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EPA funds more nutrient reduction; larger than average “dead zone” forecast

June 25, 2020

Additional $840,000 to help Mississippi River basin states improve water quality

The 12 state members of the Mississippi River / Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force (HTF) are now eligible to receive an additional $840,000 from the U.S. EPA, which announced a $1.2M allocation in August, 2019.

Accelerated reduction of excess nutrients in the Mississippi / Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) is expected to improve water quality among the member states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.

More spring precipitation, high river flows, and excess nutrient loads into the Gulf of Mexico have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) forecasting a dead zone up to 6,700 sq. miles this summer.

The USGS has reported major discharges primarily from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. The “larger-than-average” flows are carrying nitrate loads “about 2% above the long-term average, and phosphorous lads about 25 percent above the long-term average,” reports Stormwater Magazine.

This is the third year NOAA is producing its own forecast, which integrates results from multiple models into a separate average forecast. The long-term average measured dead zone is 5,387 sq. miles.

The HTF has set a five-year average measured size target of 1,900 sq. miles since the hypoxic area hurts marine life and also harms commercial and recreational opportunities for communities they support. Excess nutrient pollution from human activities in urban and agricultural areas throughout the watershed are the primary causes.