Sen. Bill Nelson talks business impact of red tide and algae

Sanibel and Captiva business owners pleaded with Sen. Bill Nelson for help with the water quality crisis.

Sen. Bill Nelson promised to fight for federal funding for projects like a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee hold extra water and prevent the need for water releases.

But Nelson says regulating water pollution will have to mean changing state laws, and many in Southwest Florida say they can’t afford to wait that long.

Bailee Johnson’s family has owned Bailey’s General Store on Sanibel for four generations now.

She says they’ve seen a 40 percent drop in revenue which adds up to about a half a million dollars.

“This community is so important to so many people. We’re literally watching it crumble,” she said.

And down the road, the Sanibel Sea School says the red tide crippled their youth summer camps and the wildlife they seek to showcase.

“People don’t want to put their kids in the ocean, so it’s a giant drain on our business from an economic perspective,” said Executive Director of Sanibel Sea School, Bruce Neill.

Nelson promised tax breaks to some of the struggling businesses but he acknowledges the limits of the effort.

“It’s not going to help those charter boat captains, because they’re not going to have any taxable income.”

He says regulating water boils down to the state.

“And if the laws of this state are not cracking the whip on the quality of that water, keeping it clean, we’re going to continue to have this,” he said.

Which leaves many wondering when they will see a real solution.

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