Feds Send 46 Million for Lake Clean-Up

Published 08/28 2014 03:52PM

Updated 08/28 2014 06:25PM

BURLINGTON, Vt. - With summer algae blooms plaguing parts of Lake Champlain on Thursday, the federal government arrives with good news, and a big check.

"We're going to spend as much money in the next five years as we spent in the last 10 years," US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said.

That translates to 46-million dollars for Vermont's lake clean-up efforts. It’s welcome news for Senator Patrick Leahy, who holds Lake Champlain near and dear to his heart.

"This is a treasure. You will not see anything duplicated like this anywhere in this nation," Senator Leahy said.

Secretary Vilsack agrees, and says USDA teams on the ground will help distribute the money to local farmers.

"For some it may be a nutrient management effort, for some it might be a combination or buffer strips," Vilsack said.

It’s all an effort to cut back on the amount of phosphorus flowing into the lake. That phosphorus contributes to the sometimes toxic blooms.

Along Saint Albans Bay the blue-green algae blooms come back almost every single year. Those blooms are not only potentially dangerous for humans, but they also take a bite out of local recreation. That hurts the local economy.

Chris Ste. Marie owns The Bay Store, and knows that first hand.

"When the lake gets pretty stinky and blue and nasty looking, it kind of loses its appeal to eat a creemee and walk along Bay Park," he says.

He's glad to hear the feds are stepping up their efforts, but he knows this is just the start.

"It took a long time to get this way, and I think it’s going to take a long time to fix it,” he said.

In the next month alone, 1-million dollars will be spent on planting cover crops. Officials say those plants help prevent soil erosion, and run-off into the lake.

State leaders say this USDA investment comes at a perfect time for Vermont. In the past few months, the state has been going back and forth with the Environmental Protection Agency as it develops a new TMDL plan. That’s a document summarizing the state's effort to decrease phosphorus levels in Lake Champlain. A main sticking point between Vermont and the EPA: how the plan is going to be funded.

"These are the kind of resources that will breathe life into that TMDL plan. These are the kind of resources that will enable the TMDL plan to be implemented in a way that responds to many of the things Secretary Vilsack said,” Vermont Agency of Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross added.

The state is still developing other funding sources to pay for the plan as well.

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