The large “dead zone” of low oxygen that forms off Louisiana’s coast is a long-standing problem (“‘Dead Zone’ nutrients to be addressed,” March 9), and the state of Louisiana has been involved in the national policy response effort for well over a decade.
The state signed onto the Action Plan to Reduce Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico in its 2001 and 2008 versions. Both included commitments by states along the Mississippi River and the federal agencies to pursue nutrient-reduction efforts. This is stated clearly in the first action listed in the 2008 Revised Action Plan, where the signatories commit to “complete and implement comprehensive nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies for states within the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin” (Page 32).
The assertion by Louisiana officials that this agreement calls for merely a state nutrient “management” plan is therefore misleading. Reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus loading to the Mississippi River is necessary to reverse the growth of the annual hypoxic zone, as both versions of the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan and numerous scientific assessments make clear. The current action plan, signed as noted in 2008, further states that implementation of the state nutrient-reduction strategies should be started “as soon as practicable, but no later than 2013.” (Page 33)
There are clearly activities already under way in Louisiana that can be considered components of a nutrient-reduction strategy, as well as numerous opportunities for expanded action. The long-term health of our offshore coastal fishery should provide adequate motivation for our state to work with its federal and basin partners to reduce nutrient loads to the river and Gulf.
Action Network/executive director, Louisiana EnvironmentalLower Mississippi Riverkeeper