Wednesday, March 20, 2024

DEC Celebrates Clean Water Investments, $1 Million for Town of Peru  

Students at the Lake Champlain Youth Water Summit learning how to study water quality. Photo by Zachary Matson

On March 18, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos joined representatives from the town of Peru and other local officials along the shores of Lake Champlain to announce the finalization of the Lake Champlain Watershed Implementation Plan. The plan creates a detailed path forward to build upon progress to reduce phosphorus that impairs Lake Champlain and contributes to harmful algal blooms (HABs). The Lake Champlain Watershed Implementation Plan will support and guide investments like the recent $1 million to the town of Peru, Clinton County, for wastewater improvements that will reduce pollutants and significantly improve water quality.

“Governor Hochul and DEC are committed to working with municipalities statewide to advance critical infrastructure projects and protect New York’s waters,” said Commissioner Seggos. “The Lake Champlain Watershed Implementation Plan released today is a critically important tool that will be used to supplement ongoing work, both by DEC and our many partners, to protect the Lake Champlain watershed, a vital environmental resource that provides drinking water, critical wildlife habitat, and recreation. The plan will guide the wise investment of state and federal funds to improve the health of these waters.”

Drawing from data, modeling, and analyses, the Lake Champlain Watershed Implementation Plan identifies potential projects that will significantly reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the lake to improve water quality and complements the existing Lake Champlain Phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) ‘pollution budget’ that established limits from all contributing sources of phosphorus.

Highlights of the plan include:

  • Analysis of ambient water quality trends in the major tributaries to Lake Champlain;
  • Comparison of in-lake water quality data to TMDL criteria;
  • Updated land cover analysis;
  • Description of funding programs available to support implementation; and
  • List of potential implementation projects by sector.

The 2002 Lake Champlain Phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), divides the lake into 13 segments with corresponding contributing sub-watersheds for management purposes. Each segment was assigned a target in-lake concentration level for phosphorus. Some of the segments currently meet water quality goals set by the 2002 TMDL. Other segments continue to exceed phosphorus targets and lead to conditions associated with excessive phosphorus pollution, including HABs, low water clarity, and excessive macrophyte growth. For more information on the TMDL, visit DEC’s Clean Water Plan website.

Dr. Eric Howe, Director of the Patrick Leahy Lake Champlain Basin Program which coordinates management efforts for the Lake Champlain watershed, said, “Science-based plans like this new Watershed Implementation Plan are critical for ensuring that management decisions for Lake Champlain watershed are informed by the best information available to address the increasing number of challenges to our waterways.”

New York invested $112 million in State grants and $70 million in low-interest loans to support nearly 300 water quality improvement projects for Lake Champlain since 1995. The Watershed Implementation Plan will build upon this progress and guide the management actions of DEC and its partners to achieve the largest phosphorus pollution reductions at locations where reductions are most needed and with the lowest overall cost. The plan will also complement other measures underway, including the HABs Action Plan for Lake Champlain (PDF).

The Watershed Implementation Plan is now available on DEC’s website. The draft plan was made available for public comment in 2023. Edits were made to the final document based on feedback from the public and from an information U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review. A response to public comments received is also posted with the final plan.

In addition, today DEC also celebrated more than $1 million in State funding for clean water that was recently awarded to the town of Peru. The funding is part of $166 million in water quality grants announced by Governor Kathy Hochul on Feb. 15, 2024, and bolsters efforts in Peru to improve crucial water infrastructure and the health of the Ausable River and Lake Champlain Watershed. The grant will help the town of Peru make critical improvements to its municipal wastewater treatment facility, including the construction of a new solids handling system at the town’s water pollution control facility. This project will reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the Little Ausable River and Lake Champlain watershed and help control the threat of HABs in the watershed.

In addition to the more than $1 million awarded to Peru, the recent State grants included $150,000 to Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District for an Adirondack roadside remediation program designed to reduce roadside erosion in portions of the St. Lawrence, Upper Hudson, and Lake Champlain basins. Together, these clean water projects will be instrumental in protecting the Lake Champlain Watershed, habitat, protect drinking water, and support local economies. Funding for the highlighted projects comes from DEC’s Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) Program, which focuses on improving water quality and aquatic habitat, protecting drinking water sources, and enhancing wastewater infrastructure.

New York’s Commitment to Clean Water
New York State continues to increase its nation-leading investments in water infrastructure, including $325 million in grant opportunities now open for applications at the State Environmental Facilities Corporation website. With Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget’s proposed $500 million over two years, New York will have invested a total of $5.5 billion in water infrastructure since 2017. This funding complements Governor Hochul’s State of the State initiative to increase water infrastructure grants for small rural communities from 25 to 50 percent of net eligible project costs to help support smaller communities. To leverage these investments and ensure ongoing coordination with local governments, the Governor expanded EFC’s Community Assistance Teams to help small, rural, and disadvantaged communities leverage this funding and address their clean water infrastructure needs. Any community that needs help with their water infrastructure needs is encouraged to contact EFC.

The funding is in addition to other substantial water quality investments, including the voter-approved $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022 which is advancing historic levels of funding to update aging water infrastructure and protect water quality, strengthen communities’ ability to withstand severe storms and flooding, reduce air pollution and lower climate-altering emissions, restore habitats, and preserve outdoor spaces and local farms. The first round of funding under the Environmental Bond Act was awarded through the WIIA/IMG programs in December, when Governor Hochul announced $479 million in grants to 156 projects across New York State. Disadvantaged Communities will receive at least 35 percent of the benefits of Bond Act funding, with a goal of 40 percent.

Photo at top: Students at the Lake Champlain Youth Water Summit learning how to study water quality. Photo by Zachary Matson.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

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