Missouri announces $1M plan to reduce runoff harming Gulf of Mexico

(The Center Square) – The Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced on Tuesday a $1 million plan to address harm created by nutrients flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River.

Missouri and 11 other states with borders along the Mississippi River or tributaries feeding into it — Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin — are working to address factors creating seasonal dead zones in the gulf. Each state developed, and is executing, specific strategies to be implemented using federal funds earmarked for these specific projects.

“Heavy rains and melting snows washed massive amounts of nutrients – particularly nitrogen and phosphorus – from lawns, sewage treatment plants, farm land and other sources along the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico,” according to the Nature Conservancy. “Once in the Gulf, these nutrients, which are required for plant and crop growth, trigger algae blooms that choke off oxygen in water and make it difficult, if not impossible, for marine life to survive.”

The $110 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in November 2021, included $60 million in funding over five years to states and tribes working to end the “Gulf Hypoxic Zone.” Missouri received $965,000 in December 2022 for five projects:

  • A dashboard to monitor reducing nutrients in state-level water quality and conservation programs to evaluate current practices;
  • expansion of monitoring at four U.S. Geological Survey stations on the Missouri, Mississippi and Grand rivers;
  • assessing wastewater treatment strategies to reduce nutrients without requiring municipalities to make large capital expenditures;
  • a new public education exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center to raise awareness of Gulf Hypoxia;
  • a grant to Lincoln University to study hydrologic flow paths and nutrient tracking models.

A media release from the Department of Natural Resources said its goal is to improve local water quality and reduce statewide nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.

“We hope to share this work not only within our own state, but also to collaborate with other states that are conducting similar projects,” Chris Wieberg, director the department’s Water Protection Program, said in a statement.

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