(Host) Vermont Governor Jim Douglas unveiled a new plan to clean up the state’s waterways on Tuesday.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) The main goal of the plan is to lower phosphorus levels in Lake Champlain. The phosphorus comes from farm runoff and other sources and causes algae blooms. Officials fear the blooms are having a negative economic impact.
Douglas says he’ll move up the current timetable for completing the lake clean-up from the year 2016 to 2009. That’s going to mean coming up with the money in a shorter period of time.
(Douglas) “It will certainly put some more pressure on us to come up with resources much faster, but we can’t let this go on much longer. The lake is continuing to deteriorate. So many times this summer I ran into people who were disappointed that they rented places on the lake and found that they couldn’t swim. Or I hear from fishermen who say that fishing is not what it used to be.”
(Zind) Douglas says his proposal represents the first time state money is being used to clean up the lake. The project is expected to cost $139 million, including federal funds. Douglas says hopes to raise some money by allowing Vermonters to invest in bonds – similar to a citizens bond program he started as State Treasurer.
(Douglas) “I want to now make that program exclusively for environmental cleanup efforts. It’s important from two standpoints: One, to accelerate the availability of resources. Secondly, by allowing Vermonters to invest in the future of our state and that of their kids.”
(Zind) One group that is frequently critical of the administration’s environmental policy had a generally favorable response to the new proposal.
(Mark Sinclair) “I’m optimistic that the governor is serious about cleaning up Lake Champlain. I think his intentions are good.”
(Zind) Mark Sinclair is with the Conservation Law Foundation. Sinclair applauded the governor’s decision to advance the timetable for cleaning up the lake. But he says what’s missing from the plan is stricter enforcement of water quality regulations. He says the state also needs to set high standards for new development. Sinclair says those who contribute to the problem should contribute to the clean up.
(Sinclair) “While I think there needs to be public investment in Lake Champlain, it’s also important that there are rigorous controls implemented to regulate pollution and that polluters have to also invest in cleaning up our lake. It’s not fair for all Vermonters to pick up the tab.”
(Zind) Governor Douglas says placing greater burdens on businesses would hurt an already fragile economy in the state.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.