee releases as an emergency under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Act.
Mast says the releases are executed by the Army Corps of Engineers, so the federal government should also have a bigger responsibility in funding the cleanup.
“The federal government is out there destroying our community and not doing anything to help make that situation right,” Mast said.
During the summer of 2016, Mast said Governor Rick Scott requested help for the Treasure Coast, but President Barack Obama denied multiple requests for emergency funding.
Mast explained he denied the requests because algae did not fall under FEMA’s disaster response criteria.
With this proposed bill, Mast hopes requests for help in the future would be granted.
“The point of it is to get the federal government to take ownership of it and say okay we did the damage, we’re going to come out here and we’re going to help you clean this up,” Mast said.
It is good news for business owners like Chris Hobe.
He owns Outboards Only in Rio, where thick green mats of algae were at their worst last summer.
“The smell and toxicity of it was making everybody here sick, literally,” Hobe explained.
Because it took weeks for the algae to be broken up and removed, he lost nearly a month of business.
Hobe says the proposed bill could help the cleanup process begin sooner, should another algae bloom threaten his business.
Though it’s not a preventative measure, it is another potential way to get help following the bloom.
“I am hoping for anything that will help clean up this estuary,” Hobe said.