Posted by Jim Cook on Mon, Aug 19, 2013 @ 07:00 AM
Congress has acknowledged that harmful algal bloom (HAB) research is well-justified. The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA) demonstrates this sentiment, but there has been a lack of federal funding to support it. In today’s economy and political climate many deserving programs do not survive the federal budgeting process. Only those with broad support and passionate leadership make it through the cuts.
Up until now we have been relying on the HAB scientists to push Congress to fund HAB research. The apparent assumption has been since they know the matter the best, they are the most equipped to make the case for funding. This approach was instrumental in passing the HABHRCA legislation in the first place, but funding has been met with only limited success. Perhaps this is because scientists alone are not sufficient to convey the widespread public support for addressing HABs and water quality issues that result from HABs.
On a grassroots level however the public has been organizing as lake communities to push for change. This typically comes in the form of a Lake Improvement Association (LIA). A quick query in Google on “lake improvement associations” turns up over 100 different organizations in 22 states. And these are only the ones with websites; many more are referenced in newspaper articles. This appears to be a phenomenon that has taken hold and is growing.
Importantly, LIAs are demonstrating political leverage on the local and state level. Many have worked with their State Departments of Natural Resources to secure grants for water remediation, or nutrient management projects that might curb HABs. For example, multiple Wisconsin LIAs have successfully led the way to legislation that controls phosphorus pollution. Wisconsin is the first state in the country to adopt phosphorus water quality standards for lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and streams, and LIAs played a major role in that positive change.
At Beagle, we suggest that LIAs now need to look at how they can work together to make an impact on a federal level. Our water problems are not defined by state borders. Federal dollars are also needed to fund research by the best minds that we have in the country to address HABs. Keep an eye on this movement. It has the potential to be a key driver for change.