01.14.15

Lake Champlain Water Quality Efforts Net $16 M. Over 5 Years Under New USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program

. . . Lake Champlain Project Is Largest Under National Pool Section Of 3-Part Program . . . Leahy Helped Craft And Enact New Targeted Effort In 2014 Farm Bill

(WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14, 2015) -- Efforts to improve Lake Champlain’s water quality got another major boost Wednesday, coming hard on the heels of a succession of other announcements of funding for Lake cleanup efforts in recent months. 

Grants under a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) resource conservation program in last year's Farm Bill were announced Wednesday in Washington by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and were hailed at an afternoon event at the Vermont State House by Governor Peter Shumlin and state agency officials who put together Vermont's application, and by others, including the chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jason Weller.  The Lake Champlain grants, which will be used by several project participants, including state agencies, will total $16 million over the next five years – the largest single funding level of any project in the national pool part of this new three-part Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which includes additional grants under two additional sections. 

The Connecticut River region of Vermont will benefit as well, through a separate but similar RCPP project for the entire Long Island Sound drainage basin, including Vermont, which was funded at $10 million over the next five years. 

Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who helped shape and support the new program in last year’s Farm Bill, said in Washington that the funding for Lake Champlain moves Vermont and New York closer to turning the corner on improving the Lake's water quality.  Leahy said:  “This substantially adds momentum.  This multiplies our efforts to benefit the Lake and all who use it.  We made this a Farm Bill priority as a way to sharpen our focus and proactively address the factors that we already know are affecting the Lake’s water quality.  These grants will undergird a widening public-private partnership, in recognition that all Vermonters are in this together.  I am proud that USDA financial assistance for conservation work by our farmers will be stronger under this 5-year Farm Bill than at any time in history, and I congratulate Governor Shumlin and our state agencies for putting together such a strong project.”  Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and has long led in securing cleanup funds for the Lake.

The USDA's Weller travelled to Vermont to highlight the significance of the new Lake Champlain Project, which is a partnership of Vermont and to New York, involving both public and private partners, to accelerate implementation of agriculture and forestry conservation practices in the watershed. The Lake Champlain project is one of just 21 finalists in the National Project category that have been awarded a totally of $148.8 million, out of a pool of 53 projects that were invited to submit applications.  Multiple partners are involved in each of the national projects that were selected, leveraging their financial and technical capabilities, and more than doubling the reach of the program through their contributions.  This is a much different approach than USDA has historically followed under past Farm Bills, and this new program will allow for federal and private investments in natural resource conservation that empower local communities and demonstrates the importance of strong public-private partnerships in delivering local solutions to natural resource challenges.

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VIDEO/AUDIO Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy Are Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3MYAuso7cg&feature=youtu.be

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