The conclusion of a recent National Research Council report is that the Mighty Mississippi is an “orphan.” To those of us who live in the Gulf and know of the impact a polluted Mississippi River has in creating the Dead Zone, this finding is no surprise. The EPA has neglected its duty to set limits for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, the two primary causes of the Dead Zone. The United States Department of Agriculture has not done enough to target farm conservation money to places where it would help reduce farm runoff into the River. The federal Dead Zone Task Force, charged with finding solutions to the 7,000 square mile lifeless area in the Gulf, hasn’t done much of anything.As you might guess, there are a number of powerful interests who would like to see things remain lifeless at the federal agencies, much like the lifelessness found in the Dead Zone. In particular, agribusiness interests are currently clamoring to see that the Dead Zone Task Force does not set any meaningful goals to reduce the Dead Zone because they are afraid they might actually be held accountable to such a goal! Unfortunately, it is the Gulf of Mexico and the citizens who rely upon its abundant natural resources that are paying the price.Jeff Grimes is Assistant Director of Water Resources for the GRN

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