Leahy Leads Vermont And New York Lawmakers To Introduce Bill To Reauthorize Lake Champlain Basin Program

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, June 16) – U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) Thursday introduced legislation to reauthorize the Lake Champlain Basin Program, which supports restoration and protection efforts for Lake Champlain and its surrounding watershed.  Vermont Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

For more than 30 years, the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) has supported work in Vermont, New York, and north of the border in Quebec to address phosphorus pollution, toxic substances, biodiversity, aquatic invasive species, and climate change.  First authorized in federal legislation in 1990 and reauthorized in 2002, the Basin Program has grown substantially, with $28 million of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding in fiscal year 2022 through the annual spending bill and through the bipartisan infrastructure law passed late last year.  Additional support for the Basin Program flows through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the National Park Service.  Anticipating growing challenges and the need for increased investment, the new legislation authorizes up to $50 million each year in EPA support for work on Lake Champlain.

In addition to authorizing increased resources, the legislation reflects the current structure of the Basin Program, including the Steering Committee, which is comprised of state agency heads from Vermont and New York, and federal partners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and more.  Under the legislation introduced Thursday, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission will for the first time have specific authorization to continue the work that it has been leading for decades to control sea lamprey and help restore the Lake Champlain fishery. 

The legislation provides the opportunity for the EPA and the Basin Program’s Steering Committee to establish and oversee a new nonprofit foundation to accept additional federal funds, and manage grants that support the work of the program, providing yet another tool to protect and restore the lake.

Leahy said: “The restoration and protection of Lake Champlain has been one of my top priorities for decades.  This legislation will provide Vermont, New York, and Quebec with the resources necessary to help ensure the health and beauty of our watershed for future generations.” Leahy chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and has steered federal resources to the Basin Program throughout his tenure.

Schumer said: “Lake Champlain is one of the crown jewels of Upstate New York, and an economic anchor for the Adirondack region’s outdoor-recreation economy. Tourists come from all over the state and country to visit Lake Champlain, generating jobs and economic activity on all sides of its expansive shores, and it is time we open the floodgates for federal support to lift up communities from Plattsburgh to Port Henry. I am proud to join Senators Leahy, Sanders, and Gillibrand in introducing this critical legislation to ensure the natural beauty of Lake Champlain’s waters and landscapes remains intact and continues to inspire generations to come.”

Sanders said: “Lake Champlain is one of Vermont’s most treasured natural resources, and we must do everything possible to protect it. For the past 30 years, the Lake Champlain Basin Program has preserved and enhanced the natural and cultural resources that are a huge part of what makes the Champlain Valley such an important part of our community. I look forward to seeing the good work the program will continue to do over the next ten years for current and future generations.”

Gillibrand said: “The Lake Champlain Basin is a vast, historic, and invaluable resource that needs special stewardship and support. This legislation will ensure those needs continue to be met, and will protect Lake Champlain and its watershed for decades to come.”

Welch said: “It’s essential that we work to preserve the natural beauty, ecological significance, and economic importance of Lake Champlain for folks in Vermont and across the Northeast. This critical legislation to reauthorize the Lake Champlain Basin Program will ensure that the Lake and its surrounding watershed will be protected for years to come. We are all grateful to Senator Leahy for his decades of leadership and dedication to preserving and protecting our beautiful Lake Champlain.” 

Dr. Eric Howe, Director of the Lake Champlain Basin Program and Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, said: “This updated authorization creates an opportunity for the Lake Champlain Basin Program to grow our partnerships across the watershed. It also will allow the LCBP to continue to support monitoring, research and important boots-on-the-ground projects and programs well into the future. I am excited to expand the membership of the Lake Champlain Steering Committee to include new representation and more local community voices in management decisions for the Lake.”

Leahy, Schumer, Sanders and Gillibrand last year introduced legislation to extend the authorization of the Champlain Valley National Heritage Area Partnership through Fiscal Year 2036.  The legislation is pending action in the Senate. A two-year authorization of the Heritage Area Partnership was included in the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus spending bill.

Legislative text for the Lake Champlain Basin Program Reauthorization Act of 2022 is available here.

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