Grand Isle, VT – The Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) released today an update to Opportunities for Action: An Evolving Plan for the Future of the Lake Champlain Basin. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, representatives from NY, VT, and Québec, and EPA officials from Boston and New York City were in attendance for the plan signing ceremony.The plan will guide the LCBP’s work over the next five years to improve water quality and aquatic ecosystem health in the watershed. The Plan lays out objectives and strategies to address four primary goals: Clean Water, Healthy Ecosystems, Thriving Communities, and an Informed and Involved Public.
This is the fourth update to the original plan first issued in 1996. Lake and watershed conditions and issues have continued to change since the plan was first endorsed by the governors of New York and Vermont and the regional administrators of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1996. The Premier of Québec also provides a letter of support on behalf of Québec, documenting Quebec’s commitment to Lake Champlain management efforts. In 1990, the Lake Champlain Special Designation Act, which led to the formation of the Lake Champlain Basin Program, was supported by Senators Leahy and Jeffords from Vermont and Senators Moynihan and D’Amato from New York. Since inception of the LCBP. Senator Leahy has consistently worked with the delegation to provide federal funds to support implementation projects.
Progress has been made in many areas, and priorities for action have evolved to reflect the dynamic nature of human interactions in a complex ecosystem. The 2022 update continues to address the latest challenges and opportunities related to nutrient loading, aquatic invasive species, contaminants, habitat conservation, and cultural heritage preservation and interpretation. This plan also highlights two overarching goals: addressing the impacts of a changing climate on water quality and ecosystem health of the Lake Champlain watershed, and including diverse voices in decision processes and supporting communities with environmental justice concerns related to the Lake.
Opportunities for Action 2022 identifies a suite of tasks that reflect a stakeholder prioritization effort for the restoration and future protection of Lake Champlain. Sound science is critical to these efforts, and it forms the basis of the work described in this Plan. Long-term monitoring of the Lake Champlain ecosystem’s health is the foundation of this scientific approach and is critical for conducting research and measuring the success of the Plan. Several LCBP partners reflected on key efforts to improve Lake Champlain but noted that more work lies ahead.
“EPA is proud to support the work of the Lake Champlain Basin Program, and remains committed to this multi-state and provincial partnership to realize a cleaner, healthier Lake Champlain Basin. Together we’ve made good progress, even as there is much work to be done. A healthy and thriving Lake Champlain is vital to residents, communities, and the economy in this iconic basin, and this updated management plan sets the path forward to realizing those goals,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash.
“Lake Champlain is a regional and international jewel, and EPA is proud to continue its longstanding work to address water quality, harmful run-off and other challenges facing the lake,” said EPA Region 2 Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “This new action plan lays out a road map for improving the lake’s health, while working to address the impacts of climate change in the basin. It is important that we continue to work closely with our partners here in New York and across the watershed to carry-out effective, long-term actions to protect and improve water quality in Lake Champlain.”
Vermont Governor Phil Scott said, “Vermont continues to be committed to meeting its environmental challenges. Our efforts to protect and restore Lake Champlain have benefited from strong and active partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program, the State of New York, and the Province of Quebec. We are excited to continue this partnership and aid in the implementation of Opportunities for Action.”
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Lake Champlain and its multi-state and international watershed contribute to our economic, recreational, and environmental well-being. The Opportunities for Action Plan complements New York State’s ongoing focus on mitigating the effects of climate change and helps ensure the long-term sustainability of this critically important region. We look forward to continuing to work with our many partners and the public to implement the plan’s comprehensive management strategies.”
The Premier of Québec, François Legault, said “It is with great enthusiasm that the Québec government renews its commitment to participating in the management of the Lake Champlain and its basin for the benefit of current and future generations. We look forward to actively contributing to this objective with our partners from Vermont and New York State. I want to once again thank and congratulate the LCBP team and the Steering Committee for their efforts.”
NEIWPCC Executive Director Susan Sullivan said, “NEIWPCC is pleased to continue supporting the Lake Champlain Basin Program and its partners with the unveiling of this update to Opportunities for Action. Coordinating the management of our invaluable aquatic ecosystems across the region is critical to continued progress in water quality. The Lake Champlain Steering Committee and LCBP staff are now poised to work with partners to address the critical topics of climate change and environmental justice.”
Opportunities for Action is a tool for the Lake Champlain Steering Committee, which serves as forum for information exchange and a mechanism to coordinate the efforts of stakeholders working on lake-related issues from New York, Vermont and Québec. The Committee develops the LCBP’s annual budget and directs its work, including several key functions that are defined in the Plan: coordinate actions that benefit the watershed; support local level involvement and public engagement; monitor success relative to benchmarks; promote and advise partner communications; secure and direct funding; conduct sound research; and regularly update plan recommendations. These functions inform priority task areas for each goal, which are implemented through the LCBP’s annual budget process.
Examples of accomplishments since the 2017 Opportunities for Action plan include:
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEW 2022 Opportunities for Action plan include:
The 2022 plan includes a renewed focus on projects and programs that address and mitigate impacts of climate change, including forecasted temperate changes, rainfall, and flooding. The Plan also includes new actions that will engage underserved communities to increase the role of these groups in restoring and protecting Lake Champlain. The 2022 Plan also contains response metrics for each of the four goals to track progress in implementing the Plan. LCBP will update and publish these metrics annually.
Examples of the work to be addressed across the four goals include:
Grants will continue to be awarded to reduce nutrients from all land use sectors – agriculture, streambanks, urban, and forested lands.
Research programs will support monitoring programs and management-oriented research and help interpret research to inform management decisions about pathogens, nutrient loading, and the impact of climate change on basin waters.
Support research to reduce agrochemical application and runoff of pesticides and herbicides.
Clean water work also will implement recommendations from the bi-national Missisquoi Bay phosphorus reduction task force, coordinated by the LCBP.
Hands-on- outreach programs and boat launch steward programs will keep working to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species in Lake Champlain and decrease current populations of aquatic invasive species.
Research will focus on the mitigation of climate impacts of increasing temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns on the streams and reducing flooding in the Basin.
Grants will help conserve habitat for the ecosystem as a whole and to protect a wide range of the native plants and animals that live in the Basin, including improvement of passage for aquatic organisms in the rivers and streams and conservation of key parcels of land.
A new Stream Wise initiative has been built through a New York, Québec and Vermont partnership that will be implemented across the basin communities to encourage landowners to stabilize banks and create a healthy habitat along forested streambanks. The program is reminder to all that pollution may travel form the top of the watershed all the way through 14,000 miles of streams before reaching Lake Champlain.
Grants and programs will support water-wise economic development, awareness and conservation of cultural heritage resources, and support recreation across the Basin.
Engagement with traditionally underserved communities, including low-income communities, to improve and expand access to Lake Champlain
Flood resilience at the community level will be emphasized.
INFORMED & INVOLVED PUBLIC
Grants and staff-driven programs will continue to focus on communicating watershed science in classrooms and in public forums and facilitating behavior change in individuals.
New programs to support outreach to traditionally underserved communities will be undertaken across all four goals of the plan.
Digital tools and resources about the Basin will be available on-line to support youth learning and engagement programs, and promoting actions people can take at the individual, family, or community-level to help achieve our goals for Lake Champlain.
“The success of this plan hinges on the involvement of the public and engagement of local organizations. OFA must ensure that communities within the Lake Champlain Basin—from Lake Placid, NY to Sutton, Quebec, to Mt. Tabor, VT—understand and appreciate the value of Lake Champlain to their communities and have the capacity to do their part to improve the health of the watershed.” said Dr. Eric Howe, Director of the Lake Champlain Basin Program and Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership.
The 2022 Opportunities for Action plan will focus Lake Champlain Basin Program resources to ensure that new information is available to inform decisions and policies and that sound science continues to be supported.
Please visit the Lake Champlain Basin Program website: https://www.lcbp.org/about-us/how-we-work/opportunities-for-action/ to view a copy of the revised Plan. Contact Eric Howe, LCBP Director for further Information about Opportunities for Action at (802) 372-3213.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program coordinates and funds efforts that benefit the Lake Champlain Basin’s water quality, fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, recreation, and cultural resources. The program works in partnership with federal agencies, state and provincial agencies from New York, Vermont, and Québec, local communities, businesses, and citizen groups. NEIWPCC—a regional commission that helps the states of the Northeast preserve and advance water quality—serves as the primary program administrator of LCBP at the request of the Lake Champlain Steering Committee and administers the program’s personnel and finances. LCBP is a program partner of NEIWPCC. For further information, contact the Lake Champlain Basin Program, 54 West Shore Road, Grand Isle, VT at (802) 372-3213 / (800) 468-5227 or visit www.lcbp.org.