Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mississippi River Water Quality Monitoring Framework Announced

Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the formation of a Federal Mississippi River Water Quality Monitoring Framework on October 25 at The Horinko Group's Second Annual Water Resources Summit.

While indicating that a more formal announcement and additional details would follow, Mills stated that a major purpose of the Framework would be to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation measures targeted for high-priority watersheds through the USDA's Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (known as MRBI), initiated and managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Through the MRBI, NRCS works with conservation partners and agricultural producers in a 13-state Initiative area to address nutrient loading to the Mississippi River Basin. Monitoring the effectiveness of the targeted efforts is seen as key to measuring the Initiative's success and need for refinement.

Through the new Framework, Mills said, a tiered protocol of monitoring would be established, pooling the monitoring resources of several federal entities.   Sample results from "edge of field" monitoring would be collected under the auspices of NRCS cost-sharing farm bill grant programs, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey would monitor MRBI effectiveness in first and second order receiving streams in the River Basin.  Data from the River Basin monitoring by other Federal agencies and departments (such as the Army Corps of Engineers) will also be collected and evaluated through the Framework's collaborative efforts.

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