Leahy Secures Significant Boost For Lake Champlain Funding In Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Senator Patrick Leahy has announced that the final Omnibus Appropriations Bill unveiled on Wednesday night includes millions of dollars for cleanup and research of the Lake Champlain Basin.

Leahy said:  “Lake Champlain will always be our ‘great lake.’  These investments will continue and expand the work being done to ensure that Lake Champlain’s resources and beauty are preserved for us and for our children and grandchildren.  I am proud of the efforts that Vermonters are making for Lake Champlain’s health and vibrancy, and I will continue to support these efforts from the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was a leading member in the months of bill writing and negotiations leading to Wednesday’s release of an appropriations package to fund the government through September, and he ensured that Lake Champlain’s needs were supported by the bill.  

President Trump has opposed a wide range of environmental priorities, including dedicated funding for Lake Champlain.  The Trump administration’s budget would have eliminated all of the EPA’s Geographic Programs, abandoning a significant portion of federal support for ongoing regional clean-up projects in areas like Lake Champlain, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, all of which partner with local programs to find solutions.  In large complex ecosystems like Lake Champlain, stopping investments into cleanup efforts would have reverberating consequences that would result in losing the progress we have made.  As one of the Geographic Programs, the Lake Champlain Program grants millions of dollars to local communities and organizations for pollution prevention and education work.

The final year-long appropriations bill, which Congress is poised to consider Thursday and Friday, includes $8.4 million for the EPA’s Lake Champlain Program, a 90 percent increase in funding over fiscal year 2017.  This expanded funding will be used to improve water quality in Lake Champlain, including managing phosphorous runoff.   

The bill also includes $5.5 million -- $2 million more than in fiscal year 2017 – for sea lamprey control and other work to restore aquatic habitat and fisheries in the Champlain basin.  Additionally, through his work as the Ranking Member of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Leahy secured $250,000 for a long overdue resource study for Lake Memphremgog’s binational fishery, and $1 million for the multi-year binational study on the causes and impacts of flooding in the Lake Champlain Richelieu River Watershed.

The final bill also includes $65 million for the National Sea Grant Program.  Leahy has been working with the University of Vermont to secure institutional designation for Lake Champlain under the Sea Grant program.  Such designation would ensure at least $1 million for Lake Champlain under the program for research on fisheries, water quality, invasive species control and other efforts related to the Lake Champlain Basin.

Leahy has long been a champion of Lake Champlain, fighting every year for the Lake Champlain Basin program, and he was the impetus for inclusion of the University of Vermont in the Sea Grant program. 

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David Carle: 202-224-3693