Mississippi Delta Nutrient Reduction Strategies Implementation Projects

Seven (7) watersheds have been selected for implementation of the Delta Nutrient Reduction Strategies (DNRS). These watersheds are impaired by nutrients and have completed TMDLs. Three (3) of the watershed restoration projects are new and the remaining four (4) are existing projects that provide opportunities in which to implement the nutrient reduction strategy (i.e., nutrient targets established by TMDLs, active local watershed teams, local watershed plans that can be expanded to include nutrient reduction activities, etc.). These watersheds are identified below:

  • Harris Bayou (HUC # 0803020703), Bolivar and Coahoma Counties [new project – began in March 2010 – currently under progress];
  • Porter Bayou (HUC #080320705), Bolivar and Sunflower Counties [new project – began in March 2010 – currently under progress];
  • Coldwater River (HUC #0803020407, #0803020408, #0803020409, #0803020410, #0803020411), Coahoma, Desoto, Panola, Quitman, and Tunica Counties [new project – began in August 2012 – currently under progress];
  • Bee Lake (HUC # 080302060407), Holmes County [existing project – retrofitted for DNRS implementation in January 2011- currently under progress];
  • Lake Washington (HUC # 0803020903), Washington County [existing project – retrofitted for DNRS implementation in April 2009 – currently under progress];
  • Steele Bayou (HUC #0803020903, #0803020904, #0803020905, #0803020906), Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren and Washington Counties [existing project (2006-2009) – currently in the development for DNRs implementation]; and
  • Wolf/Broad Lake (HUC #0803020609), Humphreys and Yazoo Counties [existing project (2008-2011) – currently in the development for DNRS implementation].

§319 NPS funding provides the foundational resource support for these projects. The flexibility of §319 NPS funding (which can be used for planning, implementation, monitoring, education, and other outreach applications) creates collaboration and leveraging opportunities through existing and newly-created partnerships for effective and efficient utilization of available resources.

A tiered monitoring approach is called for by the Delta Nutrient Reduction Strategies. This tiered approach will seek to quantify changes in water quality at the landscape/edge-of-field and watershed scales. To implement the monitoring strategy and address temporal monitoring and assessment issues, resources from multiple sources are being leveraged. Agencies/organizations contributing resources include USEPA §319 NPS and §106 CWA, USDA NRCS, USGS, USACE, NOAA, and others. Another feature is the development of a standardized Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) to achieve data comparability goals. Key questions that the monitoring and assessment strategy will seek to answer include:

  • What load reductions are achievable?
  • What are the costs of the reductions?
  • What are the environmental and socioeconomic benefits?
  • How do we implement the strategies?

Implementation of this tiered monitoring and assessment strategy will provide the information necessary to determine the status of water bodies in the watersheds; estimate nutrient reductions, associated costs, and benefits (i.e., ecosystem services) at an ecoregional, basinwide, or statewide level; develop realistic TMDL load reduction targets; determine the effectiveness of the nutrient reduction strategy (and what revisions might be necessary); quantify the effectiveness of innovative BMPs; and support nutrient criteria development.

The seven nutrient reduction watershed projects are based upon the precept of actively identifying and pursuing collaboration and leveraging opportunities among partners and programs to maximize the efficient use of available resources. A significant leveraging opportunity was created during late 2009 with the announcement by USDA NRCS of a major funding effort to improve the health of the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf of Mexico through its Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). The purpose of MRBI is to address water quality resource concerns by reducing the downstream effects of nutrient loading of phosphorus and nitrogen. This voluntary effort will work through existing NRCS programs including Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) programs (i.e., EQIP, WHIP, CSP), Wetlands Reserve Enhancement, and Conservation Innovation Grants. At least $80 million in funding is being made available for twelve Mississippi River Basin states during each of the next four years.

Significant partnerships have been established to support planning and implementation of the Delta Nutrient Reduction Strategies in these watershed projects. These include local agricultural producers, Delta F.A.R.M., Delta Wildlife, Mississippi Soil & Water Conservation Commission, local Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Extension Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USDA Agricultural Research Service National Sedimentation Lab, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program Office, Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District, Mississippi Levee Board, The Nature Conservancy, and local watershed teams.

The management practices proposed for implementing the nutrient reduction strategies are comprehensive in scope and include water management, input management, established and innovative best management practices, and point source treatment. Nonpoint source implementation practices will follow USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Systems Approach – Avoiding, Controlling, and Trapping – and will implement appropriate core and supporting practices. Special emphasis will be on those management practices that can achieve the mutual benefits of nutrient reduction and enhanced storage and reuse of surface water. An additional feature of the nutrient reduction watershed projects is the design, implementation, and assessment of innovative nutrient reduction practices.

Over 50 staff from twenty-three (23) federal, state and local resource agencies in Mississippi are working together with local agricultural producers and other stakeholders to implement a comprehensive nutrient reduction strategies in the Delta, Mississippi’s primary row-crop agricultural and aquacultural region. Seven (7) watersheds have been initially selected with significant resources being leveraged to support implementation of the strategies. Because of the similarities of the goals, objectives, and core and supporting management practices of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative and the Delta Nutrient Reduction Strategies, additional opportunities have been created to leverage the resources generated from these two endeavors. Such leveraging could lead to more comprehensive implementation of the nutrient reduction strategies, improved quantification of results, and a higher likelihood of achieving the goals and objectives of both endeavors.

Click on the links below for information on the watershed implementation plans (WIP) for these seven (7) projects:

For additional information concerning these projects, please contact Mr. Pradip Bhowal, MDEQ Basin Management Branch, at (601) 961-5082.