Florida senators back push for federal help with red tide

Florida senators back push for federal help with red tide
© Greg Nash

Florida’s senators are pushing the Commerce Department to issue a disaster declaration over Florida’s wildlife-killing red tide.

Florida’s latest bout with red tide brought images from up and down the state’s Gulf Coast of dead fish washing ashore after being choked by a surge of oxygen-hogging algae.

“Southwest Florida’s coasts have provided an important source of opportunity for generations of families who have built their livelihoods on these productive waters,” Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCheese, wine importers reeling from Trump trade fight Peace Corps' sudden decision to leave China stirs blowback Lawmakers raise concerns over Russia's growing influence in Venezuela MORE and Rick Scott, both Republicans, wrote in a Wednesday letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis Ross2020 census to run ads on 'Premio lo Nuestro' Can the US slap tariffs on auto imports? Not anymore On The Money: Slowing economy complicates 2020 message for Trump | Tech confronts growing impact of coronavirus | Manufacturing rises after five-month contraction MORE. “To best support these working families in their time of need following the recent significant and persistent red tide events, we ask for your assistance in promptly fulfilling the State of Florida’s request for a federal fishery resource disaster declaration.”

That type of declaration, requested by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday Florida lawmakers pass bill requiring parental consent for abortions, governor expected to sign Court sides with ex-felons who challenged Florida voting requirement MORE (R) last week, is specifically designed to provide assistance to areas heavily reliant on fishing. Commerce determines if there is a disaster, though Congress must appropriate any financial relief the department may distribute.

The Department of Commerce confirmed receipt of the letters.

Florida has been denied help for red tide in the past. In 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) turned down a similar request for a disaster declaration, arguing then-Gov. Scott had failed to show the state could not handle the disaster on its own.

In its denial letter, FEMA said the large state has “robust capability to respond to emergencies and disasters,” according to reporting at the time from the Treasure Coast Palm newspaper.   

In his request, DeSantis said Southwest Florida’s $55 million fishing industry was hit hard both by the latest surge of red tide and another that spanned from 2015 to 2017.

“These two red tide events significantly affected Southwest Florida’s commercial and charter fisheries,” he wrote.