State must act on ‘dead zone’

By Times Picayune
November 12, 2007

The National Research Council recently issued a report on water quality in the Mississippi River, which governs hypoxia (the "dead zone") in the Gulf.
In brief, while industrial point sources of pollution have been reduced under the Clean Water Act, little or no progress is being made with non-point agricultural pollution from croplands.
The third-largest hypoxic area ever recorded occurred this year in the Gulf.
Speaking frankly from here at the headwaters of the Mississippi, it is not going to get better until Louisiana sets nutrient standards for the Gulf near-shore area and lists it as an "impaired water."
Until that happens, the Clean Water Act process cannot kick in to control nitrates up-river.
The case for nutrient reductions from upstream would also be a lot stronger if southern congressional delegations would stop blocking Farm Bill reform.
The billions of dollars of subsidies that go to farmers for cotton, rice, corn, soybeans and wheat, with no nutrient management standards required for receiving those payments, ensures that over-application of fertilizer and resultant hypoxia in the Gulf will continue.
Les Everett
Water Resources Center
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, Minn.