Despite Over 30 Years of Research, Louisiana Denies Impact of Dead Zone to State

For the past fifteen years, GRN has been working hard to raise awareness and stimulate action to address the Dead Zone. Something that we have consistently said is that Louisiana needs to be doing a better job of raising heck about upriver states polluting our Gulf. Regretfully, Louisiana is taking the opposite approach by removing Lousisiana Gulf waters from their “impaired waters” list. Here is the press release we just sent out regarding this issue (continues after the jump). NEW ORLEANS The Dead Zone, an area in the Gulf of Mexico where oxygen levels get so low that sea life must swim away or suffocate, has long been an acknowledged threat to the coastal waters of Louisiana. Despite strong, historical evidence that the Dead Zone impacts state waters, the Louisiana Department of Environmental has elected to deny its threat in many areas. “Louisiana’s decision to not list state coastal waters as impaired amounts to admitting that Louisiana does not think that reducing the Dead Zone is important for the coast,” said Matt Rota, Science and Water Policy Director for the Gulf Restoration Network. The Dead Zone, also known as the hypoxic zone, is driven by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that flows down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. Louisiana has failed to list several areas impacted by the Dead Zone in the state’s release of this year’s “Impaired Waters List” that is mandated by the Clean Water Act.This de-listing comes as a surprise since the Environmental Protection Agency required that Louisiana’s coastal waters be listed in 2008 and 2010 for their low dissolved oxygen impairment. Decades of research from distinguished groups and organizations, such as the EPA Science Advisory Board, NOAA, LUMCON, and LSU, clearly shows that the Dead Zone impacts state waters.”It is a fact that hypoxia occurs in Louisiana State water and that there are biological impacts,” said Dr. R. Eugene Turner from Louisiana State University.”Louisiana has very productive fisheries, but just because you can catch fish on the surface during parts of the year does not mean that the Dead Zone does not impact Louisiana fisheries,” said Rota. “When our coastal areas and islands experience ” jubilees,’ where fish are literally jumping at the shore, that is often caused by the lack of oxygen in the water.” This decision to not list these areas denies the Dead Zone’s impact on fisheries of Louisiana, and directly contradicts the recently released Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, where it states that the “hypoxic zone off Louisiana’s coast each summer…threatens Louisiana’s coastal fisheries and water quality.” Once waters are designated as impaired, the state must implement a clean up plan. While Louisiana can’t fully institute a clean-up plan on its own, there are steps the state can take. Also,it’s vital that Louisiana demand real reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from upriver states, like Illinois and Iowa, in order to restore Louisiana’s Gulf waters. “The first step in recovery is you admitting that you have a problem. Apparently Louisiana is still in denial,” said Rota. “If Louisiana isn’t doing all it can to address the Dead Zone, how can we expect our neighbors upriver to take our plight seriously?” ###Matt is Science and Water Resources Director for GRN

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