Following River Report, Action Pursued to Protect the Mississippi
Friday, April 29, 2022
The Great Lakes, Puget Sound and other notable watersheds are afforded massive federal support to coordinate and fund pollution-reduction efforts. But the Mississippi River is not, and clean-water advocates contended a troubling report should spur action.
The Mississippi, which flows past ten states including Iowa, recently landed on American Rivers' ten most endangered rivers list for 2022.
Olivia Dorothy, Upper Mississippi River basin director for American Rivers, said the major river is at a crossroads. Despite existing programs and volunteer efforts to shield it from pollution such as agriculture runoff, she argued the patchwork approach is not enough.
"They're not all marching to the beat of the same drum," Dorothy asserted. "What we hope and what we've seen the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) do in other watersheds, the EPA does a really, really great job getting everybody working in lockstep."
Congress is being asked to approve the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative, which would provide around $300 million annually to aid a more coordinated response. Some skeptics have floated concerns about adding regulations, but supporters countered it does not come with mandates and would not take over existing restoration programs.
Alicia Vasto, program associate director for the Iowa Environmental Council, said threats such as farm fertilizer pollution not only affect communities along the Mississippi River, but other regions as well because of the numerous tributaries around the state.
"Anything that we do to protect the Mississippi River is also going to protect our, our local waterways and improve things for Iowans," Vasto contended.
Nutrients flow down the Mississippi to the so-called "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. At the state level, Vasto emphasized the report should prompt policymakers to enhance Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
The Council said it should include mandatory participation among farmers, so long as it is tailored to meet the size of each producer's operation.
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