JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JAN. 3 n1, 2023 – Missouri and 11 other states bordering the Mississippi River are working together to address the different factors that together create seasonal dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Each partner state has developed and announced specific strategies that will be implemented over time using targeted federal funding. Last month, Missouri unveiled its state work plan to fight the dead zones and also received its first year of funding totaling nearly $1 million.
Every summer, thousands of acres in the Gulf of Mexico are severely impacted by seasonal temperature shifts combined with an influx of excess phosphorous, nitrogen and other nutrients. Transported by the Mississippi River, these nutrients increase the growth of dense algal blooms that spread throughout the Gulf, depleting oxygen and making a vast area of water deadly for fish and other marine life. This dead zone is known as the Gulf Hypoxic Zone.
As the steward of the Missouri Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, the Department of Natural Resources will implement five separate projects under the Gulf Hypoxia Program. In December, EPA awarded Missouri $965,000 to kick off these projects:
- Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracking Dashboard. This new tool will track nutrient reduction progress of state-level water quality and conservation programs. The dashboard will help to better target efforts locally, understand how well current practices are performing and allow for better-informed decisions.
- Expansion of Missouri’s Ambient Stream Nutrient Monitoring. This effort will increase monitoring capabilities at four U.S. Geological Survey water quality monitoring stations. The four stations were selected to better capture water quality conditions of the Missouri, Mississippi and Grand rivers.
- Missouri Municipal Wastewater Nutrient Optimization Pilot. This new project will assess the efficiency of different alternative wastewater treatment strategies for reducing nutrient loads without requiring municipal treatment facilities to make large capital expenditures.
- Gulf Hypoxia Outreach and Education Exhibit located at the St. Louis Science Center. The department will work with the science center to develop a new public education exhibit to raise awareness of nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf hypoxia, as well as actions the public can take to help reduce their nutrient pollution footprint.
- Refining Nutrient Reduction Models with Subsurface Nutrient Transport Measurement. Lincoln University will receive grant funding for a targeted research project, which will create a better understanding of hydrologic flow paths and more refined nutrient tracking models. Thanks to this research, management practices will be better assigned to specific land use situations, which ultimately will lead to more accelerated nutrient loss reductions.
“We hope to share this work not only within our own state, but also to collaborate with other states that are conducting similar projects,” said Chris Wieberg, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program and Missouri’s lead representative on the Hypoxia Task Force.
In November, the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized $60 million in federal funding over five years to states and tribes combatting the Gulf Hypoxic Zone. Missouri, along with its counterparts, will use the funding to develop innovative approaches to reduce nutrient loading from their respective states.
These approaches represent the department’s diverse approach to furthering the goals of Missouri’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, bringing together adaptive approaches to reduce nutrient pollution from point and nonpoint sources. The overarching goal is to improve local water quality and reduce statewide nutrient pollution that ends up in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.
To access a summary of Missouri’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxia plan, as well as Missouri’s complete Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, go to dnr.mo.gov/water/what-were-doing/water-planning/nutrient-loss-reduction-strategy.