Federal funding for lake cleanup hangs in balance

SALISBURY — Vermont lawmakers continue to be concerned about a potential decline in federal Environmental Protection Agency assistance for cleanup of Lake Champlain under the Trump administration.
Lake Champlain cleanup through the Clean Water Act was a topic of discussion at Monday’s Legislative Breakfast at the Salisbury Congregational Church.
Recent estimates have placed the lake cleanup costs at around $48 million annually over the next 20 years.
Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, said state officials are currently vetting various water cleanup projects that could prevent pollution from getting into the lake. But eventual rollout of those projects will largely depend on federal aid, he said.
“The new administration is talking about further restrictions about what the EPA can do, including striking from its mission statement the word ‘science,’” Bray said.
“There is a big question mark hanging over what kind of federal assistance we’ll get as the EPA continues to be revised.”
Vermont farmers will be key players in the lake cleanup efforts through “best management practices,” noted New Haven Republican Rep. Harvey Smith, a longtime member of the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.
“The question is going to be funding, and how we are going to find this,” Smith said. “If the dollars don’t come from the federal government, then it will be up to the state — at least on the side of the agricultural community — to fund this program. That’s going to be the difficult question: How do we come up with the dollars to fund it?
“Without cost-share dollars, agriculture is not going to meet (the EPA’s clean water) standards,” Smith added. “It’s a real challenge for agriculture.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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