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 RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE and Rick Scott, both Republicans, wrote in a Wednesday letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossBannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ House panel, Commerce Department reach agreement on census documents China sanctions Wilbur Ross, others after US warns of doing business in Hong Kong 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.”

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That type of declaration, requested by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters GOP senators call on Biden to back down from vaccine mandates DeSantis to call special session of legislature to fight vaccine mandates 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.