What would a red tide state of emergency accomplish in Florida?

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A political tug-of-war is underway in Tampa Bay as some question whether enough being done to fight the red tide crisis impacting our waterways.

When disaster strikes, the governor can declare a state of emergency. Gov. Ron DeSantis has done so with hurricanes and the coronavirus pandemic, but he’s not doing it with red tide. So should he?

For several weeks now, we’ve seen dead fish rotting in Tampa Bay waters, washing up on our shorelines and stinking up beaches, including some in St. Petersburg.

Last week, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman pushed for a red tide state of emergency, something we have seen in past administrations.

The mayor accused the governor of playing politics, calling it “truly sickening” in a tweet.

“My office has not heard from the governor, I’m not sure if the county has, so far it’s been kind of silence,” Mayor Kriseman said on July 14. “Again, Rick Scott stepped up, declared a state of emergency.”

Here’s the 8 On Your Side question: Would a state of emergency help or hurt the Tampa Bay area?

Typically, a state of emergency helps coordinate the local, state and federal response. It also gives access to unallocated funds.

But flanked by city & county officials in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, Gov. DeSantis said he doesn’t need any funds.

“That was made a political issue by them, not by me,” he said. “We’ve answered every call with financial assistance.”

In the budget each year, he’s set aside money specifically for red tide. St. Pete has received approximately $600,000.

“We’ve planned for mitigation efforts, we’ve appropriated the money for mitigation efforts,” said Gov. DeSantis. “We do have capacity to help with even more financial assistance.”

The governor says an emergency declaration would only hurt business.

So what does the last governor, now-Sen. Rick Scott think about a red tide state of emergency?

“Well…that’s a decision for the governor,” Sen. Scott Thursday. “I’m going to do everything I can up here to make sure the federal government is a partner.”

In the meantime, Mayor Kriseman’s office says they currently have the boats, resources and cash they need to address this.

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