Opinion: Change needed in water policies

The time has come to take seriously the cleanup of our streams, rivers and lakes. They are the lifeblood of Vermont and they are the ecological treasures of all Vermonters.
As temperatures continue to warm and the peak flows of storm events increase, the negative impacts of sediment and nutrient deposition will accelerate. That Gov. Shumlin has placed the cleanup on his priority list for his third term is a great step forward.
The effort will require a fresh approach — catchment by catchment. Secretary Ross has reportedly told the Addison Independent that the Agency of Agriculture would “threaten to take land out of Current Use if a polluter repeatedly fails to correct violations.” The Secretary of Agriculture also went on to say that the vast majority of farmers comply fully with the Acceptable Agricultural Practices, or AAPs, which he deems to be very effective when fully applied. The secretary did not specify the sources of his data. In any event we should celebrate the fact that there is one more tool in the box for cleaning up Vermont’s water commons.
It is very important to recognize that the agencies of the state of Vermont have many missions and methods for accomplishing them. The Agency of Agriculture’s primary function is to enhance the economic well-being of Vermont’s agricultural enterprises. They do this exceptionally well through their education and creative marketing programs.
Asking the Agency of Agriculture to concurrently regulate water quality is a third hat that does not seem to fit very well. Perhaps that function would be better led and accomplished in another agency and department. The Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Conservation come to mind. And perhaps there is another venue that would serve our water commons better.
David Brynn

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