Crist: Cash is key to solving Florida's algae crises

Jacqueline Dixon calls it a double-barreled problem.

"Florida is being beset by two different algal blooms," Dixon said. 

One is red tide; the other is the blue-green algae. Both were part of the roundtable discussion hosted by Congressman Charlie Crist at the University of South Florida's Marine Science Laboratory. 

Rep. Crist explained the difference.

"It's an annual event, I'm talking about the red tide, and just a matter of temperature and currents that determine whether it's going to be more impactful or not," Crist said. “As it relates to the blue green algae bloom, that's not an annual event, that's more of a man-made event if you will."

Researchers say the blue-green algae is the result of water polluted with agricultural waste that flows out of Lake Okeechobee. It predominately impacts the Fort Myers area. They say red tide is naturally occurring -- and is affecting areas from Fort Myers north through Manatee County. 

LINK: More on Florida's red tide

Dixon, the dean of USF's College of Marine Science, says this is the time of year when blooms start off the coast.

"Typically it's this early fall when the way the water moves," Dixon said. "This is the time of year when those cells come up to the bottom of the surface and grow or not grow."

She says even if a storm washed the current blooms away, there will be new cells ready to start another bloom.

Rep. Crist plans on taking the information learned at the roundtable today and moving forward in the direction of funding.

"I think funding of NOAA, increasing the funding for NOAA, is the message I got toward the end, so that that can augment the research that we're already able to do, and make it even more effective," Rep. Crist said.

Dixon echoed that request.

"With investment in our observing capabilities and infrastructure, we could do a better job to tell Pinellas County and Clearwater, 'OK, we think this is happening,' give you more notice."

Right now in Pinellas County, red tide has been detected two miles offshore. There are currently no high concentrations in Tampa Bay.