Public, press, excluded from Rooney roundtable on harmful algae blooms

04-30-19 Emergent Technologies InstituteFlorida Gulf Coast University’s Emergent Technologies Institute where a closed discussion on harmful algae blooms is scheduled to take place on May 7.  (Photo: FGCU)

433 days (1 year, 2 months, 9 days) since Rep. Francis Rooney has met constituents in an open, public forum

May 1, 2019 by David Silverberg

The public and press will be excluded next Tuesday, May 7, when Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) is scheduled to host a roundtable discussion on harmful algae blooms with officials from key federal agencies and local jurisdictions.

The public’s exclusion is in possible violation of the Florida Sunshine Law (Florida Statute 286.011(1)), which requires that all official meetings where action might be taken must be open to the public at all times.

According to Christopher Berardi, Rooney’s press secretary, a press conference will be held after its conclusion. This was the procedure followed after a similar meeting last year, Berardi stated.

The roundtable will take place at the Emergent Technologies Institute of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), 16301 Innovation Lane, in Fort Myers, Fla. The time of the event has not been announced.

The roundtable was prompted by last year’s blue/green algae blooms and red tide, when state and congressional officials were late to respond to the environmental crisis. Officials will be discussing best practices and procedures to deal with future algae blooms.

The discussion scheduled for May 7 is intended to improve coordination between federal, state and local officials in the event of future blooms.

According to a press release issued by Rooney’s office, attendees will include:

  • Lorraine Backer, senior scientist and environmental epidemiologist at the National Center for Environmental Health in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • Mary Walker, acting regional administrator for Region 4 of the Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Quay Dortch, program manager of the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms Program and the Prevention, Control, and Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms Program at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration;
  • Noah Valenstein, secretary at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection;
  • Ken Lawson, director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Other officials are expected from the Florida Department of Emergency Management, Lee and Collier counties, the cities of Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Bonita Springs and the Village of Estero, as well as representatives of the Lee Health system and FGCU.

According to the press release, the roundtable is intended to discuss such matters as the short and long-term health effects of harmful algae blooms and possible evacuations if necessary. Additionally, local municipalities may discuss their funding needs. Last year local governments spent over $2 million to remove 400,000 gallons of blue-green algae and were not reimbursed by the federal government.

Public interest groups that have been active on the region’s environmental crises include the Calusa Waterkeepers, Captains for Clean Water and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg




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