Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, today announced final Senate passage of the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, bipartisan legislation that can help prevent the spread of harmful algal blooms in New York State waterways. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a problem across New York, and have resulted in the closure of beaches and lakes, as well as damage to fish habitats off the coast. The occurrence of blue-green algae is monitored by New York State, and in 2013, the Department of Environmental Conservation issued blue-green algae notices for 76 lakes across the state. Senator Gillibrand co-sponsored and pushed for a vote on this measure as part of her broad effort to protect New York’s water bodies from toxic contamination and invasive species.
“From the Great Lakes to the Finger Lakes, and from the lakes and streams of the Adirondacks to the Hudson River and Long Island Sound, and every waterway in between, New York State is blessed with beautiful bodies of water. This is a tremendous step toward protecting them from the spread of harmful algae blooms,” Senator Gillibrand said. “These vast water systems help drive our economy, offer miles of recreation, attract tourists, and provide clean drinking water for millions of families. Protecting these waters is a major step to strengthen local economies, and preserve our natural beauty for future generations to enjoy.”
HABs are the rapid overproduction of algae, which produce toxins that are detrimental to plants and animals. Blooms can kill fish and other aquatic life by decreasing sunlight available to the water and by depleting the available oxygen in the water, causing hypoxia. On the coast, they are often referred to as brown or red tides. The existence of blue-green algae is a particular problem in New York’s freshwater lakes. Blue-green algae are a form of algal bloom that has an unpleasant appearance and odor, and will cause illness in humans and animals that come into contact with it.
Senator Gillibrand fought for the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act, bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes and expands an Inter-Agency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It would require this Task Force to establish a national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program, develop and publish a national harmful algal blooms and hypoxia action strategy, assess interagency work and spending plans for implementing such program’s activities, review such program’s distribution of federal grants and funding to address research priorities, promote the development of new technologies for predicting, monitoring, and mitigating harmful algal blooms and hypoxia conditions and report on hypoxia. The legislation would also require the development of a national strategy to understand, detect, predict, control, mitigate, and respond to marine and freshwater hypoxia events.