A Dead Zone in Louisiana Bureaucracies

Algae floating in the water column. In the Gulf, algae dies and is consumed by bacteria, causing the Gulf Dead Zone. Photo courtesy of NASAAs we all know at this point that we as a nation are flooding our waterways with nitrogen and phosphorous pollution, which causes drinking water problems, harmful algae blooms, disruption to recreation, fish kills, the Gulf Dead Zone, and maybe even cancer! Despite all of these threats, Louisiana continues to drag its feet in truly addressing the problem. Today Louisiana representatives are at the Dead Zone Task Force meeting in Louisville, KY. This task force, which has been in existence for more than a decade, has come out with two “action” plans. The most recent 2008 plan stipulated that each state in the Task Force will “Complete and implement comprehensive nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies.” Despite this, Louisiana has decided to instead develop a “Nutrient Management Strategy.” This simple change in wording from “reduction” to “management” is a step backwards, insinuating that Louisiana does not need to reduce its contribution to local pollution problems. Click here to read the letter that GRN, along with several Louisiana conservation groups sent to protest this change in direction.To Louisiana’s credit, they have held several stakeholder meetings to get ideas about their Strategy. However they were very clear that their plan will be strictly voluntary. This contradicts EPA’s 2011 memo which clearly states that numeric nitrogen and phosphorus criteria are an integral part of such a strategy. While this backpedaling by the State of Louisiana is audacious, it is not unexpected, as just last year, they tried to remove Louisiana Gulf waters from their impaired waters list, despite the existence of the Dead Zone.Matt is GRN’s Science and Water Policy Director

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