Editorial: Is Act 64 tough enough?

As we continue our series on the Otter Creek and its role in commerce, farming and communities in Addison County — and the consequent impact to water quality in Lake Champlain — we focus this week on Act 64, the state’s clean water act, and the painstaking planning and meticulous details involved. Supporters and detractors alike have to agree that the effort to achieve a plan that can accurately measure progress in terms of the amount of phosphorus reduced in any given basin is a worthy outcome.
This story explains that effort and the process basin planners will be pursuing in their effort to reduce phosphorous and other ground pollution pouring into Vermont’s lakes and streams.
That said, even the staunchest supporters of the state’s plan recognize that water quality improvement will cost a lot of money, be a long time coming, and barely move the needle. Critics, meanwhile, are quick to charge that the goals outlined in Act 64 and in the EPA approved TMDL are far too little, too late.
The pertinent fact is this: From 2016-2018, the state put $66 million towards clean water projects in the Lake Champlain Basin, of which $8.9 million went to the Otter Creek basin. The result was a reduction of 269.5 measurable kilograms per year of phosphorus loading. That’s a step in the right direction, but a baby step. It represents less than one percent of the annual reduction goal. The Otter Creek must reduce its load by 33 metric tons per year—or 33,000 kilograms.
Questions abound: Can the state reach its goals with current measures? What other tactics might they explore and what measures yield the highest cost-benefit and can the state and EPA requirements be tweaked to allow that to happen? And finally, how much of a burden can be placed on local farmers if current measures aren’t enough to solve the problem? We address some of those questions in the third installment in next Thursday’s Addison Independent.
Angelo Lynn

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