History of the Hypoxia Task Force
The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force was established in the fall of 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.
In 2001, the Task Force released the 2001 Action Plan, a national strategy to reduce Gulf hypoxia based on the science of a significant effort called the Integrated Assessment that was led by the White House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. The Task Force embarked on a 4-year reassessment of the science surrounding Gulf hypoxia since the release the 2001 Action Plan to produce a revised Action Plan. The Task Force released a revised action plan in 2008. The member states and federal agencies continue to implement the 2008 Action Plan.
In May of 1998, the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force was issued a charter, setting forth its mission, roles and responsibilities, and members.
2001 Action Plan & Reassessment
Action item 11 of the 2001 Action Plan called for an assessment of progress in achieving the three goals of the Action Plan (Coastal, Within Basin, and Quality of Life) and for decisions on a future course of action. The call for a reassessment resulted in several products including a proposal and timeline for the process, several symposia, teams to compile data, a Science Advisory Panel and background documents.
Proposal for Reassessment Process
The Task Force approved a draft Action Plan Reassessment Proposal on June 3, 2005. On February 22, 2006 the Task Force released an Updated Timeline and Process.
As part of the reassessment, the Task Force conducted four symposia and one workshop. The purpose was to assess the current state of the science of hypoxia. View information about the symposia and workshop.
The Task Force also created two teams, the Management Action Reassessment Team (MART) and the Science Reassessment Team (SRT), to undertake the initial compiling and updating of the data for the reassessment. Each team summarized available data, identified gaps and limitations in existing information and activities, and proposed additional activities and assessments to close the gaps.
Science Advisory Board
In 2006, EPA requested that a Science Advisory Board (SAB) conduct an evaluation of the complex scientific and technical issues affecting the causes, location, magnitude, and duration of the hypoxic zone in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, as well as the priority and feasibility of management and control options in the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf to reduce it. The SAB Hypoxia Panel reviewed background reports and research efforts (including research discussed through the four science symposia) and sought public comments on the issue. The result of these efforts was the 2007 Science Advisory Board Report on Gulf Hypoxia.
2008 Action Plan
The updated 2008 Action Plan, informed by the 2007 SAB Report, calls for state strategies and a dual nutrient reduction effort. The 2008 Action Plan called for a Reassessment in 2013, and that was done as a short summary document.
Task Force Annual Reports and Annual Operating Plans
From 2009 to 2011, the Task Force released Annual Reports designed to track interim progress on the actions taken to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin. The Task Force also developed Annual Operating Plans from 2008 to 2011 that are a compilation of actions that state and federal members of the Task Force have planned to undertake during the listed years to implement the Action Plan.
State Nutrient Reduction Strategies
The HTF recognizes that state Nutrient Reduction Strategies are the cornerstone for reducing nutrient loads to the gulf and throughout the Basin, as only states have the authorities, with strong support from federal partners, to achieve the nutrient loss reductions needed to meet the goal. States publish their strategies and reports on thier own websites.
Reports to Congress
The Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2014 (HABHRCA) directs EPA, through the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, to submit a progress report to the appropriate congressional committees and the President beginning no later than 12 months after the law’s enactment, and biennially thereafter.