Thank you, CLF

Every so often we have to give a shout-out fto the Conservation Law Foundation, who tirelessly fight the good fight and take plenty of verbal abuse in the bargain.

Having successfully engaged the attention of the Obama Administration’s EPA on  Lake Champlain, and brought greater scrutiny to phosphorus contributions from agricultural sources, CLF is looking to expand the state’s requirements regarding run-off control from all non-agricultural business use within the watershed, as well.  

Under provisions of the Clean Water Act CLF is asking the state to mandate limits on pollution from all commercial, industrial and institutional uses within the watershed.


The Conservation Law Foundation is asking the state to use its existing authority to require commercial, industrial and institutional property owners to obtain permits that would limit the amount of pollution flowing from their properties…

Runoff from parking lots, big box store roofs, campuses and other impervious surfaces carries pollutants and nutrients into Lake Champlain. That accounts for about 14 percent of the lake’s phosphorus loading,

While there is bound to be some political push-back, it appears that Natural Resource Secretary Deb Markowitz is in agreement, at least in principle, with the CLF’s assessment that “green infrastructure” should be a component of all development, urban or otherwise.

I’m glad to hear that.  I think most Vermonters simply assume that is already the case, and that all of the issues with lake pollution are the fault of farmers, who often feel aggrieved by the manner in which the phosphorus issue has painted them the villains.

We have a long way to go to enjoying a cleaner lake.  More than a century of dairying, and over-fertilized crops has left a deep deposit of phosphorus in the sediments of Lake Champlain; and that is as much the fault of poor USDA policy as the farmers themselves.  

Even if farming in the Champlain Valley was to cease entirely, today, that sediment would continue to bring up algae blooms in St. Albans Bay every time it was disturbed.  A solution that would permanently remove or stabilize the phosphorus deposit remains persistently ellusive.

This issue has even been raised as yet another very good reason to oppose the laying of pipeline beneath the Lake.

“Fourteen-percent” of new contributions (from development) is a very significant number, however; and represents an opportunity for great improvement if initiatives to curb those discharges are adopted at the statewide level.

So, when you inevitably read letters from the development community in your local paper, complaining that they are being unfairly targeted by CLF, remember what a thankless job CLF does to protect Vermont’s natural resources; and, maybe write a letter of thanks to counterbalance the hue and cry of the able-but-inconvenienced.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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