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Gov. Scott: State Prepared to Deploy Resources, Funding to Atlantic Coast Communities Impacted by Red Tide

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott reiterated the State of Florida’s commitment and readiness to deploy any needed resources or funding to communities impacted by naturally-occurring red tide. Governor Scott’s announcement today follows confirmation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) that red tide is present in low to medium concentrations in an isolated area of the Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach County. To date, Governor Scott has directed grant funding of more than $10 million to support efforts in impacted counties to mitigate and combat red tide. In August, Governor Scott issued Executive Order 18-221 declaring a state of emergency due to impacts of red tide. Red tide is naturally-occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s and occurs nearly every year. For more information on red tide in Florida, click HERE.

Governor Scott said, “With red tide now observed on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, we aren’t wasting any time combatting this natural phenomenon. Over the past 61 years, scientists at FWC have documented red tide in Florida’s Atlantic waters nine times, and now, just as we’ve done on the Gulf Coast, we are absolutely committed to quickly deploying every available resource our Atlantic Coast communities may need to combat and mitigate red tide. Over the past months, we have directed more than $10 million to impacted counties for mitigation and clean-up efforts and with yesterday’s news, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and FWC are already in contact with impacted Atlantic Coast communities to make sure they have what they need. While red tide is nothing new to Florida, we won’t spare any resources to combat the current impacts and make sure that all of our communities quickly recover.”

In July, at Governor Scott’s direction, DEP launched a grant program for red tide and blue-green algae mitigation and clean-up which has provided a total of $10 million in funding specifically for red tide. This is in addition to the nearly $2.2 million to test innovative technologies to mitigate the effects of red tide, including expansion of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Ozone Treatment System, $1.2 million announced for FWC’s redfish hatchery, $100,000 for Mote Marine Laboratory’s red tide response, and $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA to create an emergency grant program to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide. In total, DEP is providing funding to support efforts to battle red tide and blue-green algae in the following counties:

  • More than $3.3 million for Pinellas County;
  • $750,000 for Manatee County;
  • More than $190,000 for Collier County;
  • Nearly $1.5 million for Sarasota County;
  • More than $330,000 or Charlotte County;
  • More than $5 million for Lee County; and
  • $700,000 for Martin County.

THE STATE OF FLORIDA HAS TAKEN THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS ON RED TIDE:

 

FISH AND WILDLIFE

  • On September 26th, Governor Scott called in to the FWC Commission Meeting following the letter he sent on September 20th urging the Commission to take the following action on red tide:
    • Create the Florida Center for Red Tide Research, a new resource for local communities impacted by red tide;
    • Re-establish the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force; and
    • Request an increase of funding for red tide research during the upcoming 2019 Florida Legislative Session.
  • FWC and DEP have provided an additional nearly $2.2 million to Mote Marine Laboratory for the initiation of its field testing of a specialized clay focused on quelling red tide and expansion of its Ozone Treatment System which takes water containing the algae that causes red tide and filters it, returning clean water back to areas impacted by this naturally-occurring algae.
  • At Governor Scott’s direction, FWC has partnered with world-renowned experts and scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida and DEP to focus on using a form of specialized clay to quell the effects of red tide. See the announcement HERE.
  • FWC is providing $1.2 million to enhance research and production of redfish at the FWC Stock Enhancement Research Facility at Port Manatee. Learn more HERE.
  • DEP and the FWC have provided $100,000 in additional funding to Mote Marine Laboratory to support efforts to rescue distressed marine animals, such as dolphins, sea turtles and manatees.
  • Continuation of enhanced water monitoring and testing by DEP and FWC to give scientists the best possible data to work with.
  • At Governor Scott’s direction, FWC has mobilized all available resources to mitigate naturally occurring red tide, and Executive Director Eric Sutton has waived rules through an executive order to expedite the removal of dead fish – regardless of applicable bag, size, or possession limits or of season or area closures – from shoreline, inshore or nearshore areas in the following counties: Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas.
  • FWC law enforcement officers have been actively helping with animal rescue and red tide reconnaissance work.
  • Additional biologists and scientist are available to support local government’s response to red tide and protect wildlife.
  • FWC is performing increased aerial surveys of the red tide bloom.
  • FWC is operating the toll-free fish kill hotline. To report fish kills, contact the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 orsubmit a report onlineReports from this hotline help FWC researchers track and better understand the impact of red tide in Florida.
  • FWC remains available to local agencies and partners in affected areas, including area business and tourism groups in Southwest Florida. Any local agency or group that has any questions or concerns can contact Susan Neel from the FWC at 850-528-1755.
  • FWC continues to partner with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to advise residents and visitors of any potential health impacts. Residents and visitors can contact DOH’s aquatic toxin experts at 850-245-4250 or contact their local health department for any concern about health safety.
  • FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory work together to monitor Karenia brevis. This cooperative effort is designed to help mitigate the adverse impacts of red tide. This joint research program that includes red tide monitoring, research and public outreach and education has resulted in better tools and ongoing monitoring for red tides along the Gulf Coast.
  • In partnership with FWC, the Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides (CPR) at the University of South Florida offers a new Harmful Algal Bloom tracking tool that generates a 3.5-day forecast of the bloom trajectories.
  • To protect public health, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Harmful Algal Bloom group closely monitors the status of Karenia brevis on Florida’s coasts, providing technical support to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the agency that regulates approved shellfish harvesting areas.
  • Since 2000, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute established a Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program, which is a volunteer program for citizens to help collect water samples from routine collection points and sites reported for suspected harmful algal blooms. The timely sampling by volunteers allows researchers to provide an early warning of offshore algal blooms and investigate reported events as they occur. The Program needs volunteers to collect samples from all coastal Florida counties. To view more information visit, Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program or use the Volunteer SignUp Form.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

  • DEP has provided $13 million in funding to support efforts to battle impacts of red tide and blue-green algae in the following counties:
    • More than $3.3 million for Pinellas County;
    • $750,000 for Manatee County;
    • More than $190,000 for Collier County;
    • Nearly $1.5 million for Sarasota County;
    • More than $330,000 or Charlotte County;
    • More than $5 million for Lee County; and
    • $700,000 for Martin County.
  • DEP continues to perform enhanced water testing, beach cleanup and public outreach, as well as the deployment of additional biologists to assist communities dealing with naturally occurring red tide.

 

HEALTH AND SAFETY

  • DOH has reached an agreement with Mote Marine Laboratory to start air quality monitoring for red tide beginning October 8th. The first three counties to be sampled will be Pinellas, Sarasota and Lee.
  • Florida’s County Health Departments (CHD) have taken the following actions:
    • DOH-Lee has posted and is maintaining red tide signs at more than 180 beach access points along the Lee County coastline. The red tide signs provide details on respiratory issues, health precautions, and resources for FWC, Mote Marine Laboratory and current beach conditions. Environmental staff and CHD leadership are in contact with city and county leadership, as well as local partners, in order to coordinate efforts and messaging. A press release detailing the effects of red tide and resources for mediation was sent out to local media partners. Additional resources, like website materials, social media posts, etc., have been shared with local partners for their use and distribution to their partners. More substantial red tide signs were purchased in August and staff replaced the damaged/missing signs along the beach access points, as well as added additional signs at popular fishing sites and boat ramps. More than 300 total signs have been posted in Lee County.
    • DOH-Manatee has hosted a discussion with community partners to understand current roles and share resources. The CHD has a distribution list setup to share information quickly with key personnel. They are also helping to coordinate discussions to help our partners meet on a periodic basis.
    • DOH-Sarasota leadership and environmental staff have been in contact with city and county government and Visit Sarasota in order to coordinate messaging and provide template signage, website links, and creative materials. The CHD has also worked with the county in order to post signs at every beach, provided rack cards to the county and Mote for distribution.
    • DOH-Charlotte has posted signage along the beaches to advise visitors and tourists about the water conditions. The CHD has performed outreach to their community partners, as well as local government, to share informational resources, creative materials and public health messaging. They also are coordinating efforts and assisting their sister agencies, as needed.
    • DOH-Pinellas is currently working with the county government to update a red tide webpage that provides public health and safety information. Environmental staff are in constant communication with central office subject matter experts to discuss outreach and other best practices, should they be needed.
    • DOH-Hillsborough is working with their community and county officials to finalize a joint information system, and continues to monitor the situation.


BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY

  • At the direction of Governor Scott, VISIT FLORIDA began developing a marketing campaign to assist Southwest Florida communities that will start following this year’s red tide blooms.
  • VISIT FLORIDA created a $500,000 Tourism Recovery Grant Program for Red Tide to assist local tourism development boards in counties affected by the naturally-occurring red tide.
  • VISIT FLORIDA launched a Red Tide Recovery Marketing Program offering six months complimentary VISIT FLORIDA marketing partnership, which includes an enhanced web listing on VISITFLORIDA.com, public relations and social media resources and the opportunity to have a presence in the official Florida Welcome Centers with brochure distribution, lobby booth displays and showcase participation.
  • The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has activated the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to provide short-term, interest free loans to affected businesses.
  • DEO continues to encourage impacted businesses to submit a business damage assessment survey at http://www.FloridaDisaster.biz. Surveys help DEO and their partners determine additional resources that may be made available to help the business community recover.
  • Following requests by Governor Rick Scott, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a disaster declaration on red tide. Please find the announcement from the SBA on red tide HERE.

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