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Congress approves bill to allow federal assistance in wake of algae blooms

Legislation was one of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson's last

WASHINGTON – New legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives could give areas affected by algae blooms access to federal aid.

The measure will give experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency the ability to declare an algae bloom a "nationally significant event." Doing so would make federal resources available for those who are affected.

Congress approved the legislation, which was written by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, in a unanimous vote Thursday. It will also allot $102.5 million over a five-year period toward research about algae blooms and their prevention.

In a statement released Thursday, Nelson's campaign said the act will be one of the 18-year senator's last. In January, current Florida Gov. Rick Scott will take Nelson's seat on the Senate.

"It's gratifying to get this bill over the finish line—and especially in such a unanimously supported way—because it helps folks who've been hurt by disasters caused by algae blooms," Nelson said.

In July, an algae bloom formed in Lake Okeechobee that eventually spread to the Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee River. According to Nelson's team, the bloom caused "severe environmental and economic damage."

The legislation will now go to President Donald Trump for approval.