La. looking at nutrient management plan

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Four Louisiana agencies are gathering information on nutrients in watersheds across the state with an eye toward reducing their impact on the Gulf of Mexico and "dead zones."

The "dead zone" is an area of low oxygen that develops every spring and summer.

The dead zone forms because fertilizer and other nutrients run into the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf. The nutrients feed huge numbers of microscopic organisms.

When they die, their decomposition uses up oxygen. It is a recurring problem affecting sea life off the Louisiana coast, and sometimes the coasts of Mississippi and Texas.

The Louisiana State Nutrient Team is made up of representatives from the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Environmental Quality, and Department of Natural Resources.

State officials tells the Advocate (http://bit.ly/Z93NJf) that while Louisiana contributes very little to the total amount of nutrients, they are looking at reducing the problem with diversions of sediment and water from the river into surrounding marshes.

Rick Raynie, a scientist with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said plants in the marsh could remove some of the nutrients in the water, he said.

"We wanted to make sure those diversion projects were part of the solution," Raynie said.

For instance, DEQ is providing much of the stream information it collected through Clean Water Act requirements. That information will help determine what the plan will look like, said Amanda Vincent, environmental staff scientist with DEQ.

There's already quite a bit going on in the agriculture and forestry sections of the state with best management practices like conservation tillage and coverage crops that help keep nutrients in the soil instead of washing into the waterways, she said.

The state received a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop the plan, he said.

Raynie said the group will research existing programs and examine how the agencies can improve the way they work together.

A final draft is expected at the end of the year, he said.

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