Leahy Announces Significant Funding Increases To Programs That Protect and Preserve Lake Champlain

. . . Victories in Senate Appropriations bill include big wins for phosphorous cleanup, sea lamprey control and other Lake Champlain priorities

WASHINGTON (FIRDAY, June 15, 2018) — Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Thursday that the Interior and Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bills approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee include significant wins for Lake Champlain.  Leahy, Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has long fought for resources to protect Vermont’s ‘great Lake.’

The Interior and CJS bills approved by the Appropriations Committee include at least $12.5 million for Lake Champlain, and include funding for other competitive grant programs for which Lake Champlain protection work is eligible.  The Lake Champlain Program would receive $11 million for fiscal year 2019, a $2.6 million increase from the fiscal year 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  These funds address water quality challenges in Lake Champlain, particularly in managing phosphorous runoff.  The increase comes as part of a $7.1 million overall boost to EPA Geographic Programs in the Interior Appropriations bill, which includes the Lake Champlain Program.

Leahy said:  “I was proud to negotiate these key funding increases to preserve Vermont’s treasured Lake Champlain.  These resources will address phosphorous pollution, invasive pests and other threats to our ‘great Lake’ so that it can be protected for generations to come.  These vital investments will keep important cleanup work going forward.”

The bill also includes $500,000 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Lake Champlain Sea Lamprey Control program to deal with the invasive pest in the Lake.  This would mark the second year in a row that Leahy secured dedicated funding for the USFWS to work on sea lamprey eradication in Lake Champlain. 

The CJS bill includes $71 million for the National Sea Grant College Program.  The Lake Champlain Sea Grant (LCSG) Program was created by Leahy in 1990 and expanded in 1998 when Leahy briefly – and famously – was able to designate Lake Champlain as a Great Lake, for the purposes of qualifying for funding under the Sea Grant research program. 

In May, the LCSG, based out of the University of Vermont, achieved Sea Grant Institute status, and language secured by Leahy in the spending bill means that it is now eligible for a minimum grant of $1 million in fiscal year 2019.  There is also $170.7 million for Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grants from the National Science Foundation.  In 2016, Vermont received a $20 million EPSCoR Grant to study and promote resiliency in the Lake Champlain Basin.

The Trump administration has repeatedly sought to eliminate or deeply cut environmental programs vital to the Lake’s recovery. 

Approval by the Senate Appropriations Committee is a crucial first step in the fiscal year 2019 process, but several steps remain in the legislative process, including approval by the full Senate, reconciliation with House, and signature by the President.

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