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Gulf Hypoxia Task Force Holds First in Series of Monthly Webinars

On January 5th, EPA hosted the first in a series of virtual workshops (webinars) focusing on the elements of statewide nutrient reduction strategies and frameworks in the 12 states participating in the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force (HTF). This first webinar of the HTF Coordinating Committee brought together key state agencies (e.g., state water quality, agriculture, and natural resource agencies) to share approaches on developing the watershed prioritization component.

Louisiana and Missouri provided presentations and the other states shared information during the webinar on how they are prioritizing watersheds, on a statewide basis, for nitrogen and phosphorus loading reductions. Some of the highlights included:

  • All of the states are in varying stages of development for prioritizing their watersheds;
  • State water agencies are working with their state and Federal agricultural agency counterparts, as well as other stakeholders to prioritize their watersheds for both point source and nonpoint source (nps) nutrient pollution reductions (and the associated funding needs);
  • A few states specifically noted that they will include (or, have already included) drinking water supplies in their prioritization process;
  • Some downstream states are prioritizing some of their interior watersheds that are not directly affected by water quality problems coming from upstream states to maximize the results of their own efforts;
  • There is a pronounced lack of monitoring data to show water quality improvements from past efforts (e.g., converting to “no till” farming practices) that will also affect the ability for states to show changes in the future from these current efforts; and
  • Some states are concerned about their ability to implement nutrient strategies due to the lack of regulatory authorities as well as funding program restrictions; and
  • Each of the states has different regulatory authorities and policies that affect the way they are prioritizing watersheds. For example, Louisiana is addressing nitrogen and phosphorous through sediment impairments and Wisconsin is working on implementing NPDES permits using its newly developed phosphorous criteria.

State drinking water programs, particularly from the 12 HTF states, are encouraged to attend all of the future webinars that will be held once a month over the next six months on various elements of statewide nutrient strategy development. Stay tuned, the Agency has not yet finalized the dates and details.

EPA intends to develop a final report of these efforts before the Fall 2012 Gulf HTF meeting. For more information on the Task Force and Coordinating Committee, please go to:
http://water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/named/msbasin/members.cfm.