Buchanan & Fried address red tide & water quality issues

As fish kills related to the recent red tie bloom continue along lower Tampa Bay and the Gulf Coast, Florida Dept. of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan held separate news conferences on Monday in Sarasota to address water quality issues in the Sunshine State.

What You Need To Know

  • The red tide bloom of 2021 has killed more than 1,400 tons of fish in the Tampa Bay area
  • Sarasota Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan held a roundtable discussion on water quality at Selby Gardens on Monday
  • Dept. of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is on a three-day tour of the state to talk about new clean water initiatives from her office
  • More Politics headlines

Both said that it was incumbent for lawmakers and other key stakeholders to stay on top of the problem, even after this summer’s red tide crisis ultimately abates.

“We’re going to stay on this,” Buchanan said at a morning press conference following a roundtable discussion with environmental officials at Selby Gardens. “A lot of times with red tide I’ve seen over the years is you get a bad bout of it, and then everybody jumps on it, and then we don’t do anything for a year. But our goal is to stay focused on this long term.”

“We can’t keep putting band-aids on it,” Fried said hours later at her press availability at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, adding that state officials must take a “holistic, systematic approach” to addressing the problem. 

Fried, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2022, spoke with reporters on the first day of a three-day tour across the state to discuss her department’s  Best Management Practices (BMPs) that she said was last updated in 2008. 

“For the first time ever, the Dept. of Agriculture is conducting in-person visits in cooperation with our agriculture stakeholders, rather than relying on voluntary self-reporting when it comes to compliance,” Fried said in detailing parts of the initiative. “For the first time ever, we’ll be taking action against those who refuse to comply with state law to ensure that best management practices are being properly implemented.”

She said that includes referring cases of noncompliance to the DEP for enforcement.

“This is the first time ever the department is inspecting, collecting and aggregating detailed records of the nutrients being applied by agriculture producers on the production landscape to increase accountability, transparency and to provide the data necessary to inform decisions based on strong science,” she said.

Following his one hour-long roundtable, Congressman Buchanan said that his top takeaway was that it’s incumbent to do whatever’s possible to stop nutrient runoff that creates the algae blooms that create red tide. “Obviously it’s expensive,” he acknowledged, adding that “we’ve got to make those investments, one way or another.”

Adam Blalock, the deputy secretary for ecosystem restoration at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said that recently passed legislation will help with the situation.

“We’re also in the process of adopting new stormwater rules to have more stringent stormwater requirements for new developments to address the future growth,” he said.

Also attending the Buchanan-hosted roundtable were tourism officials representing Sarasota and Manatee counties. 

Elliot Falcione, the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that 2018 was by far the worst red tide crisis to hit the region in the 13 years since he’s been at his job, but adds that summer “has the potential of being a tough one.”

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