EPA endorses Vermont's clean water funding strategy

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EPA endorses Vermont's clean water funding strategy

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 12:17pm -- tim

Stormwater flows into Lake Champlain from the Otter Creek after Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont in 2011. Courtesy photo.

Vermont Business Magazine In a letter sent on July 11, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) endorsed Vermont’s clean water funding plan - as outlined in Act 76 of 2019 - as meeting the requirements of the Lake Champlain Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Act 76, passed in May, makes a long-term, annual commitment of more than $20 million in state funds to leverage other funding sources, resulting in an estimated annual clean water investment of more than $50 million. For this year anyway, both a portion of the Rooms & Meals tax and surplus budget funds from last fiscal year are contributing to the fund. Act 76 also creates a project delivery framework to ensure water quality projects meet Vermont’s clean water goals.

“Collaboration between my administration and the legislature, with support from the treasurer’s office, in this year’s legislative session was key to identifying a long-term commitment of resources to achieve this clean water milestone,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Vermont’s approach to protecting our waterways – which requires work across our landscape, including managing stormwater from developed lands, agriculture areas and state and local roads, as well as nature-based solutions – is truly a team effort across federal, state, local and private partners. I appreciate this shared commitment to protecting our waterways, which is critical for our economy.”

Algae blooms - including recent blooms in St. Albans Bay, Missisquoi Bay and along areas of Burlington's waterfront - continue to occur, demonstrating the need for ongoing water quality work. Significant investments to improve and sustain the health of Vermont’s waterways will take place over the next 20 years and reducing the number of blooms is one of the many critical outcomes the state is working toward. The state has made significant progress, including working with farmers to implement conservation practices on thousands of acres of agricultural lands, conserving or restoring more than 1,500 acres of river corridor, floodplains and wetlands, and better managing stormwater runoff from hundreds of miles of state and local roads.

“With the passage of Act 76, the state has made a long-term commitment to invest in the protection and restoration of Vermont’s rivers, stream, lakes and ponds,” said Julie Moore, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. “State agencies and our partners, including municipalities, regional planning commissions, conservation districts, watershed groups, farmers and other landowners, are all engaged in developing and implementing clean water projects, and Act 76 ensures resources will be available to support this work.” 

In 2016, the EPA established a pollution budget – also known as a TMDL – for Lake Champlain to address water quality concerns. The TMDL required Vermont to complete 28 milestones, including adoption of Required Agricultural Practices and issuance of the Municipal Roads General Permit. Meeting these milestones demonstrates Vermont’s ability to restore polluted water. Establishing a long-term funding strategy was one of the outstanding milestones Vermont needed to reach.

“EPA is very pleased with the state’s passage of Act 76. In combination with the other dedicated clean water funding sources enacted by the Vermont legislature since 2015, Act 76 is expected to produce long-term funding levels in the ballpark of the needs identified by the 2017 Vermont State Treasure’s report and Vermont’s Act 73 report,” said Deborah Szaro, EPA acting Regional Administrator in the letter.   

The EPA letter and information on restoring Lake Champlain is available at: https://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/cwi/restoring/champlain.