I attended Part Two of the H.35 bill signing on the dock at Saint Albans Bay last night. It was great to see a small crowd gathered, in spite of the recent rainy weather that prevented Gov. Shumlin from making a grand entrance by boat, as was planned.
Friends of Northern Lake Champlain Executive Director Denise Smith took some well-deserved kudos and at the same time cautioned that the work has just begun. She closed her remarks with an admonishment for manure-spreading farmers and lawn-fertilizing homeowners alike,
Just because something has always been, does not mean that it always has to be.
Mayor Liz Gamache and the Governor both talked about the collaboration between parties, committees and various constituencies that made the bill possible. Larry Jarvis spoke as a member of the Farmer’s Watershed Alliance and seemed stunned that so much progress was possible this year.
When you go down to Montpelier and you sit in these committee rooms, people really listen to what you have to say.
I would add, especially if you are a representative of a big agricultural operation. With all of the high-fives and hugs going around it was hard not to feel that a clean lake is just around the corner. Denise Smith made sure to remind us that a lengthy rule-making process was still ahead. I’ve also heard from one former legislator that the funds raised in H.35 are really only a quarter of what the need is annually for the next decade to get Lake Champlain back to acceptable phosphorous levels. Couple that with the fact that Lake Champlain won’t get all of the Clean Water Fund monies and we may not see a big change in water quality in the long run.
I’m also concerned about giving a lot of kudos to folks who fought hard for less funding, or drastic cuts to other conservation efforts as the bill made its way through the legislature. Reps. Corey Parent and Lynn Dickinson were there, and they fought hard to cut the funding from the Vermont Housing Conservation Board budget and redirect it to Lake clean-up. Senator Dustin Degree was even holding a Lake Carmi organizations’ sign as he stood beside Governor Shumlin at the podium. He fought against Act 138, which was the predecessor to this bill. It’s great to see that he’s come around on this environmental issue, but I don’t know that I feel all warm and fuzzy about giving any credit to the late-comers to the party.
Still, this is a big step and will fund a lot of much-needed projects as well as enforcement. Let’s hope it’s just the first step and not the last. Otherwise we really won’t see clean water in Saint Albans Bay. When the algae blooms are a thing of the past, that will be something to celebrate!