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EPA Convenes Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Meeting in Memphis

Release Date: 12/01/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Dale Kemery, 202-564-4355 / kemery.dale@epa.gov


(Washington, D.C.-Dec. 1, 2005) The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, comprised of top-level representatives of eight federal agencies and 10 states, convened in Memphis today to assess the progress being made to reduce hypoxia or the zone of low oxygen in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. The hypoxia zone has increased in size since the mid-1980's, and the task force is reviewing milestones in an action plan it released in 2001.

"Only through cooperative conservation and regional collaboration can we effectively address the problems that affect this vital waterway," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for Water. "We must work quickly and effectively using the best available science to reduce the size of the hypoxia zone by two-thirds."

Nutrients discharged by the river threaten the commercial fishing industry, which contributes to two-thirds of the commercial fishery in the lower 48 states and contributes $700 million annually to the economy. The task force was formed in 1997 to address these issues, and signed an action plan in 2001 to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone by 2015 while improving the communities and economic conditions throughout the basin.

The plan, put in place to help ensure progress, includes: 1) establishing sub-basins to assess current loadings and sources; 2) setting reduction targets and developing strategies; 3) assessing potential reductions from existing local, state and federal water programs; 4) identifying and assessing potential additional reductions from point sources; 5) developing a monitoring and research strategy; and 6) assessing and reviewing progress of the action plan every five years.

At this meeting, the task force worked toward developing a schedule for the five-year reassessment and worked toward a plan on addressing these critical issues. Various groups made up of task force representatives have worked since the eleventh meeting in September 2004 to define the process for the reassessment. The process includes independent scientific reviews of the causes that drive the extent, formation and duration of hypoxia. It also includes study of the transport of nutrients from the greater Mississippi basin.

Information about hypoxia in the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf of Mexico is available at: http://www.epa.gov/msbasin/index.htm