Rick Scott’s Budget Cuts Have Reduced Water Monitoring and Hindered Research into Algae Blooms

By Brady Dennis and Lori Rozsa of the Washington Post, 08/09/2018:

“The fact is, Rick Scott has had far more power to deal with these issues than Bill Nelson,” Jackalone said. “Bill Nelson has one vote in the U.S. Senate. Rick Scott is the governor of Florida and has had the power to enforce the Clean Water Act in the state. He could have enforced pollution regulations. Instead, he cut back funding, rolled back regulations, and eliminated a large part of his enforcement staff.”

During Scott’s tenure, budgets for environmental agencies have been sharply reduced. The budget of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water issues from Orlando to Key West, was cut. Many of the more than 400 workers who lost their jobs in the $700 million cut were scientists and engineers whose jobs were to monitor pollution levels and algal blooms. Scott also abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw development in the state.

… “It’s been going on since before Scott, but since he took office, there’s been a distinct rise in nutrients from Lake Okeechobee and an increase in algae blooms,” Wickstrom said. “This is not an act of God or not because we can’t handle the rain. It’s the lack of regulation at the state level.”

Researchers say they are hampered by a lack of information; Scott’s budget cuts have reduced the number of water-quality monitoring stations around the state as well as the frequency of water sampling. Scientists say the lack of data prevents them from figuring out what has caused these latest toxic algal blooms and providing the sort of early warning that could prompt officials to act sooner.

“It would be interesting to understand why this is happening, but we can’t do that with the data we have,” said Karl Havens, a University of Florida professor and director of Florida Sea Grant.

Read more here.

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