New EPA Report Card Points to Vermont’s Progress on Water Quality

05 April 2018

MONTPELIER -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Vermont’s clean water report card today. The report evaluates the state’s efforts to implement the Lake Champlain phosphorus reduction goals. The EPA commended the State’s work in meeting nearly 90% of its water quality milestones, and for making significant progress toward the remaining milestones.

“Vermont has demonstrated commitment to implementing the phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load for Lake Champlain and establishing a strong framework to support future phosphorus load reductions,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. “To date, Vermont has completed 25 of 28 Phase 1 milestones, many of which required significant effort by many parts of state government. The EPA has given Vermont an assessment of “provisional pass” contingent on Vermont’s completion of the three remaining milestones by mid-2019. The EPA is proud to partner with Vermont on this effort to keep Lake Champlain beautiful for generations today and in the future and will continue to provide technical support along this important journey.”

Vermont passed Act 64 (the State’s Clean Water Act) in 2015 and a “Phase I” implementation plan containing the state’s policy and program commitments. Many of the components of Act 64 are incorporated into the clean-up goals – or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – the EPA established for Lake Champlain in 2016. The TMDL contains a suite of milestones called the Accountability Framework to ensure that the TMDL goals will be achieved over the 20-year implementation period. The State submitted a progress report to EPA in March 2018, outlining the steps it has taken toward meeting these milestones. In response, the EPA delivered this report card that reviews and evaluates the State’s progress.

Vermont has met 25 out of 28 milestones in the TMDL’s Accountability Framework and is already advancing significant implementation goals including fully updated Tactical Basin Plans for the South Lake Champlain, Lamoille, North Lake Champlain and Missisquoi watersheds, as well as hosting education, outreach and compliance activities for farmers in the Missisquoi Bay watershed.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets met all EPA agricultural water quality milestones for this reporting period. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts added, “This independent review by the Environmental Protection Agency highlights the great work that’s being done across the Lake Champlain Basin, including efforts being made by Vermont’s farmers, partners and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. The report card shows meaningful progress in meeting our water quality goals. We look forward to building on this progress.”

In the letter, the EPA noted it was also encouraged by progress towards the remaining three milestones and granted a provisional pass to the state with the understanding those milestones will be met within the next year. These milestones include issuing general permits for municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) and for parcels of developed land with more than three acres of impervious (hard) surfaces, as well as continuing the work needed to ensure sufficient, long-term revenue to support water quality improvements.

The Vermont Legislature is currently working on H.576 - An act relating to stormwater management, and the Agency of Natural Resources stands ready to move forward with stormwater rulemaking as soon as the Legislature completes their work. The EPA recognized the funding commitments that have been made to clean water through 2027, and the on-going efforts of the State of Vermont and the Vermont Legislature to identify a long-term funding strategy.

The EPA report card points to the significant steps that have been taken in the first two years of Vermont’s 20-year commitment to achieving better water quality. Secretary of Natural Resources Julie Moore noted, “We appreciate the review and feedback provided by the EPA, which is reflective of the incredible sum of work that has been completed since the passage of the Vermont Clean Water Act in 2015. This work includes putting in place a robust suite of programs and permits that will ensure the clean-up Lake Champlain and stewardship of all Vermont’s waters. We have more work to do, but this is a good indication of the progress we’ve made and where we need to go from here.”

Image caption & credit: Before (left) and after (right) installation of a stone-lined ditch to control erosion caused by runoff from Fayston Road. This project was completed by Friends of the Mad River with Ecosystem Restoration funds. (Credit: VT Department of Environmental Conservation)