Iconic Lake Champlain floats many Vermont businesses by drawing outdoor enthusiasts and tourists to its shores. But an ugly truth lies beneath the surface: pollution taints the water and its quality continues to sink.
Representatives on the Vermont House of Representatives Fish and Wildlife Committee say action must be taken this year.
"If we don't, the (federal government) will impose their requirements on much of Vermont and it will be much more onerous than anything we can dream up here," said Rep. Jim McCullough, D-Williston.
Phosphorous levels in areas like Missisquoi Bay, St. Albans Bay and even the main lake are above the Environmental Protection Agency's limits. The agency's report puts much of the blame on cropland and stream banks.
A bill before the Fish and Wildlife Committee would spread best practices through education initiatives, and require even small farms to conform with Accepted Agricultural Practices in order to be certified.
Committee Chairman Rep. David Deen says it's not a matter of oppose or support.
"It's a matter of being able to get the job done," said Deen, D-Putney.
As currently written, Deen estimates the bill would cost about $12 million. He thinks his committee can only stomach raising $3 million.
The group of legislators is poised to address the biggest issues first, but plan on fully mapping out the cleanup plan next week.
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