AEC Leaders Call on Obama Administration & Congress to Take Action Against the Gulf Dead Zone

AEC Leaders Call on Obama Administration & Congress to Take Action Against the Gulf Dead Zone

April 23, 2009; AEC, Houma Daily Courier



Leaders from across America’s Energy Coast are calling upon President Barack Obama and members of Congress to take immediate steps to reduce the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico by fully funding the 2008 Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan. In describing the extent of the problem and the sense of urgency with which it must be addressed, Karen Gautreaux, head of governmental relations for The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, said,“The 8,500 square mile area just off Louisiana’s coast where the Mississippi River drains makes up the second largest hypoxic zone in the world. The fact that this area of oxygen-depleted waters has more than doubled in size over the last 20 years, is alarming to the scientists, environmental leaders and coastal communities, especially communities that depend on fisheries for economic and cultural resources…the Federal government must take the lead role in addressing this problem and provide the resources that are needed to improve water quality throughout the Basin and ultimately in the Gulf.” Meanwhile, Doug Daigle of the Lower Mississippi River Sub-basin Committee and member of the Coordinating Committee of the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force added, “As stakeholders we recognize that funding and interagency and interstate coordination are absolutely vital to resolving this national environmental problem.” The press release issued on Tuesday also included statements from R. King Milling, chairman of the America’s WETLAND Foundation, Don Young, executive vice president of Ducks Unlimited and Dr. Robert Twilley, Director of Wetland Biochemistry and Professor of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University. Click here to read the release (see below). On Thursday, the Houma Courier and Thibodeaux Daily Comet published an editorial supporting the call to action. Click here to read the editorial (see below).
Press Release
Press Release – 4/21/2009
AEC Leaders Call for Full Funding of
Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan To Reduce ’Dead Zone’


NEW ORLEANS (April 21 2009)—Leaders from across America’s Energy Coast (AEC) today called upon President Barack Obama and members of Congress to take immediate steps to reduce the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico by fully funding the 2008 Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan. 

“Every year, miles and miles of our waters become virtually lifeless because state and Federal agencies do not have the resources necessary to monitor and prevent the massive runoff of nutrients that feed huge algae blooms, deplete water oxygen levels and ultimately suffocate fish and other vital ecosystems in the Gulf,” R. King Milling, chair of America’s WETLAND Foundation, said today on behalf of the Foundation’s America’s Energy Coast initiative. 

“For years, scientists and policy makers at all levels of government have been studying the hypoxia problem. There is now a plan for reducing nutrient runoff that enters the Gulf and the nation must take action to implement it.” 

“Ducks Unlimited views the conservation Gulf Coast wetlands as one of the key priorities of our continent-wide Wetlands for Tomorrow Campaign, and we realize that saving the Gulf Coast includes wetlands conservation from the headwaters to the mouth of the Mississippi River. It will take a unified effort on the part of diverse groups and federal support to stop the dead zone and see this endeavor through,” said Don Young, executive vice president of Ducks Unlimited.

The hypoxic “dead zone” is an area of low oxygen in the Gulf of Mexico caused by excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers and other sources, flowing into the Gulf from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. The Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan 2008, developed by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, calls for a wide suite of actions, including wetland restoration as the most cost effective means of dealing with the Gulf “dead zone.”

Full funding of the Hypoxia Action Plan was one of a number of actions called for by the AEC in its Accord for a New Sustainability released last year in Houston and its subsequent Action Framework presented in Washington, DC, this past December.  The initiative brings together leaders of industry, the national environmental community, academia, and government to seek solutions to sustain the Gulf region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama – its fragile coastal environment and the critical economic and energy activities that take place there for the benefit the entire country.

“The 8,500 square mile area just off Louisiana’s coast where the Mississippi River drains makes up the second largest hypoxic zone in the world,” said Karen Gautreaux, head of governmental relations for The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, and co-chair of the AEC’s Domestic Energy Security Development Task Force. 

“The fact that this area of oxygen-depleted waters has more than doubled in size over the last 20 years, is alarming to the scientists, environmental leaders and coastal communities, especially communities that depend on fisheries for economic and cultural resources.  The Nature Conservancy and other organizations have been working cooperatively on conservation projects throughout the Mississippi River Basin that help to reduce nutrients and limit input at the source, but the Federal government must take the lead role in addressing this problem and provide the resources that are needed to improve water quality throughout the Basin and ultimately in the Gulf,” Gautreaux said.

In the absence of targeted Federal funding, a patchwork of local, state, Federal and non-profit agencies have implemented programs to tackle the problem, but most experts agree a systematic approach is critical to better understanding and managing nutrient inputs across the 31-state Mississippi and Ohio River basins.

“The effort to reduce Gulf Hypoxia has been a cooperative state and federal undertaking, and as stakeholders we recognize that funding and interagency and interstate coordination are absolutely vital to resolving this national environmental problem,” said Doug Daigle of the Lower Mississippi River Sub-basin Committee and member of the Coordinating Committee of the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force. 

“This is yet another reason the wetlands are so critically important to our nation. Up-river wetlands play a critical role in filtering nutrient runoff before it even enters the Mississippi River, and downriver they serve as the last line of defense against the ‘dead zone’ because they clean the river water before it empties into the Gulf,” said Dr. Robert Twilley, Professor of Oceanography and Coastal Science and Associate Vice Chancellor at Louisiana State University.
 
“Despite their strategic importance, the wetlands off Louisiana’s coast are still washing away at the astonishing rate of more than 17 square miles a year.  The continued loss of this invaluable landscape poses a significant threat to the economic and environmental sustainability of our nation.  We must invest in wetlands restoration and other efforts to reduce the dead zone now.”

The AEC Accord urges policy makers to view the Mississippi River Delta as a complete system that requires comprehensive solutions.  The organization plans to convene a set of hearings in upriver states to connect interests that for years have separated, including the impact of the disappearing coast on habitat and migratory waterfowl that populate the entire river basin of 31 states.  Additionally, plans are underway to host "World Delta Dialogues" in 2009 and 2010, drawing on expertise of countries who host the world’s major deltas in an effort to seek common solutions to growing challenges.

For more information about the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan 2008, visit www.epa.gov/msbasin. 
Editorial
Gulf dead zone needs action now


Houma Courier
Published: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 9:03 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 9:03 a.m.
A coalition of environmental groups has asked Congress and President Barack Obama to put money into a multi-state plan to eradicate the dead zone from the Gulf of Mexico.
The nine states, including Louisiana, that border the Mississippi River have agreed with various federal agencies to the 2008 Gulf Hypoxia Plan, which seeks to rid the Gulf of the gigantic zone of low oxygen that grows each year, due at least in part to runoff from nitrogen and phosphorus used in fertilizer up and down the Mississippi.
Those chemicals are washed into the river and eventually make it downstream to the Gulf, where they cause huge algae blooms. When the algae die, the reaction causes the oxygen in the water to be depleted, killing or chasing off vast numbers of fish.
Last year, the zone covered an estimated 8,000 square miles of the Gulf — roughly the size of New Jersey.
“For years, scientists and policy makers at all levels of government have been studying the hypoxia problem. There is now a plan for reducing nutrient runoff that enters the Gulf, and the nation must take action to implement it,” said R. King Milling, chairman of the America’s Wetland Foundation, one of the groups asking for the government’s monetary support.
Although the dead zone ends up off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas each year, farmland much farther upstream is the real source of the problem, and not until there is a unified commitment to attack it can the problem be solved.
The plan certainly seems to be a good start, but the government must provide some of the money it will require to put it into effect.
There is no firm estimate of how much money that will take, but the leadership and support of the federal government will be as important as the money.
There is a real need to stem the tide of chemical runoff into the river and, as the plan lays out, to rebuild some of the wetlands along the river that help filter out the chemicals before they can be carried off to the Gulf.
Until now, various states have tried to implement their own plans. Nonprofit groups, too, have seen the need and joined the battle. But until the federal government attacks the problem and organizes the battle, success will remain elusive.
As crucial as our wetlands and the Gulf are to our economy and our prominent pastimes, we must do what we can to ensure the health of both. Unfortunately, our ability to address this issue is dependent on the federal government’s willingness to lead the charge.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, have gotten onboard an effort to give $20 million to states that do their part to eliminate the dead zone.
We wish them every success and hope for our sake that they convince their colleagues in Washington, D.C., to join the fight.
Editorials represent the opinions of the newspaper, not of any individual.
 
 
2009-04-27T11:38:00+00:00April 27th, 2009|News|Comments Off on AEC Leaders Call on Obama Administration & Congress to Take Action Against the Gulf Dead Zone