Well the folks at LUMCON have finished their annual measurement of the Dead Zone that forms in the Gulf each year. On the surface, it looks like good news: it is much smaller than was predicted (see my previous blog on these predictions).However, according to the researchers, while the areal size of the Dead Zone was smaller, the Zone was thick and very close to the shore, causing crabs, eels, and brown shrimp to swim to the surface to try to escape the “severe condition in the waters below.” GRN has been working for years to raise awareness about the Dead Zone in order to spur action. As of yet, we have not seen much, after the size of this year’s Dead Zone was released, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked me about what the Feds are doing: Matt Rota, water resources program director for the Gulf Restoration Network, said President Barack Obama’s administration has been relatively quiet about water quality problems responsible for the Gulf’s dead zone.Rota is hopeful the EPA soon moves forward with the petition to place tougher limits on water pollutants that enter the Mississippi River Basin.”To quote the National Academy of Sciences, the Mississippi River has been an orphan for too long,” Rota said. “Nobody realizes the second largest dead zone in the world has formed right off the river.” There is some potential hope on the horizon. Last year GRN, along with conservation partners along the Mississippi River, petitioned the EPA to take decisive action to prevent the pollution flowing into the Gulf. While we have not heard an official response from them yet, folks at NOAA are raising the Dead Zone’s profile. NOAA weighed in last Monday when Jane Lubchenco, their new Administrator stated that “clearly the flow of excess nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural fields in the Mississippi drainage basin continues to wreak havoc with life in the Gulf.” The acknowledgement of the problem is encouraging, but we have yet to see decisive, comprehensive action from the states or federal government.We still have a Dead Zone that averages 6,000 square miles off the coast of Louisiana and Texas threatening our nation’s fisheries. If individual states will not step up to reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution flowing into the Mississippi and Gulf, it falls to federal agencies like the EPA, NOAA, and USDA to make sure that these reductions happen.Matt Rota is the Water Resources Program Director for GRN

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