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 RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE and Rick Scott, both Republicans, wrote in a Wednesday letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossTrump trade adviser pushes back on reports of US-China tariff deal China, US agree to reduce tariffs amid trade talks, Beijing says Income for poorest Americans fell faster than previously thought: study 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 DeSantisSaagar Enjeti: Republicans lost Kentucky by failing to appeal to working class Saagar Enjeti: Republicans lost Kentucky by screwing the working class Burr promises bill to tax scholarships of student athletes who profit off their likenesses 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.