Congress approves legislation that will fund Vt water restoration programs

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(Host) Congress has given its approval to legislation that will provide $80 million for a variety of water projects in Vermont.

Included in the new law are major ecosystem restoration efforts for Lake Champlain and the upper Connecticut River.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Vermont projects are part of a comprehensive national plan to help finance water restoration programs across the country.

The legislation, known as the Water Resources Development Act, was originally vetoed by President Bush. The President said the total price tag of roughly $23 billion over the next 15 years was too expensive.

But this week the bill became law when both the U.S. House and Senate voted to override the veto – it’s the first time this has happened during the 7 years of the Bush Administration.

Congressman Peter Welch says this bill demonstrates how spending on the Iraq war is influencing the President’s view of key domestic issues:

(Welch) "The President’s become a born again fiscal conservative this bill costs $23 billion over 15 years- that’s literally 2 months funding of the Iraq war and the President says no to the cleaning up of Lake Champlain, no to cleaning up the Connecticut River, no to securing our levies in New Orleans, but yes to a blank check to continue the war in Iraq. His fiscal priorities are totally upside down."

(Kinzel) Tom Berry is the director of the Lake Champlain Program at the Nature Conservancy of Vermont:

(Berry) "It’s a real big deal for Vermont as far as the level of authorization of water quality projects. The two biggest are watershed restoration ecosystem restoration projects authorized for the Champlain Valley and the Upper Connecticut Valley."

(Kinzel) Berry says the bill also includes money for a variety of other projects including: stream bank stabilization, invasive species control, habitat protection and the restoration of aquatic ecosystems:

(Berry) "From the Nature Conservancy’s perspective we work a lot on bio diversity issues and so enhancing the ability of aquatic organisms to move up and down streams – by fixing culverts and other impediments to aquatic passage – can help with the ecosystem."

The legislation also includes funds to structurally modify dams on the Connecticut River to reduce the ecological impact of these facilities.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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