This year's Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone (which occurs near where the Mississippi River drains into the Gulf) brings the same story of a larger-than-average measurement. The hypoxic (no oxygen) 'dead zone' measured three times larger than our national goal, measuring in at over 6,300 square miles; an area larger than the state of Connecticut. It is a stark reminder that we must be doing more, not less, to protect clean water across the Mississippi River Basin. Friends of the Mississippi River’s, Peter LaFontaine, breaks down this year’s measurement and solutions to the problems here.
It’s time for a new vision
Now, we have a great opportunity to do something different. Let’s break this cycle of the same headlines year after year. The Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative (or MRRRI) is one new tool we can support right now. Matt Rota of Healthy Gulf in Louisiana recently shared that, “this legislation would create a Federal office focused on the health of the Mississippi and would include significant funds dedicated to nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that feeds the Dead Zone”.
The MRRRI Act, or H.R. 4202, was introduced by Congresswoman Betty McCollum earlier this summer. Take action to support a new vision for the Mississippi River now by emailing or calling your congressperson (don't worry, it's easy to take action!).
The Dead Zone is three times larger than it 'should' be. Image: LUMCON/NOAA results from their July 25 - August 1, 2021, Gulf Hypoxia Zone measurement cruise.
This blog post was extracted from an email sent by 1 Mississippi on September 2, 2021.
Fishers and Farmers' outreach work is helping people connect in their local watersheds around the water they share. F&F programs Online and On-Air are must-see's - click the picture below and take a look at their resources.
You can learn about upcoming radio programs (like the May 15 broadcast of Neighbor to Neighbor with Pam Jahnke, which will focus on the Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek watersheds) and live conversations (like Boots on the Ground, an upcoming interactive conversation on May 20 focused on the Polk County, Iowa, Soil and Water Conservation District), as well as find recordings of past sessions that take you all around the Upper Mississippi.
Fishers and Farmers' website has many excellent resources - take a look today! Thanks to F&F for their work to bring people together and improve soil health and water quality in the Upper Mississippi Basin!
In his March 1, 2021 post, Jones compiled data from the monitoring of Iowa watersheds since 2003. His post documents his data sources and explains his methodology. The graph above shows the amount of nitrogen being discharged from Iowa on the major rivers. The green line is the rivers discharging to the Missouri River, and the blue line is the rivers going directly to the Upper Mississippi. The red line is the total discharge. Jones' data shows that the total nitrogen discharge has doubled since 2003.
In 2019, Jones wrote a post that compared the impact of the population of livestock to the human population of major cities. Our speaker at the UMRR session, David Osterberg, quoted Chris Jones as he talked about the need for a stronger approach to nutrient management. You can watch the video of Osterberg's talk via the link in this UMRR Blog post. Chris Jones' blog post that Osterberg quoted is found at this link.
In our December blog post, we told you about the Ag-Urban Partnership Forum hosted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In a recent email, Katrina Kessler of MPCA said:
"I am reaching out to let you know that the MPCA recently published a detailed Water Quality Trading Guidance document and a companion website that provide a high-level introduction to the concept of water quality trading. Water quality trading provides a mechanism and legal framework for regulated wastewater and stormwater sources to engage in watershed-based water quality restoration and protection partnerships, and is closely related to the ecosystem services marketplace ideas presented at the Ag-Urban Partnership Forum.
The Water Quality Trading Guidance is available on the MPCA’s water quality trading webpage. I encourage you to visit the website and, if you are interested, review the guidance document.
I am also pleased to share that the MPCA, in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), will be initiating a pilot project to increase awareness and participation in water quality trading opportunities. We are excited to work with local resource managers and agricultural producers to identify how state agencies and local partners can work on innovative water quality solutions."
We will continue to follow developments and share them on the blog. Trading is an important option for reducing nonpoint source pollution. Read more about MPCA's efforts in trading on their website's trading page.
The problems of water quality are shared by rural and urban Minnesotans. The solutions have to be shared, too.
The need to reduce the amount of pollutants that go in to the river unites both agricultural and industrial interests. To help to bridge the ag-urban divide and unite interests, forums have been organized to bring people together. The second annual forum was held on December 16, 2020.
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's post on the conference, ""The key issue initially fueling the conferences centers on the question, how can the urban and rural agriculture worlds work together to address water quality and other environmental issues? Cities face daunting costs for wastewater treatment. Agriculture dominates the rural landscape, and has a major impact on water quality. What if both worked together?
While environmental quality is the goal, getting there is all about the economy. And climate change.
Leif Fixen of The Nature Conservancy promoted the Ecosystem Service Marketplace Consortium (ESMC), which is developing the processes and technology that would pay farmers for “carbon credits” — a measure of capturing carbon to help mitigate global warming." Click the picture below for more information on this pilot project.
The first Ag-Urban Partnership Forum was held on November 18, 2019 and is documented in a detailed .pdf found at this post on the Minnesota River Data Center website.
Nutrient-laden runoff from Iowa's farm fields is a major contributor to the "Dead Zone' in the Gulf of Mexico. In this discussion, David Osterberg lays out options for dealing with the problem. He makes a potent case that getting enough farmers to take voluntary measures to reduce runoff, as currently hoped for in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, is not going to work. As LWV UMRR Vice-chair Mary Ellen Miller points out in this meeting: Voluntary [change in ag practices as recommended in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy] is not working, and it's not working because too many federal dollars are going to support the current practices."
<<<<Advance video to 5:30 unless you want to see the chit chat as we all gather for the Zoom.>>>>
This discussion was part of the LWV Upper Mississippi October 12 meeting. The LWV UMRR Board meets on the first Monday of even numbered months (if you do the math, that's 6 times/year). Before Covid, we traveled around the watershed getting to know people and issues across our four-state area. At each Board meeting, we'd have an educational/advocacy session on local issues where local Leaguers and the general public joined us. Now, everything's virtual, so no travel, but we are still doing sessions like this on the first Monday of every even-numbered month. Watch our newsletter for notice of upcoming events like this talk with David Osterberg!
Looking in more detail at the full published study, the researchers found that "Overall, >80% of the Basin total runoff and N leaching was from the rising extreme precipitation areas. Basin-wide, extreme precipitation events occurred only 8.6 days year−1 (2.4% of 365 days) on average, but they contributed to approximately one-third of annual total water yields and N yields. This is likely a conservative estimate of the contribution of extreme precipitation events as we only focus on extreme precipitation days without consideration of post-event legacy effects."
This new understanding of the role of extreme precipitation can inform how changes can be made in fertilizer and manure application to reduce the loss of nutrients.
This is not an Action Alert from Leauge of Women Voters, rather we are providing information on a pending goverment action that our readers may decide to comment on, with information from other organizations. Note that the comment deadline is May 18.
A recent email from the Water Protection Network urges readers to comment on a rule being proposed by EPA. (MRN's appeal follows this paragraph, verbatim.) This rule would set standards for the types of scientific research that can be used in environmental decision making. On its face, it would make sense for EPA to define the level of research that will be used - as we are seeing now with covid research it seems that there is often incomplete, inconclusive or even conflicting conclusions that come out regularly. It's important that the research that is used in decision-making reflects the current scientific understanding on a particular topic. But if the constraints work to systematically exclude certain types of research, the quality of decision making is diminished. So, here's the call-to-action paragraph from the Mississippi River Network
"Take Action Against EPA's Secret Science Rule
At a time when the importance of sound science-based decision-making is painfully clear, the Trump administration has proposed a rule that would impose sweeping restrictions on the types of scientific studies that can inform the regulatory decision-making process. Instead of "strengthening transparency" as the proposal claims to do, it is instead designed to "keep highly respected and peer-reviewed scientific studies from informing government decisions on public health and environmental protection" (Bruce Stein, NWF).
Following the links in this paragraph leads the reader to EPA's proposal in the Federal Register and a March 23, 2020, blog post by Ann Mesnikoff of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Reading the EPA proposal it is hard to sort out what there is to be concerned about. There is a link in Ann's blog post taking the reader to Ann's December 4, 2019 post, where she provides more background on the rule. She says, "The rule requires all of the data underpinning EPA legislation to be publicly available or otherwise replicable. However, there are multiple reasons why some studies can’t be replicated or made fully available. Privacy rules and patient protections prevent individual health data from being released. Raw data or original conditions may no longer exist, such as lead exposure from leaded gasoline, which has been banned now for decades. Scientific research is built around long-term and health-based research, so there are long-established methods for evaluating in these situations. The new “transparency” rule would not lead to more transparent research; it would only bar EPA from using critical scientific information."
This action is just one of a myriad of ways that the rules protecting our air, land and water are being weakened. Sigh. Push back will be timely,.
Picture below - How institutions are approaching scientific research during Covid-19
GLBW Founding Partners:
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region owes a lot to LWV Jo Daviees County – it was this League in Galena, Illinois, that had the idea to start an Inter League Organization* focused on protecting and improving water quality in the Upper Mississippi. It was from that idea that LWV UMRR was born in 2015, and we thank them for it.
LWV JDC has moved the ball along considerably in their local water quality work now. You can read about how they got started in this blog post from August of 2017. In this post from December of 2017, we shared the good news that LWV Jo Daviess County received a $10,000 prize for their proposal in the US EPA's Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge.
They implemented the proposal, and this month learned that they won big - they were one of three projects across the US receiving a $50,000 prize for their work!
Following is the press release from US EPA. Congratulations to LWV Jo Daviess County!
CHICAGO (Aug. 21, 2019) - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and four federal partners announced the winners of its technology-accelerating water quality challenge. The League of Women Voters of Illinois in Jo Daviess County is one of three national teams selected for the Challenge’s prize of $50,000 each. The winning teams demonstrated how data from low-cost water quality monitoring sensors can be used to inform local decision-making on nutrient management.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||