River cleanup funded

River cleanup funded

By Clarion Ledger
October 5, 2009 , Clarion Ledger

A recent wave of funding aims to improve water quality in the Gulf of Mexico through reducing nutrients in the Mississippi River. The nutrients are responsible for creating dead zones, which causes fish and other marine life to die by depleting oxygen from the water. The U.S. Department of Agriculture dedicated $320 million in late September to fund projects in 12 states, including Mississippi. The Mississippi River Basin Initiative plans to target the 2,350-mile basin that stretches from Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf. "It’s the single biggest thing that has taken place, in my knowledge, to address nutrients and agriculture landscapes," said Trey Cooke, executive director of Delta F.A.R.M., one of the Mississippi groups involved in the project.

The dead zone off Louisiana’s coast, the largest in the United States, averages about 7,000 square miles a year. Although researchers expected it to be 8,000 square miles this past summer, it was about 3,000 square miles during its July peak. 
 

Mississippi’s dead zone is like other smaller zones in the U.S. Spurred by nutrient input from local rivers, such as the Pearl, Pascagoula and other coastal rivers, it hovers at about 900 square miles off the state’s barrier islands, according to University of Southern Mississippi marine science researchers. Some farmers will receive subsidies to make environmentally friendly improvements to their properties, thus reducing nutrients entering creeks and rivers that flow into the Mississippi River. "(The initiative) will improve conservation of natural resources in Mississippi, and we’re hopeful it will also help us expand our conservation partnerships so we can make even more progress on conservation issues moving forward," said Homer Wilkes, state conservationist at the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which will administer the funds.

Proposals for targeted areas have been submitted, but it is unclear how much money Mississippi will receive, said NRCS Mississippi assistant state conservationist Al Garner. 
 

Watersheds chosen for funding will be able to offer financial assistance in best management practices that’ll reduce nutrients. One method is tailwater recovery systems, a method that recycles used water on farms, Cooke said. NRCS currently funds cost-share programs, like the tailwater recovery systems, with Delta farmers, but this additional funding will allow for more practices to be put in place. "We’ve developed a strategy for how to address (nutrient levels) from a holistic standpoint," Cooke said. "It tackles all these issues at a high level and forms templates or strategies for nutrient reduction." In addition to the recent federal funding, the state set aside $1 million several months ago for nutrient-reducing programs as well. 
 

Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Bill Walker said Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is determining how to best use the money. The state’s contribution came from special funds, and no general fund money was used, Walker said. Private sources have also been dedicated to nutrient-reducing programs in the state, Cooke said. Farmers in the Delta area received funds from St. Louis-based Monsanto Co., which pledged $5 million last year for nutrient reduction. Delta Wildlife, one of the groups partnered with Monsanto, will install best management practices at about 1,000 sites in the Delta. A recent wave of funding aims to improve water quality in the Gulf of Mexico through reducing nutrients in the Mississippi River.

The nutrients are responsible for creating dead zones, which causes fish and other marine life to die by depleting oxygen from the water. The U.S. Department of Agriculture dedicated $320 million in late September to fund projects in 12 states, including Mississippi. The Mississippi River Basin Initiative plans to target the 2,350-mile basin that stretches from Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf. "It’s the single biggest thing that has taken place, in my knowledge, to address nutrients and agriculture landscapes," said Trey Cooke, executive director of Delta F.A.R.M., one of the Mississippi groups involved in the project.

 
 

To comment on this story, call Justin Fritscher at (601) 961-7266.

http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20091005/NEWS/910050321/1001/news/River-cleanup-funded

2017-01-17T09:22:18+00:00October 12th, 2009|News|Comments Off on River cleanup funded