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Tuesday July 12, 2011 | 01:49 PM

Legislation backed by both of Maine’s U.S. House members would provide money to research how to stop the spread of harmful algal blooms like red tide.

It’s a measure that Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd, says is also backed by Maine’s shellfish industry, coastal communities and the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Also supporting the bill is Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st, as well as several Republicans, including Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland and Connie Mack of Florida.

The bill would authorize Congress to spend up to $18 million a year for five years. A similar measure passed the House in 2010 but did not go anywhere in the Senate.

Michaud’s office says that red tide outbreaks have occurred off Maine’s coast five out of the past seven years. It was severe enough in 2009 that Michaud is lobbying the House Appropriations Committee – he is not a member – to provide disaster relief funding for those in the shellfish industry affected by that outbreak. There are about 3,000 shellfish harvesters and dealers, with the state estimating that the total economic value of the Maine shellfish industry is $50 million, according to Michaud’s office.

“Red tides can have a devastating economic impact on communities up and down Maine’s coast,” Michaud said in a statement. “The shellfish industry in Maine experienced a severe economic crisis in 2009 as a result of the closure of nearly all of our shellfish beds. This bill will help Maine and other states develop regional action plans and a comprehensive national strategy to reduce the size and occurrence of harmful red tides.”

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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