Leahy Announces Key Win For Lake Champlain In Federal Budget Bill

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10, 2014) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday announced that key funding for Lake Champlain has been included in the comprehensive budget package that will be considered by Congress later this week, as the clock runs out on the congressional session.

Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and played a key role in negotiating several parts of the final federal budget bill, which was unveiled Tuesday night.

At Leahy’s urging, the final appropriations bill includes a $3 million increase over last year for Lake Champlain through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Geographic Program.  The total allocation under the program for Lake Champlain is $4.399 million.  The Geographic Program, and Lake Champlain in particular, have seen gradual funding reductions in recent years, and the President’s budget request for federal Fiscal Year 2015 included just $1.399 million.  In the new bill, Leahy was able to reverse that trend for this federal fiscal year.

“We have invested far too much and for far too long in the restoration and preservation of Lake Champlain to walk back on that commitment,” Leahy said.  “With new federal requirements forcing Vermont, New York and all of our Lake partners to make difficult decisions about how to maintain our ‘Great Lake,’ this federal support will go a long way toward preserving one of Vermont’s greatest natural resources for generations to come.”

Through his work on the Appropriations and Agriculture Committees, Leahy long has led efforts to direct tens of millions of federal dollars to support efforts to restore Lake Champlain.

Leahy added, “Lake Champlain and its tributaries are a celebrated part of Vermont’s natural landscape.  We have worked so hard over so many years to address many challenges, but threats to the Lake remain.  Lake Champlain supports our local economies and is a pillar of our tourism industry.  I am as committed as ever to ensuring we don’t lose ground on the progress we have made over the last few decades in restoring the Lake.” 

Leahy worked closely with Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to protect funding through the Geographic Program.  Reed chairs the Senate’s Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over EPA programs.

At Leahy’s request, Lake Champlain will also receive federal support to address sea lamprey infestation through funding for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.  Leahy reported that the comprehensive budget bill also includes funding for conservation programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and for the EPA’s clean water revolving loan fund -- programs through which Vermont is also likely to see federal dollars.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also announced $40 million in federal conservation funding for Vermont when he visited the state in August.  

The Omnibus Appropriations Bill will provide funding for nearly every federal agency through September 30, 2015.  The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the package on Thursday.  The Senate could consider the bill as early as Friday.

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