The Lake Champlain Basin Program awards $662,471 in grants to communities and organizations in Vermont and New York for implementing projects to improve the future of the Lake Champlain watershed.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, whose support was essential in securing the funds for the grants, commented, “These grants to scores of communities, watershed groups and other organizations on both sides of the Lake are so important in promoting and protecting our ‘Great Lake.’ Supporting these crucial efforts at the local level is exactly why it’s always among my highest priorities to bring funds to our Lake Champlain work.”
“Local NGOs and municipalities will use these funds to complete projects in every corner of the Lake Champlain watershed,” said Bill Howland, LCBP Director. “Local watershed groups also serve as strong community leaders delivering an appropriate blend of persuasion, education and, now and then, kicking butt at the local level, to prevent phosphorus and other pollutants from entering the watershed, said Howland. “Some partner up with public works crews to identify specific opportunities to prevent erosion from ditches and municipal parking lots. Other watershed groups help landowners to restore eroded streambanks through riparian plantings, reduce contamination at local beaches, and create programs that help students understand watershed problems and implement solutions.”
Denise Smith, Executive Director of the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, said “Thanks to LCBP, we will be able to implement a water conservation project at a key location in St. Albans Town, and we will be able to implement a direct outreach and education program about water quality to small and backyard farmers in our region. The partnership between LCBP and small local watershed groups in the Lake Champlain Basin is critical to the success of the Lake Champlain clean-up efforts and improving water quality in the State of Vermont.”
The LCBP grant searchable database summarizes all of the previous grant awards through the LCBP. Last year, for example, the Town of Moriah, NY used LCBP funds to stabilize an eroding shoreline in the Bulwagga Bay Campground where fine, sandy material would not readily support vegetative growth and was subject to severe erosion. Funds were used to create one of four engineered berms, 75 feet long, that contain soil amendments, trees, shrubs, and grass to stabilize the shoreline. “This area will now create habitat for wildlife, and the shade generated from the trees when they mature will benefit fish and other water organisms,” said Garrett Dague, Essex County Office of Community Resources. “This stabilization project was necessary to maintain a functional campground and public recreational facility, and will ultimately benefit the near-shore aquatic environment.”
With the Lake Champlain watershed containing thousands of miles of streambanks, including more than 680 main-stem miles along the largest rivers alone, a great deal of work still needs to be done. The LCBP encourages projects that promote citizen action to fix local problems such as stormwater runoff, improve recreational access, and proactively work to reduce the spread of aquatic nuisance species.
The total of all requests, some $1,081,635, indicates the very strong interest and need for local projects in the Lake Champlain Basin. The 68 grants to be awarded will support projects in four categories: Pollution Prevention and Habitat, Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention, Education and Outreach, and Organizational Support. The latter category supports local watershed groups for basic operating functions such as developing their websites and increasing their capacity to offer technical support on water quality issues. Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP) grants totaling $22,500 were also awarded. The CVNHP grants will support three projects in which youth will assist in developing interpretive, non-motorized water trails.
The grants were supported with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and National Park Service funds. This year, the Lake Champlain Basin Program requested assistance from 26 members of the public, representing a wide diversity of watershed interests, to carefully review and rank the applications before making grant funding recommendations to the LCBP’s Executive Committee. Since 1992, the LCBP has awarded more than $6.5 million to 918 projects in New York and Vermont in the competitive Local Grants programs. Funded projects cover all actions in the Lake Champlain management plan Opportunities for Action.