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Shoreland Protection Bill Passes Committee; Some Landowners Unhappy

Buzz Hoerr's home sits just 200 feet from Broad Lake, a part of Lake Champlain. His backyard is seven miles from the Adirondacks.
COLCHESTER, Vt. - Buzz Hoerr's home sits just 200 feet from Broad Lake, a part of Lake Champlain. His backyard is seven miles from the Adirondacks.

"Definitely boat a lot, and we sail out there," he said, looking out onto the lake Friday morning.

Hoerr does not support H.526, a bill that would make landowners like him get a permit to build or clear land within 250 feet of state waters.

"What it's going to do is alienate a very important constituency," he said.

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Natural Resources and Energy committee Friday. The purpose is to protect the water and wildlife from phosphorous and other pollutants that run into the water after rainstorms and snow melt.

"It makes sense in inland lakes," Hoerr said. "Where the only source [of pollution] might be development, but here on Lake Champlain in the three most critically affected areas, it is 100% excess livestock pollution that is the majority of the problem." Waste from livestock is used to fertilize corn fields, which can then run into the water during rainstorms and pollute it with phosphorous.

The bill would also require vegetative cover along the lake. Hoerr says even if he planted bushes, it wouldn't make a difference on his land.

"If you did every yard up and down this lake and made it into compliance with what they're talking about, you'd never be able to measure the difference in the lake," he said. He pointed to the Winooski River, which he says does dump pollutants right into the lake.

"The problem is upstream," he said.

Hoerr says the solution to the problem is education. Several lake organizations including the Lake Gunmore Association say although they want to conserve the lakes of Vermont, this bill is too "one size fits all."

The bill will now head to the Senate floor. It already passed the House of Representative last legislative session.
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