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"Dead Zone" growing in Bay of Green Bay

A Tall ship sailing into the mouth of the Fox River on the Bay of Green Bay. (Photo by: BCantrall/Released under the GNU Free Documentation License)
A Tall ship sailing into the mouth of the Fox River on the Bay of Green Bay. (Photo by: BCantrall/Released under the GNU Free Documentation License)

GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - The Bay of Green Bay has a growing “dead zone” where virtually all fish, worms, and insects cannot survive because there’s not enough oxygen in the water.

In a public Web seminar Thursday, Tracy Valenta of the Green Bay Metro Sewerage District said the dead zone starts about 8 miles northeast of the city – and it can go for up to 30 miles from there.

Wave and weather patterns are blamed, along with phosphorus runoff from the Fox River which feeds into the bay.

The dead zone is similar to others found in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico.

Valenta said the Green Bay dead zone could cover as much as 40 percent of that waterway. The lack of oxygen has been a concern for many years, but Valenta says it appears to be getting worse.

Back in 1990, there were only four summer days when the bay’s oxygen was measured at below life-sustaining levels. In 2011, there were 43 such days.

It’s not clear how many fish have been affected. Officials said thousands of round gobies floated ashore in 2005 and 2011 as they desperately searched for air.

Lyman Welch of the Alliance for the Great Lakes says the Green Bay dead zone shows a need to limit phosphorus runoff from farms and other sources. He says agriculture is a bigger contributor to the problem, but all sectors work together to get it solved.

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