— Lake Champlain advocates say farmers' fear of fines and distrust of
regulators is hindering the cleanup of Lake Champlain.
Vermont Citizens Advisory Committee on Lake Champlain has called on
state and federal regulators to exempt until 2009 farmers who come
forward with their pollution problems and seek assistance to fix them.
proposal also calls for decreasing the cost farmers must spend to clean
up pollution and repairing only problems that farmers disclose and not
reviewing every pollution concern on a farm.
State officials said they would consider the ideas but said they already offer farmers help.
farmers want is the ability to raise their hands and say, 'I have a
problem,' without opening themselves up to an enforcement action. They
don't want to be in the crosshairs," said Buzz Hoerr of Colchester,
head of the lake committee. The committee works with the Lake Champlain
Basin Program, a federally funded program.
from manure and fertilizer is a major source of phosphorus in Lake
Champlain. Phosphorus leads to toxic algae blooms and plant growth in
The phosphorus enters the lake when rainwater or
melting snow runs off fields covered with manure, or when manure
storage areas overflow, or water leaches from milkhouses or from silage
storage into streams.
"When farmers know they have a problem,
they want to fix it," said Georgia dairy farmer Jason Bur. He helped
found the Farmers Watershed Alliance to address pollution problems.
cost of cleanup solutions deters some farms who are now faced with
declining milk prices and the rising costs of fuel and fertilizer, he
A distrust of regulator also discourages farmers from
disclosing their problems, said Roger Rainville of Alburgh, who also
helped start the Farmers Watershed Alliance.
The volunteer group
Friends of Missisquoi Bay is working to reduce the amount of phosphorus
that has caused toxic algae blooms in northern parts of the
lake."Instead of spending all the money on expanding manure storage, we
ought to go after significant problems that farmers themselves can
identify and that are not as expensive to solve but are serious
water-quality problems," said Pixley Hill of St. Albans.
need to focus on what we can do in the next six to 36 months to really
make a difference — we need a kind of little Marshall Plan for the
lake," she said.