September 12, 2000
Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Action Plan
c/o U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20460
On behalf of the State of Illinois, I am writing to provide my general comments to the "Action Plan for Reducing, Mitigating and Controlling Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico." As indicated in our previous correspondence on this matter-most recently to the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Working Group-we remain deeply concerned about the Action Plan recommendations and the scientific and technical basis under which these recommendations were developed.
As prescribed by the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 (the Act), the federal and state executives were to cooperatively develop and submit a plan to reduce hypoxia in the Gulf. This simply did not occur. States such as Illinois have not been adequately consulted and when allowed to address specific issues, have largely been ignored. We believe it would be appropriate, prior to adoption of the Action Plan, to respond to all relevant issues put forward by the states. Not only is this the clear intent of the Act, proceeding at this point with unresolved issues will jeopardize the efforts of the federal and state agencies to cooperatively put in place appropriate regulatory and voluntary control programs to address hypoxia issues.
On several occasions in the past, we have attempted to point out significant concerns regarding the inadequacy of the cause and effect relationship proposed to explain Gulf hypoxia. The conclusions reached and the basis for the Action Plan are in need of further research prior to setting forth on expensive and wide-ranging plans to control land uses and revise water quality protection programs.
We cannot overstate the need for careful analysis of the Action Plan's cost to agriculture, businesses and municipalities within the Mississippi River basin. As shown in the more detailed comments from members of my cabinet--Directors Hampton, Manning and Skinner of the Illinois Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency, respectively-the impact on agriculture in this state will be extraordinary. While these potential adverse effects on a major sector of our economy alone should be sufficient to insure that all outstanding questions concerning the links between nutrient loads from the upper Mississippi River basin and hypoxia are resolved, we are equally concerned that point sources-businesses, cities and sanitary districts-will bear the regulatory brunt of stringent proposed nutrient reduction goals that would not otherwise be required to protect waters of Illinois.
The Action Plan should not go forward without proper consultation of the states, re-evaluation of the scientific basis and a comprehensive assessment of the costs of eliminating hypoxia in the Gulf. We remain committed to an open and cooperative process for assessment of the hypoxia problem and formulation of an equitable and implementable plan for addressing clearly defined contributors.
GEORGE H. RYAN