Vermont landowners starting to plan for ‘three-acre rule’

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 12:31 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2020 at 9:26 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - New state rules for stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces go into effect later this winter and all Vermont landowners with over three acres will be required to comply by 2023. The effort, which has been in the works for several years, is aimed at improving water quality on Lake Champlain, but how much will this cost landowners?

Peter Walke with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, says that the new rule will create runoff systems on properties that are deemed to have a “significant” acreage of impervious surfaces. That includes roofs, cement, and asphalt to name a few.

“This is part of our overall effort to address water quality around the state," Walke said. "It’s actually a requirement that was put into law in 2015 as part of Vermont’s Clean Water Act. This component is to really look at, what about our existing built-lands, their areas we can address that will reduce runoff into the lake.”

One city that’s familiar with stormwater regulations is South Burlington, which has 49 properties that apply to the three-acre rule. Dave Wheeler, the city’s stormwater superintendent, says it might cost between $50,000 to $75,000 per impervious acre of land. “Of those 49, 36 already have some sort of stormwater treatment in place," Wheeler said. "A handful already meets the current regulations, while others may need to upgrade their systems.”

The South Burlington School District’s five buildings will all need to comply with the rule, and only one of them currently has a stormwater runoff system. Landowners like the South Burlington School District understand and agree with the rule, however, they are unsure of where they’re going to get the necessary funding to either create or upgrade their existing stormwater systems.

“The folks that are in this particular field say it’s important and needed to protect our waterways then, we understand, and we want to comply," said South Burlington Superintendent Dave Young. “However, we also want to make sure that we aren’t unable to do our work.”

Landowners hope the state will provide more clarity and pathways for financial assistance in the coming months. For now, they see it as a necessary obstacle for environmental preservation, but an obstacle nonetheless.

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