Flood water from the Mississippi River drainage basin of nine states is being blamed for increasing the dead zone waters of the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the river even before it happens this year.
Agricultural runoff from farm fields have forever been blamed as the source and cause of the low oxygen area dead zone, which ends up killing bottom-dwelling organisms including shrimp. Scientists explain that nutrients come down the Mississippi River promote the growth of algae blooms, but the algae die and decompose. The decomposition consumes oxygen in the water.
The exceptional flooding this year has some scientists predicting one of the biggest dead zones in history. The largest measured dead zone was 8,500 square miles in 2002.
It doesn’t seem logical that the largest dead zones would occur in the last 10 years because farmers have been using conservation methods for saving fertilizer and preventing runoff. As noted by Don Parish, American Farm Bureau Federation senior director of regulatory relations, notes that since 1980, farmers have increased corn yields by 80 percent while at the same time reducing nitrate use by 4 percent.
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency jumped into forcing specific action and federally enforced targets for improving the waters going into the Chesapeake Bay, it stirred major concern for states and farming organizations of the Mississippi River basin. The AFBF filed a lawsuit against the EPA’s action and can be seen as trying to keep EPA from overreaching previously allowed regulatory enforcement.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in Iowa earlier this spring where discussion included talk about the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative of $320 million in grant money. As quoted by the New York Times, Jackson said, “There is fear, real fear, in Iowa that we’ll take what we’re doing in Chesapeake Bay and transfer it here without regard to what’s already happening on the ground.”
An extensive article about the nutrients going into the Mississippi River, the dead zone and the look at regulations to reduce nutrient runoff was recently investigated in the New York Times article. Read the full article by going here.