Last September the 12 states of the Hypoxia Task Force decided to set several goals to address runoff that heads down the Mississippi River into an ecological disaster area in the Gulf of Mexico.
The dead zone that pollutants create was last measured at roughly the size of Connecticut, but the task force last week announced it wants to shrink that area by about two-thirds by 2035.
Originally, the task force intended to shrink the area by 2015, but Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, who co-chairs the task force, says the world was a different place in 1999, when that target date of 2015 was set.
He says, "The thought at that time was there would be at least a billion dollars investment in the states. Well, you know September 11th of 2001 and all the challenges that came with that. Those federal dollars didn't come. We started to see some federal dollars come recently in the Mississippi River Basin initiative. The regional conservation partnership program. But that's just happened recently. And we went from the federal government kind of leading that effort to the states leading the effort."
In order to realize its goal of a two-thirds reduction of the size of dead zone by 2035, the task force is now aiming to reduce the amount of nutrients heading down the Mississippi River by 20 percent within the next decade.