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Opportunities for Action: An Evolving Plan for the Lake Champlain Basin (the Plan) is the pollution prevention, control, and restoration plan that guides LCBP’s efforts. It was first endorsed in October of 1996 by the governors of New York and Vermont and the regional administrators of the USEPA. The 1996 Plan called for periodic updates, and new versions of the plan were signed in April 2003 and November 2010. A letter of endorsement was provided for both updates by the Premier of Québec.
The 2010 update of OFA is available as an online management plan. This new format provides managers, researchers, partner agencies and organizations, and public stakeholders easy navigation to specific sections and a searchable database of actions and tasks along with lead partners and the status of each task. The interactive, dynamic nature of the online plan accommodates an adaptive management process, the structured method for updating the plan as new information and understanding becomes available. This approach will allow OFA to remain current in the evolving process to protect and restore the Lake Champlain ecosystem.
Summary of Opportunities for Action
The Lake Champlain Steering Committee represents a broad-based diverse group of interests that share a common goal of developing a management program to protect and enhance the environmental integrity and the social and economic benefits of Lake Champlain and its watershed.
The Steering Committee envisions a Lake Champlain that supports multiple uses—including commerce, a healthy drinking water supply, wildlife habitat, and recreation, such as swimming, fishing, and boating. These diverse uses will be balanced to minimize stresses on any part of the Lake system. The Steering Committee recognizes that maintaining a vital economy that values the preservation of the agricultural sector is an integral part of the balanced management of the Lake Champlain Basin. Implementing a comprehensive management plan will ensure that the Lake and its Basin will be protected, restored, and maintained so that future generations will enjoy its full benefits.
Goals of Opportunities for Action
OFA identifies eight specific goals that help achieve the Steering Committee’s vision for the Lake Champlain Basin. These goals aim to protect and restore the ecological and cultural resources of the Basin while maintaining a vital regional economy. Based on comments from citizens and other stakeholders at public meetings and on the recommendations of advisory committees, the goals listed below have been designated by the Lake Champlain Steering Committee as the highest priorities of the plan. Please refer to these chapters for more information.
- Promote a better understanding and appreciation of Lake Champlain Basin resources and threats as well as personal responsibility that leads to behavioral changes and actions to reduce pollution. [Chapter 3]
- Reduce phosphorus inputs to Lake Champlain to promote a healthy and diverse ecosystem and provide for sustainable human use and enjoyment of the Lake. [Chapter 4]
- Reduce contaminants that pose a risk to public health and the Lake Champlain ecosystem. [Chapter 5]
- Maintain a resilient and diverse community of fish, wildlife, and plants in the Lake Champlain Basin. [Chapter 6]
- Prevent the introduction, limit the spread, and control the impact of non-native aquatic invasive species in order to preserve the integrity of the Lake Champlain ecosystem. [Chapter 7]
- Identify potential changes in climate and develop appropriate adaptation strategies to minimize adverse impacts on Lake Champlain’s ecosystem and natural, heritage, and socioeconomic resources. [Chapter 8]
- Build on existing knowledge; make new discoveries of the history, culture, and special resources of the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership; and make this information accessible to all. [Chapter 9]
- Promote healthy and diverse economic activity and sustainable development principles within the Lake Champlain Basin while improving water quality and conserving the natural and cultural heritage resources on which the regional economy is based. [Chapter 10]
The Lake Champlain Steering Committee considers these eight goals to be vital in addressing the long-term health of the Lake Champlain Basin and recommends that agencies and organizations strive to maintain them as highest priorities in managing and enhancing the resources of the Basin. Priority objectives, actions, and tasks have been designated for each of these goals and are presented in the plan.
Several themes emerged from the public involvement process in the development of the Plan. These themes include:
- a partnership approach that relies on existing agencies, organizations and individuals to implement the Plan while forming innovative partnerships;
- an ecosystem-based approach to planning and management that considers the Lake and its entire drainage Basin as a whole, interconnected, complex system;
- a watershed approach that recognizes that Lake Champlain is affected by activities throughout its Basin. Water quality protection and ecosystem restoration efforts should be focused along watershed boundaries;
- integration of environmental and economic goals in the decision-making process and in selecting the most cost-effective actions to protect and enhance the resources of the Basin;
- pollution prevention as a cost-effective means to protect the environment by eliminating pollution before it is generated;
- a consensus-based, collaborative approach that strengthens the outcomes of decisions by facilitating a dialogue among multiple interested parties; and
- a formal adaptive management framework so that the plan is responsive to the outcomes of management actions and a changing understanding of the ecosystem. In adaptive management, an action plan is developed based on best current professional judgment, the plan is implemented, data are collected and evaluated to monitor effectiveness, and adjustments are made to reflect new knowledge.
Local involvement in planning and implementation is a cornerstone of the LCBP. Public input meetings, citizen perception surveys, focus group discussions, technical workshops, and research, monitoring, and demonstration projects were critical to the development of Opportunities for Action. From 1992-2009, the LCBP awarded more than $3.8 million to over 700 projects in New York and Vermont through several competitive grant programs. The LCBP continues to rely on citizen input at public meetings, written comments, and through the Citizen Advisory Committees.