An effort to clean up Lake Champlain is moving forward, and state and federal officials are looking for input on a recently released draft proposal to reduce the amount of phosphorus being carried into the lake.
Because much of the pollution comes in runoff from fields and yards, the proposal has many implications for agriculture.
Other major components of the plan focus on stormwater, river channel stability, forestry management, and watershed protection and restoration.
Six meetings have been scheduled beginning next week as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state seek comments on the draft “Proposal for a Clean Lake Champlain.”
The document represents the state’s efforts to reduce water pollution flowing into Lake Champlain that is degrading the lake’s health.
Pollution is causing algae growth that makes the lake unsafe at certain times of the year. That hurts business, recreation, tourism and property values, according to a news release about the meetings.
The lake “is a source of fun and enjoyment for all of us across the four seasons, and it’s a critical component of our state’s heritage, culture and economy,” said David Mears, Vermont’s environmental conservation commissioner, in the release.
The rivers and streams that feed Champlain are also affected by the polluted runoff.
One of the main culprits in the algae outbreaks is phosphorus, not from sewer systems but in runoff that filters through yards and fields and into streams feeding the lake.
The document says, “Phosphorus loading to Lake Champlain is dominated by ‘nonpoint sources,’ which are generated by runoff and erosion across the landscape, as opposed to ‘point sources’ such as wastewater and certain stormwater discharges that are conveyed by a pipe and are more closely regulated.”
The document contains many considerations for the agriculture industry.
“We are proposing solutions that restore our treasured Lake Champlain, and which also preserve our working landscape of farms and forests,” said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross in the news release.
Controlling runoff from roads and highways and changes in road design are also considered in the document.
“The very things that we do to make our transportation system more resilient can also serve to reduce polluted runoff and help control erosion,” said Transportation Secretary Brian Searles in the release.
The meetings are all slated to run two hours.
The first meetings are Monday at 2 p.m. in St. Albans and 7 p.m. in Swanton.
Tuesday there will be a meeting at 9:30 a.m. in Montpelier in the auditorium of the Pavilion Building at 109 State St.
On Dec. 10, meetings will be held at 2 p.m. at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington and at 7 p.m. in the Founders Room at the Middlebury Inn.
The final meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 11 in the Fox Room at the Rutland Free Library.
The public can submit comments on the draft document to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation by Jan. 17.
“During these upcoming meetings, we are eager to hear from Vermonters,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of the EPA’s New England office, in the news release. “We need to take big steps to improve water quality in the lake, and this is an opportunity for people to help shape a plan to protect their lake for their kids and grandkids to enjoy.”
The draft document can be found online at: www.watershedmanagement.vt.gov/erp/champlain.
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