Monitoring Programs

The Lake Champlain Basin Program currently helps fund several on-going monitoring programs, including the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program, the Lake Champlain Long-term Water Quality and Biological Monitoring Program, and cyanobacteria monitoring conducted by the non-profit Lake Champlain Committee and the State of Vermont. The LCBP also has supported programs in the past that provided critical baseline data for the current management plan. Although inactive today, these former programs could be started again if needed.

State & Provincial Programs

New York, Vermont, and Québec independently conduct several important monitoring programs.

On-Going Monitoring Programs

The National Atmospheric Deposition Program’s Mercury Deposition Network (NADP/MDN)

NADP/MDN operates sites across North America to monitor total mercury in wet deposition, and has provided long-term deposition trends since the early 1990s. The single goal of this project is to monitor the rate at which mercury and other pollutants such as sulfate and nitrate move into the environment in Northern Vermont. Measurement of mercury in ambient precipitation began in Underhill Center, VT in 1992. Event-based sampling and analyses have continued at this location since that time, making this site what is believed to be the longest continuous event-based record for mercury in precipitation in the world. The NADP/MDN program is currently funded through 2016 by a joint agreement between the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the LCBP.

Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program

Since 2004 the Lake Champlain Committee has trained citizens to distinguish cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) from other lake phenomena and report on the presence and absence of blooms on a weekly basis during the summer. The LCC provides critical data on where and when blooms are happening, which is used by municipal and state agencies to assess whether the water is safe for swimming.

Learn how volunteers are providing critical information about cyanobacteria blooms in this video from our Diving In series:

Lake Champlain Long-term Water Quality and Biological Monitoring Project

The Long-Term Water Quality and Biological Monitoring Project for Lake Champlain began in 1992 and is conducted by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with funding provided by the LCBP and the two states. This program also conducts zebra mussel monitoring.

Vermont Lay Monitoring Program

The Lay Monitoring Program of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has used citizen volunteers to monitor eutrophication-related parameters at approximately 20 Lake stations during the summer season each year since 1979. Through use of consistent methods, the Lay Monitoring Program has provided a valuable long-term database with secchi depth readings and levels of total phosphorus and chlorophyll a.

Vermont Surface Water Monitoring Strategy

In 2010, the VT DEC Watershed Management Division released the Vermont Surface Water Management Strategy to describe the management of pollutants and other stressors that affect the uses and values of Vermont’s surface waters. This strategy presents goals, objectives and approaches for the protection and management of Vermont’s surface waters, and will help to guide future decision-making efforts to ensure efficient, predictable, consistent and coordinated management actions.

Past Monitoring Programs

The Atmospheric Integrated Research Monitoring Network (AIRMoN)

AIRMoN provided a daily temporal resolution of wet deposition in the Eastern U.S. that facilitates pollutant source identification. The AIRMoN program ended in 2013 due to federal funding constraints. The LCBP was able to support this program for a number of years after traditional federal funding sources were withdrawn.

Lake Champlain Diagnostic-Feasibility Study

Initiated in 1989 as a joint project between the States of Vermont and New York, the Lake Champlain Diagnostic-Feasibility Study measured phosphorus loadings to Lake Champlain and modeled the Lake’s water-quality response to those loadings. Phosphorus loadings to Lake Champlain were measured over two years by sampling tributaries, direct wastewater discharges, and precipitation in the Basin. Phosphorus concentrations in the Lake also were sampled during this period to provide baseline measurements for the development of a whole-lake phosphorus model.

Using these monitoring data, a phosphorus budget was developed for Lake Champlain that factors contributions from major sources of phosphorus into the budget. A phosphorus model for the Lake also was developed to analyze the Lake’s response to inputs of phosphorus. This model was used to develop phosphorus load reduction strategies to achieve the in-lake phosphorus concentration levels agreed upon by New York, Québec, and Vermont.

Lake Champlain Sediment Toxic Assessment Program

The Lake Champlain Sediment Toxic Assessment Program documented in detail the nature and extent of toxic contaminants in the sediments of Lake Champlain. In June 1991, 30 sites lakewide were analyzed for trace metals and trace organic contaminants. Based upon this survey, nine sites were more intensively studied in 1991-1992. The study found widely varying patterns of contaminant distribution, and three areas of the Lake were designated as Sites of Concern, including Cumberland Bay, Outer Malletts Bay, and Inner Burlington Harbor. Solid-phase and sediment-pore water toxicity tests performed using sediments taken from these sites revealed acute and chronic impacts to Ceriodaphnia dubia and Daphnia magna (zooplankton). Additional testing showed that Mysis relicta, a freshwater shrimp which is an important link in the Lake’s food web, accumulates sediment-associated PCBs. The executive summary of the resulting report is available for download (contact the LCBP for the full report).

Rotating Intensive Basin Studies (RIBS)

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation statewide surface water monitoring program has been conducted under the RIBS sampling program since 1987. The RIBS sampling program rotates among groups of drainage basins over a five-year period, covering all drainage basins in New York twice per decade. Major tributaries to Lake Champlain in New York were sampled in 1987-8, 1993-1994, 1998-9, 2003-5, and 2008-10 for chemical and biological parameters, including macroinvertebrate communities and tissues, fisheries, water column composition and characteristics, bottom sediment composition, and toxicity testing. The most recent available report summarizes the RIBS monitoring in the Champlain basin through 2001; in general, water quality of the tributary network on the New York side of the Champlain basin is good and the macroinvertebrate community has not been impacted.

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