Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 4:00 pm
Millions of dollars in new funding to help combat harmful algae in Oregon and throughout the country are just a presidential pen stroke away.
Toxic algae blooms contributed to closing some of Oregon’s lake, ponds and reservoirs for a combined total of more than 700 days in 2013 alone.
Tawnya Peterson, who works at the Institute of Environmental Health at Oregon Health & Science University, said that on the coast, algae often severely lower the oxygen levels and harm shellfish harvests.
"The economy on the coast is so closely tied to natural resources that protecting them and protecting the public at the same time is very important," Peterson said.
More than $20 million in federal funding could soon help address the problem. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to push a national strategy to better understand and address the nationwide algae issues.
Yearly die-offs of Oregon's Dungeness crabs were among the incidents that got the attention of Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who helped draft related legislation.
"This will become increasingly important as coastal populations increase and changes in the environment, such as warmer water temperatures, have the potential to alter the growth, toxicity and geographic distribution of algal blooms," Bonamici said.
The legislation passed the Senate this week and is expected to be signed by the president.