Ag Policy Blog

Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Mirrors Iowa

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Environmentalists and others who contend the only way to reduce nutrients runoff into the Gulf of Mexico is through regulation, may not be happy with the release of the final Illinois nutrient loss reduction strategy Tuesday that is a virtual copy of the Iowa strategy hammered on by critics as 'too soft.'

In a news release Tuesday the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said it believes the best strategy to reducing runoff comes through the adoption of a number of voluntary conservation measures.

"The strategy does not call for new regulations for either point or non-point sources; however, it does rely on the latest science and best available technologies to guide statewide efforts to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen losses that impact Illinois waterways and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico," the release said.

Illinois EPA Director Lisa Bonnett said in a news release statement collaboration among a variety of stakeholders was the best way to create a working plan.

"Illinois EPA appreciates the collaboration of our partners and the public to make this strategy an action plan that Illinois is committed to implementing," she said. "By building on and scaling up the work that municipalities, sanitary districts, farmers and landowners are already doing to reduce nutrient losses, we will be able to make great strides in protecting Illinois rivers, lakes and streams, as well as reducing our contribution to Gulf of Mexico hypoxia."

The Illinois strategy outlines best-management practices to reduce nutrient losses from point sources such as wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, as well as non-point sources including agriculture and cities. In addition, the Illinois strategy sets the same reduction goal as adopted in Iowa.

"It uses scientific assessments to target the most critical watersheds and to build upon existing state and industry programs," the news release said. "The goal is to reduce the amount of total phosphorus and nitrate-nitrogen reaching Illinois waters by 45%."

According to a fact sheet from the Illinois EPA, the plan "will help the state reduce its phosphorus load by 25% and its nitrate-nitrogen load by 15% by 2025."

The strategy includes extending ongoing regulatory and voluntary efforts, identifying priority watersheds for nutrient reduction efforts, establishes the Nutrient Monitoring Council to monitor water quality, and establishes the Nutrient Science Advisory Committee to develop numeric nutrient criteria for Illinois waters.

The overall strategy is to identify strategies for improving collaboration among government, non-profits and industry groups. In addition, it creates a working group to measure progress in reducing nutrients runoff.

The final strategy was met with approval by the Illinois Farm Bureau.

"The Illinois Farm Bureau supports the NLRS because it relies on education, outreach and voluntary incentive-based practices to fulfill agriculture's role in reducing nutrient losses," said Lauren Lurkins, director of Natural and Environmental Resources. "IFB worked diligently to help develop the NLRS. In awaiting the final strategy, IFB has been involved in extensive outreach to raise farmer awareness. IFB will continue its active participation in the work group, as well as its leadership in raising awareness and encouraging Illinois farmers to implement the strategy on their own farms."

Part of the strategy takes advantage of work already done by Illinois ag retailers to implement "4R nutrient practices" including right source, rate, time and place, for applying nutrients.

Even before the state of Iowa could fully implement its voluntary strategy, Des Moines Water Works filed a lawsuit against 10 drainage districts and county supervisors in three northwest Iowa counties. DMWW Manager Bill Stowe told DTN in an interview that he believes the voluntary strategy isn't working, although it has been in existence for fewer than three years.

The final version of the Illinois strategy and additional information is available here, http://www.epa.illinois.gov/…

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Curt Zingula
7/23/2015 | 7:27 AM CDT
Bill Stowe's initials create an appropriate acronym. Collaboration is already working in Iowa. I attended a conservation tour last month in which the engineer of a bio-reactor informed us that this cost-share structure provided a valuable learning experience. Will millions of dollars spent on a law suit do that?!