Working to protect the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities area

Minnesota releases draft nutrient reduction strategy

Minnesota is one of 12 states along the Mississippi River that is working to develop cleanup plans for the excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) that impact the Mississippi and cause the hypoxic “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. Minnesota’s draft nutrient reduction strategy is now open for public comment until Dec. 18, 2013.

FMR will submit comments asking the state to take strong action to ensure that the ambitious goals of this report are backed up with policy, funding, and accountability mechanisms that hold the state’s largest polluters accountable for clean, healthy waters.

Goals

The state of Minnesota has proposed reductions that allow the state to meet goals established by the U.S. EPA of 45% reduction in nutrient pollution to the Gulf of Mexico.

Phosphorus milestones for the Mississippi River
  • 35% reduction by 2025
  • 45% reduction by 2045
Nitrogen milestones for the Mississippi River
  • 20% reduction by 2025
  • 45% reduction by 2045

While these goals are strong, FMR and our partners lack confidence that the state has the tools to meet these goals. As Minnesota’s recent nitrate pollution study reveals, 78% of nitrate pollution to the Mississippi River is from agricultural sources — primarily from agricultural drain tiles that leach nitrate polluted water into our surface waters.

These nitrate pollution levels are increasing, despite the substantial investment of taxpayer dollars in conservation. Since 1976, nitrate concentrations in the metro Mississippi River have increased by 47% measured at Hastings.

Given that field agriculture is currently exempt from Clean Water Act regulations, we have little faith that purely voluntary conservation practices will result in meaningful reductions in nitrate pollution to Minnesota’s surface waters.

However, we are committed to working with our partners in the water quality community, as well as state agencies and agricultural leaders, to ensure that meaningful accountability mechanisms are developed to ensure that these ambitious nutrient reduction goals can be met.