An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force

HTF 2008 Action Plan: Action Items

The 2008 Action Plan outlines eleven key action items that provide a framework for reducing inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Gulf and give direction to the goals of advancing the science, tracking progress and raising awareness of gulf hypoxia. These action items are designed to:

  • Encourage and advance the continued implementation of cost-effective, voluntary, incentive-based best management practices and conservation practices at the local and regional level, and
  • Advance the adaptive management approach and periodically reassess the state of the science, keep track of progress of both environmental measures and programmatic actions, and seek to continually engage involved stakeholders in order to maximize results.

States and Tribes within the entire Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin and Federal agencies will use these action items as a guide while working together to take action to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone and protect and restore the human and natural resources of the Mississippi River Basin.

Actions to Accelerate the Reduction of Nitrogen and Phosphorus

Complete and implement comprehensive nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies for states within the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin encompassing watersheds with significant contributions of nitrogen and phosphorus to the surface waters of the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin, and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

Complete and implement comprehensive nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies for appropriate basin-wide programs and projects. Target first those programs and projects with significant federal lead or co-implementation responsibilities.

While developing comprehensive state and federal nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies and continuing current reduction efforts, examine and, where possible, implement opportunities to enhance protection of the Gulf and local water quality through existing federal and state water quality, water management, and conservation programs.

Actions to Advance the Science, Track Progress and Raise Awareness

Develop and promote more efficient and cost-effective conservation practices and management practices for conserving nutrients within the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin watershed and evaluate their effectiveness at all scales beginning with local watersheds and aggregating them up to the scale of the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin.

Identify and, where possible, quantify the effects of the hypoxic zone on the economic, human and natural resources in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin and Northern Gulf of Mexico, including the benefits of actions to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus and the costs of alternative management strategies.

Coordinate, consolidate, and improve access to data collected by State and Federal agencies on Gulf Hypoxia and Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin program activities and results.

Track interim progress on the actions to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus by producing an annual report on federal and state program nutrient reduction activities and results.

Continue to reduce existing scientific uncertainties identified in the Science Advisory Board and MMR workgroup reports regarding source, fate, and transport of nitrogen and phosphorus in the surface waters of the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin to continually improve the accuracy of management tools and efficacy of management strategies for nutrient reductions.

Continue to reduce uncertainty about the relationship between nitrogen and phosphorus loads and the formation, extent, duration, and severity of the hypoxic zone, to best monitor progress toward, and inform adaptive management of the Coastal Zone.

Promote effective communications to increase awareness of hypoxia and support the act ivies of the Task Force.

In five years (2013) reassess nitrogen and phosphorus load reductions, the response of the hypoxic zone, changes in water quality throughout the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin, and the economic and social effects, including changes in land use and management, of the reductions in terms of the goals of this Action Plan. Evaluate how current policies and programs affect the management decisions made by industrial and agricultural producers, evaluate lessons learned, and determine appropriate actions to continue to implement or, if necessary, revise this strategy.