Pat Quinn, Governor
Public Comment Period for Illinois Nutrient Reduction Strategy
On November 25, 2014, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture announced the public comment period for the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. The public is invited to provide comments on a new statewide effort designed to improve local water quality in Illinois and the Gulf of Mexico. Public comments on the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy must be postmarked by midnight on January 24, 2015. To view the strategy and related information, view the link below.
Illinois Statewide Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy
The impact of excess nitrogen and phosphorus in Illinois rivers, lakes, streams and the Gulf of Mexico is a very high profile water quality issue. Under the right conditions, nutrients can cause excessive algal blooms, low oxygen and nuisance conditions that adversely impact aquatic life, drinking water and recreational uses of the water.
Nutrients can come from many sources, including:
In other words, most aspects of modern society contribute to this pollution problem. The proportion of loading to a particular waterbody from these sources varies from watershed to watershed, and includes point sources and non-point sources, in both urban and agricultural landscapes.
Illinois EPA hosted meetings in 2010 for stakeholders representing government, environmental groups, municipal and industrial wastewater dischargers, agricultural groups, academia, non-governmental organizations and consulting firms with an interest in the topic of nutrient pollution. This was the beginning of a collaborative, problem-solving process to craft a Statewide Nutrient Reduction Strategy to address excess nutrients in Illinois waters and the Gulf of Mexico.
March 2013 Strategy Development Kick-off Meeting
On March 11, 2013, Illinois EPA hosted a meeting of stakeholders to announce that development of a statewide Nutrient Reduction Strategy was beginning. Approximately 100 attendees were present, representing the agricultural community, wastewater dischargers, environmental groups, government, technical assistance providers and academia. Attendees were welcomed by Warren Goetsch, Illinois Department of Agriculture, who identified that the 2008 Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Action Plan includes development of statewide nutrient reduction strategies by states in the Mississippi River Basin. A presentation was given by Dr. Mark David, University of Illinois, outlining a science assessment that will identify baseline nutrient loading conditions, current practices, critical watersheds, potential nutrient reductions under various scenarios, and cost estimates for implementation. Finally, Marcia Willhite, Illinois EPA, gave a presentation that summarized current Illinois programs addressing nutrient pollution and the USEPA framework for state strategies.
University of Illinois Science Assessment
The University of Illinois began conducting in March 2013 a scientific assessment to support an Illinois Nutrient Reduction Strategy. This project will compile a comprehensive statewide assessment of the current conditions and practices affecting nutrient losses to Illinois waters. The assessment will identify and assess nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) inputs and management practices, including current cropping practices, phosphorus losses, develop nutrient balance to understand the direction of soil pools, identify and estimate point source influences and determine total nitrogen, nitrate, total phosphorus and dissolved reactive phosphorus loads leaving the state annually. A report will be developed outlining costs and associated load reductions, including a discussion of effectiveness expectation for each practice identified. The project will identify critical watersheds that will be used by nutrient strategy developers to prioritize watersheds in Illinois for implementation. The project will also include the development of scenarios for reductions that might be achieved, costs of implementing each scenario and percent of reduction achieved by each scenario. The first project report was submitted on July 1, 2013, and results will be presented at the first Policy Working Group meeting.
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group
The task of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group will be to formulate the actions steps for the strategy document, using the results of the science assessment, to craft a strategy (action plan) that is effective and implementable. The Policy Working Group will consist of several representatives from various sectors: agriculture, government, environmental groups and wastewater technical assistance providers. The Policy Working Group will focus on the following tasks:
Urban Nonpoint Source
Ag Nonpoint Source
Other State Nutrient Reduction Strategies
States continue to develop state nutrient reduction strategies that contain tailored methods for reducing nutrients in their state. While some states continue to work on completing draft and final documents, some states have already completed their strategies:
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, August 8, 2013: Illinois EPA Headquarters
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, September 18, 2013: Asmark Agricenter, Bloomington
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, October 18, 2013: Sangamo Training Room, IEPA Headquarters, Springfield
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, November 13, 2013: NRCS Illinois State Office, Champaign
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, January 15, 2014: Asmark Agricenter, Bloomington
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, February 19, 2014: Illini Center, Chicago
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, March 19, 2014: Illinois Department of Agriculture, Springfield
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, April 16, 2014: Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District Office-Urbana
Nutrient Reduction Strategy Policy Working Group, May 19, 2014: Illinois EPA Headquarters-Springfield
Planned Discussion Topics and Goals for Future Meetings/Subcommittees
Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force and Action Plan
The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force was established in 1997 to understand the causes and effects of eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico; coordinate activities to reduce the size, severity, and duration; and ameliorate the effects of hypoxia. Activities include coordinating and supporting nutrient management activities from all sources, restoring habitats to trap and assimilate nutrients, and supporting other hypoxia related activities in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico watersheds.
The role of the Task Force, which includes federal and state agencies, is to provide executive level direction and support for coordinating the actions of participating organizations working on nutrient management within the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed.
The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force released the 2008 Action Plan, which describes a national strategy to reduce, mitigate and control hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin.
The 2008 Action Plan greatly increases accountability and specificity through the inclusion of an Annual Operating Plan and Annual Reports to maintain and track progress between reassessments, state-led nutrient reduction strategies, complementary federal strategies, and an outreach plan to engage many stakeholders.
Eleven key actions in the 2008 Action Plan outline critical needs to complete and implement nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies, promote effective conservation practices and management practices, track progress, reduce existing scientific uncertainties and promote effective communications to increase awareness of Gulf hypoxia.
Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative
Through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other federal and state agencies work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Mississippi River Basin.
NRCS has identified the Mississippi River Basin as a top priority due to water quality concerns, primarily related to the effects of nutrient loading on the health of local water bodies and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.
The 13-state initiative builds on the cooperative work of NRCS and its conservation partners in the basin, and offers agricultural producers in priority watersheds the opportunity for voluntary technical and financial assistance. The participating states are Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The initiative will build on the past efforts of producers, NRCS, partners, and other state and federal agencies in the 13-state initiative area by addressing nutrient loading in priority small watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin. The Illinois watersheds that were selected are:
State Nutrient Priority Watershed Maps
Illinois EPA recognizes Nutrient Priority Watersheds as a priority for planning and plan implementation every year. The criteria used to identify these watersheds included: guidance from U.S. EPA, and waters used as public water supplies that have approved Total Maximum Daily Load studies for Nitrate and Total Phosphorus.
Keep It for the Crop (KIC) by 2025
KIC by 2025 is a unified education and research program that encompasses Illinois commodity groups and agricultural organizations, agricultural input suppliers, the agribusiness industry, Council of Best Management Practices, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the University systems in Illinois and Illinois EPA. The Illinois agricultural industry and farmers are working collectively in the Nutrient Priority Watersheds to improve nutrient efficiency and reduce losses of nutrients by implementing enhanced nutrient stewardship practices with a goal of achieving acceptable water quality in Illinois surface waters and those waters leaving the State.
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