Lake Champlain stands to benefit from the $1 trillion spending plan recently signed into law by President Obama.
Almost $4.4 million is targeted for water quality restoration and monitoring efforts on Lake Champlain; the funds will be administered by the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP). LCBP Director, Bill Howland, said the money could support about 100 projects around the lake. LCBP received only $1.4 million last year.
One example of such a project might be hiring technicians to provide engineering plans that prevent manure runoff to farmers. The farmers could then apply for USDA money to help with implementing the plan. Last summer the USDA awarded Vermont $45 million to improve agricultural practices.
“It’s kind of a behind-the-scenes support program that really makes our dollars leverage a lot of other federal dollars,” ~ Bill Howland, Director of the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
Howland said the money will help LCBP continue water quality and biological monitoring programs. This is the single largest expense -about $500,000 per year, according to Howland. Other uses of the money will include preventing the spread of invasive water chestnuts, inspecting boats for invasive species, planting winter rye to prevent topsoil erosion, and other water quality improvement efforts.
Vermont’s Senator Patrick Leahy supported the expansion of the EPA budget to administer the national water quality program. Leahy played a key role in the negotiation of the budget as the senior member on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“We have invested far too much and for far too long in the restoration and preservation of Lake Champlain to walk back on that commitment. With new federal requirements forcing Vermont, New York and all of our Lake partners to make difficult decisions about how to maintain our ‘Great Lake,’ this federal support will go a long way toward preserving one of Vermont’s greatest natural resources for generations to come.” ~ U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
The EPA is requiring Vermont to reduce the amount of phosphorus loading into Lake Champlain through a plan that establishes a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of phosphorus. Vermont proposed a plan last summer, and is now pursuing funding sources to implement the plan.
In April, David Mears, Vermont’s Commissioner for Environmental Conservation, went to Washington, D.C., seeking federal funding for Lake Champlain. He described his efforts to find federal money as sobering when he returned to Vermont. Now, he said it looks like it has been a good year. Mears said, “We’re off to an awfully good start.”
According to Mears, Vermont applied for a $20 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program Grant, as authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The state has also applied for an AmeriCorps program to work on water quality issues in Vermont communities.
According to Leahy’s office, the state has also received $3.5 million from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to protect aquatic wildlife in Lake Champlain, about $450,000 from the State Department to monitor flooding along the lake, $300,000 from the National Park Service, and $4 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Aquatic Plant Control Program to control the spread of invasive water chestnuts in southern sections of the lake.
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