NRDC Calls for Full Congressional Funding of "Dead Zone" Action Plan

WASHINGTON (January 18, 2001) - NRDC (The Natural Resources Defense Council) today joined local environmental groups in the Mississippi River basin to call for full funding of a federal-state-tribal "Dead Zone" action plan to reduce nitrogen pollution in the Mississippi River basin and the Gulf of Mexico.

"This plan presents a major opportunity to breathe life back into the Dead Zone," says Nancy Stoner, director of the Clean Water Project at NRDC. "But it won’t happen unless it is fully funded by Congress and aggressively implemented by the federal and state governments that endorsed it."

Every year, a "dead zone" in which no living thing can survive develops in the Gulf of Mexico because of excess nitrogen pollution in the Mississippi River basin. The Dead Zone puts fishermen and coastal communities at potential risk by killing the fish and the shrimp they harvest and by inundating the coast with jellyfish. The Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force Action Plan will guide federal and state efforts to address the dead zone for years to come.

"It represents a real opportunity to restore wetlands, and protect watershed health, drinking water and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico," says Stoner.

The plan’s specific goal is to reduce the Dead Zone to about one-third of its current size by 2015. To do that, it will require strong regulations of point sources of pollution and effective voluntary programs for non-point sources, such as runoff from pesticide-laden fields.

"We can alleviate Gulf hypoxia using the same techniques we use to clean up nutrients in waterways upriver," Stoner explains. "Some of these efforts are already underway. We just have to expand them."