Vermont’s senior U.S. senator was at the ECHO-Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington recently to announce renewed and increased funding to cleanup Lake Champlain.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy announced that more than $20 million in federal funding has been allocated in the 2019 appropriation bill, more than double previous funding for work on Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog. Leahy reports that $11 million will go to the EPA Lake Champlain Basin Program, $7.25 million to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, $1 million to the Lake Champlain Sea Grant, $1 million for the International Joint Commission, and $500,000 to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sea Lamprey Control program. More than $500,000 is expected for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Lake Champlain Committee Executive Director Lori Fisher says the $20 million is a substantial boost over the $8.3 million received in 2017 with the bulk of funding going to a key resource. “The Lake Champlain Basin Program has the coordinating role for working with the states (New York and Vermont) and the province (Quebec) to coordinate on Lake Champlain management and protection and on really implementing the cleanup plan for Lake Champlain and ensuring that the states’ efforts and the province’s efforts are really getting us to the end points we want of clean water.”
Lake Champlain Basin Program representative Meg Modley says past funding has been used for initiatives such as phosphorus runoff control, cyanobacteria monitoring, boat launch stewards for invasive species monitoring and long-term lake water quality monitoring. “In Lake Champlain we have a number of issues. With the funding increase we’ve been able to really address some of the top priority issues of road runoff, combined sewer overflows, nutrient management planning on farms. We’re beginning to be able to address a number of these high priority issues.”
Fisher adds that the funds aid a number of diverse of programs that focus on the most critical issues facing Lake Champlain. “Things like nutrient loading, pathogens, new generation toxins, micro-plastics and there will be an emphasis on ecosystem protection, the life of the lake if you will, as well as looking at nature-based solutions such as our wetlands and flood plains to use those to really work to our advantage to reduce pollutants going into the lake and to insure a healthier water quality.”
Modley notes that international fishery work on Lake Memphremagog will receive $250,000 from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s $7.5 million allocation. "Memphremagog receives other funding and has also benefitted from some of the International Joint Commission’s studies, being a bi-national lake. It’s a lake that does receive a lot of attention but this is the first time I think it’s been called out specifically.”
In Fiscal Year 2017 the Lake Champlain Basin Program received $4.5 million in funding.