quality issues, such as excess nutrient loading, requires more active coordination, and there is a distinct need for integrated management of water quality by all 10 states. For example, periodic meetings involving upper and lower Mississippi River water quality professionals, which could be convened by the EPA, would strengthen communication and collaboration among the 10 river states. Integration of water quality-related activities along the entire Mississippi River will require better coordination among the 10 Mississippi River mainstem states. The states will achieve far more by working cooperatively than by each state’s going it alone.
The EPA should encourage and support the efforts of all 10 Mississippi River states to effect regional coordination on water quality monitoring and planning and should facilitate stronger integration of state-level programs. The EPA has an opportunity to broker better interstate collaboration and thereby improve delivery of Clean Water Act-related programs, such as permitting, monitoring and assessment, and water quality standards development. The EPA should provide a commensurate level of resources to help realize this better coordination.
Better consistency and integration of Mississippi River water quality programs is inhibited by the fact that four EPA regions have responsibilities for different stretches of the Mississippi River. Cooperation regarding water quality standards and TMDL development is an example of intra-agency coordination that would yield immediate benefits for Mississippi River water quality management. Indeed, the EPA has recognized the importance of intra-agency coordination for more effective management of water quality in the Mississippi—but it has so far failed to meet this challenge effectively. A useful model of regional cooperation and EPA coordination, as explained in Chapter 4 of this report, is the Chesapeake Bay Program. Whatever the approach adopted, a strong EPA coordinating role is essential for water quality protection and improvement in the Mississippi River. The EPA administrator should ensure coordination among the four EPA regions along the Mississippi River corridor so that the regional offices act consistently with regard to water quality issues along the Mississippi River and in the northern Gulf of Mexico.