TAMPA (FOX 13) - Red tide continues to devastate Florida's west coast, with at least 300 tons of dead fish washing ashore. The crisis is crippling the area's fishing and tourism industries as voters prepare to elect the state's next governor and decide a contentious battle for a U.S. Senate seat.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham and Phillip Levine, along with Governor Rick Scott, who's running for Senate, all visited the Bay Area Thursday. Each of them spoke out about the impacts of red tide and green algae on the state and their plans to fix the issues.
Governor Rick Scott, Gwen Graham, and Phillip Levine all made their case to Bay Area voters Thursday.
"Sea turtles and the fish killed and the porpoises that are dying because of the red tide," Graham said. "This is all because of 20 years of not taking care of our environment. When we are governor, our environment is going to be a priority again."
The democratic gubernatorial candidate, Graham blamed two decades of Republican governorship who, she says, ignored the environment and sugar industry's impact on it.
Experts blame the toxic blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee on nutrient run-off from dairy and sugar farms. Scientists say the blooms are not related, but many of the candidates are tying the two together.
On the issue of Lake O, Governor Rick Scott blames his opponent Democratic incumbent, Senator Bill Nelson, for not doing enough to fix the problem.
"The algae is caused because the federal government has not done their job," Scott said. "The federal government's responsibility is to fix the dike at Lake Okeechobee. That is 100-percent a federal project. They have not put up the money. I have been asking for the money since I've been governor and have not gotten it from the federal government until now."
After President Trump was elected, money was secured to fix the dike, which should be able to hold more water by 2022 and Governor Scott says that should keep the blue-green algae from forming.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phillip Levine wants changes made to leadership in order to fix the problem.
"Water management boards need to be not made up of cronies and people," Levine said. "They need to be made up of scientists ecologists and environmentalists. That's number one. Number two we need to make sure we begin funding the department of environmental protection."
As for the Republicans running for governor, both touched on the water issues during the final GOP debate last week.
"I think that you can take everything my opponent knows about water," Adam Putnam said. "And put it on your sticky note and still have room left over for your grocery list."
"Adam is basically the errand boy for U.S. Sugar," Ron DeSantis said. "He is going to stand with them time and time again. All of his solutions are going to give him everything they want.
Sen. Nelson also blames the toxic algae on the governor's decision to cut water-quality monitors and water management programs.
Voters will decide on their nominee for governor from both parties in the primary coming up Tuesday, August 28.