Portman, Upton react to GAO report on federal efforts to address algae blooms

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) recently highlighted a new report that provides insight into efforts to combat algae blooms and protect Great Lakes drinking water.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that five federal agencies spent approximately $86 million in response to algae blooms in Toledo, Ohio, that triggered a water emergency.

“According to agency officials, these five agencies funded efforts to research and analyze harmful algal blooms; forecast, monitor and respond to their occurrence, and investigate human and ecological health effects,” the GAO report states. “Federal officials report that their agencies coordinate in a variety of ways with each other and with nonfederal stakeholders to share information, expertise and opportunities for collaboration on activities to address harmful algae.”

The Great Lakes play a “vital role” in Ohio’s economic and ecological system while providing an important source of drinking water, Portman said.

“This report will allow federal agencies to better prepare, coordinate and prevent future disasters like the one we experienced in Toledo,” Portman said. “This report gives us a better sense of where and how federal resources are being directed which will help to establish a strategic plan to ward off harmful algae, an important step in our efforts to protect Ohioans and keep our drinking water safe. As I continue my work stop harmful algal blooms, this report will ensure that we best direct resources and develop policies that support such efforts.” 

Portman previously worked with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) on legislation that would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The measure includes $5.9 million in grants to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and $1.5 million to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to help eliminate algae blooms and reduce phosphorous loading into Lake Erie.

Upton, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the GAO report provided insight into federal efforts being used to address the water emergency in the Great Lakes region.

“The Great Lakes play a vital role in our ecosystem and provide an important source of drinking water for millions of folks in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois,” Upton said in a joint statement with U.S. Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Bob Latta (R-OH). “This report gives us a better sense of where and how federal resources are being directed. It will go a long way in examining where to best direct resources and develop policies that support efforts to mitigate the effects of harmful algal blooms.”

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