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Clean Water Week Highlights Vermont’s Waterways

Lake Champlain
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Lake Champlain

Governor Phil Scott has declared this week Vermont Clean Water Week.  The proclamation is intended to be an opportunity for businesses and groups around the state to highlight the importance of Vermont’s waterways.
During an announcement at the ECHO Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington, Governor Phil Scott declared August 20-26th Vermont’s first Clean Water Week.  The Republican noted that Vermont tourism generates $2.5 billion annually and much of it is attributed to the state’s waterways.  Outdoor recreation such as swimming, fishing and boating accounts for 34,000 jobs in the state, according to the governor.

Lake Champlain Basin Program Director Eric Howe says the proclamation reflects the state’s commitment to clean water.  “Just for the northern portion of the Lake Champlain watershed, which is probably about an eighth or so of the land area in Vermont, that area can account for up to $300 million in tourism revenue and property values just for that portion of the Lake Champlain watershed. So the entire Lake Champlain watershed in Vermont covers about half of the entire state.  But it’s hard to put a dollar amount of the real value of clean water.  There’s obviously tourism dollars but there’s also daily use of water.  Lake Champlain alone serves as a drinking water supply for something on the order of 150,000 people every day.  And then of course there are many other facets.”

Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce President Tom Torti notes that their businesses are defined by Lake Champlain and there is an expectation of clean water in Vermont.  “People come to this area as tourists, as conventioneers, folks looking for a place to live drawn by Lake Champlain, by its cleanliness, by the recreational aspects that it has to offer whether it’s boating or swimming or fishing. So clean water is essential to everything that we do to promote business and economy here.”

Groups are taking different approaches to highlight the importance of the state’s waterways during Clean Water Week.
Lake Champlain Committee Executive Director Lori Fisher says they want to raise awareness of the need for waterway investment.  “Many of our waters are fairly clean.  But there are a lot of places where we also are showing signs of degradation. And that’s really worrisome. And there’s a significant portion in the state of Vermont and certainly parts of Lake Champlain that are impaired that are showing very visible signs of degradation.  And those are things that we have to tackle. And we can’t tackle them without public investment of funding and time and energy, strong enforcement of our regulatory programs and ambitious and dedicated cleanup efforts.”

Kari Dolan manages the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Clean Water Initiative Program. She says Clean Water Week is an opportunity to recognize challenges and highlight the work being done to assure safe and clean water.  “Although there’s been quite a bit of focus and interest in Lake Champlain basin we also have similar water quality challenges in the Lake Memphremagog watershed and the Connecticut River drainage.  We know that our southwestern portion of the lake around Bennington are also struggling with their clean water challenges.  So Clean Water Week certainly is a chance for us to celebrate the importance of our waters but it also provides us an opportunity to really continue the momentum we have in taking actions that are going to make a difference and restore and safeguard these waters.”

A list of Clean Water Week events.

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