Posted by Stephanie A. Smith, Ph.D. and Bradley Benson, on Tue, July 15, 2014 @ 11:00 AM
Let’s go back to 1998: the first ISS module was launched, the movie Titanic won 11 Oscars, Windows 98 was released, Bear Grylls summited Everest, Google was founded, and most importantly it was the year the U.S. Congress passed the 1998 Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA), affectionately referred to by scientists as “habarka.”
HABHRCA may seem like an odd one, but it laid the groundwork for all future U.S. HAB control and legislation efforts, including the most recent one. In a blog earlier this year, we talked about a pending reauthorization of HABHRCA and asked the question: “Are We There Yet?” We are thrilled to report that HABHRCA has been reauthorized in 2014 as Public Law 113-124 (113th Congress 124th Law), and was signed by President Obama on July 1.
Some notable updates in 2014 include the addition of the Centers for Disease Control to the Interagency Task Force (of which NOAA and EPA are also members), and the assignment of the EPA to oversee freshwater HABs, with NOAA continuing to manage marine HABs. Of great interest to us in Ohio, and largely due to the authorship by our own Senator Rob Portman, HABHRCA specifies that within two years the Task Force has to come up with a workable plan to fix HABs and hypoxia in the Great Lakes. NOAA is also responsible for the administration and management of funds appropriated for HABHRCA…and that’s where YOU come in.
Like Bear Grylls, we still face a significant climb. While the 2014 authorization for $20.5 million/year from 2014-2018 sounds pretty healthy, consider the perspective that the total $82 million authorization pales in comparison with the costs of a single F-22 Raptor, coming in at $143 million ( and we have over 180 of those). Further and more importantly, authorization does not mean appropriation. Subcommittees within Congress will have to approve funding, and there are no guarantees that the appropriations will reach the authorization level. You can follow funding progress here, but as described in another blog called “Mind the Gap,” Congress will only care about this issue if they think YOU care. Let your Congressperson know that HABs are an important issue for you, your family, or your business, and let’s ensure that this issue gets the financial backing it deserves!