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Water Resources Development Act approved, including project added by Higgins addressing harmful algal blooms

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Tue, Dec 8th 2020 04:50 pm

Bill authorizes US Army Corps work, including Great Lakes & Western New York harbor projects

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced the House of Representatives approved the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The legislation, which provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out water projects, includes a provision led by Higgins that provides $25 million for a demonstration project aimed at eliminating harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes and other waterways.

In a letter to the assistant secretary of the Army, Higgins, a member of the bipartisan Great Lakes Task Force, first suggested implementation of the algal mitigation strategy in the Great Lakes after learning of the success of a similar project in Lake Okeechobee. In February, Higgins followed up by testifying before the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, urging deployment of the HABITATS (Harmful Algal Bloom Interception, Treatment, and Transformation System) pilot program in the Great Lakes. The congressman subsequently proposed text that was included in the Water Resources Development Act.

Higgins said, “Harmful algal blooms (HABs) have significant environmental and economic consequences. And the situation is expected to worsen with climate change. We’ve seen promising outcomes from the initial pilot project in Florida, and this investment will expand efforts to protect the health and safety of people and our lakes.”

A press release said, “As HABs grow out of control, they produce toxins that are harmful to marine life and humans. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. tourism industry loses an estimated $1 billion annually due to nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms. The economic impact is also felt by the fishing and real estate industries as well as water systems.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District is responsible for the planning, construction and operation of water projects across a 38,000-square-mile area that includes lakes Erie and Ontario. The Buffalo District has recently led a number of significant projects in Western New York, including north and south breakwater repairs in the Buffalo Harbor, seawall work at Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, repairs to the Black Rock Lock, dredging of the Buffalo Harbor, revetment construction along Route 5 in Athol Springs, and the Unity Island wetland restoration project.

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