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January 15, 2013

Report to Legislature Outlines Ways to Clean Up Vermont’s Waters

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources released a report today that lays out options to achieve and maintain clean water across the state. In 2012, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 138, directing the Agency to prepare this report in response to the impacts from the 2011 flooding and the cleanup plans being developed for Lake Champlain, Lake Memphremagog, the Connecticut River, and other polluted waters in Vermont. According to the report’s contents, pollution being routed into Vermont’s water bodies is increasing with its sources wide and varied. The report calls for action to protect Vermont’s water quality in order to safeguard the health and economic well-being of Vermonters. It also presents multiple potential options for accomplishing this mission while contending with an estimated 156 million dollar annual price tag.

The report is premised on the fact that Vermonters rely on the availability of clean, safe water resources for drinking, swimming, boating and fishing. The report also notes that Vermont’s economy benefits from clean water as an important part of our quality of life and the economic benefits from tourism. These economic benefits also include the fact that businesses ranging from farms to high-tech industries also depend on the availability of clean water. The bottom line of the report is that restoring and maintaining our lakes, ponds, streams and rivers is not free and requires a larger investment in order to make progress.

“Clean water is among the State’s most precious resources and is backbone to our economy and way of life,” explains Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz. “Many of us assume that Vermont’s waters are clean and funding is sufficient to keep people safe and businesses thriving. However, the State is struggling to meet the public’s expectations,” she continues.

The challenges described in the report are enormous. Vermont made significant gains in controlling water pollution with its past investments in waste water treatment. Municipalities are now facing costs associated with aging sewer pipes and treatment facilities at a time of significant reductions in federal funding. Polluted runoff, carrying algal bloom-causing pollution and sediment, has grown in significance. The report identifies many sources of nutrient and sediment pollution, including runoff from developments, construction sites, farms, roads, parking lots, and logging operations.

“We found the guilty party, and that party is us,” says Environmental Commissioner David Mears. He further notes that “we all need to share responsibility for restoring our waters in a partnership with municipalities, businesses, farmers, and the public.”

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets agrees that every source should accept some responsibility for the problem. "The VAAFM stands ready to work in partnership with the ANR and the Vermont community to tackle this very important challenge facing Vermont", says Agency of Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross. He adds, "Vermont's farmers are committed to reducing the impact of agriculture on water quality, but they cannot do it alone; this report acknowledges the need to find ways to help farmers financially and with greater technical assistance, if we are going to make the kind of progress we all want to see."

The Report presents a broad and inclusive evaluation of the pollution sources, and finds that the total additional funding need in Vermont is $156 million per year. Explains one of the report’s authors, Department of Environmental Conservation’s Kari Dolan, “I know that this price tag is daunting. But the magnitude of the problem means that we cannot simply carry on as usual and pretend that the problem will go away without a significant investment.”

“This report is a conversation starter,” continues Dolan. She explains, “Assuming that we cannot do everything everywhere by tomorrow, the report leads us to ask how we should prioritize our efforts so that the public can see that the investment is making a difference.”

The report analyzes 16 possible financial tools for generating additional revenue and evaluates seven existing programs that could offer greater clean water protections. The Agency of Natural Resources does not recommend any one approach in the report but analyzes a comprehensive set of options to support a dialogue with the public and the legislature.

Source: Agency of Natural Resources
Last Updated at: January 15, 2013 10:18:09
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