Act 64, Vermont’s Clean Water Act, was recently passed during the 2015 legislative session. This new law addresses water pollution throughout the state. Vermont’s watersheds are divided into 17 different basins. Basin 5, the Northern Lake Champlain, encompasses land from just north of the Canadian border south to Charlotte, Vermont. The just approved Basin 5 Tactical Basin Plan addresses watersheds that drain directly into Lake Champlain’s northern half. The plan does not address the larger northern watersheds such as the Missisquoi, Lamoille, or Winooski Rivers
Water resources in Northern Lake Champlain provide drinking water to 140,000 people, recreational activities, and support for wildlife habitat and plant communities. While there is a large concentration of development and agriculture in Basin 5, water quality in the majority of surface water is acceptable to protect these uses.
The largest threats to water quality in Northern Lake Champlain include: algal blooms, high levels of pathogens or turbidity in the water, high levels of mercury and PCBs, and aquatic invasive species. Pollutants reach waterways because of urban and agricultural runoff, and eroding river channels due to an imbalance in the river system.
Karen Bates, basin planner for the Watershed Management Division and coordinator of the Plan said, “In this plan we focused both on improvement of water quality and also the health of the aquatic habitat that is vital to our fisheries. We could not have completed this work alone. This plan reflects the recommendations of local watershed groups, residents, a variety of stakeholders, the Agency of Natural Resources and natural resource professionals from other State and federal agencies.” A link to the approved plan is at this link: http://www.watershedmanagement.vt.gov/planning/htm/pl_northernlcb.htm