March 01, 2013

Nutrients in the Heartland: Regulatory and Legal Issues Surrounding the Mighty Mississippi

"The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise."

—Mark Twain in Eruption


Last year, the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” spanned 2,889 square miles along the Louisiana and Texas shores. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Hypoxia in the News. An area is considered “dead” when the dissolved oxygen levels fall below the threshold needed to support most aquatic life. Although the 2012 dead zone was the smallest in size since 2000, it still encompassed an area approximately the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Id. Beyond the obvious concern for the well-being of aquatic life, there is an economic concern caused by the dead zone, because $2.8 billion is generated annually from the Gulf’s fishery resources. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Problem of Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, at 7.

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