Opportunities for Action: An Evolving Plan for the Future of the Lake Champlain Basin

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A Strategy for Implementing the Plan

About This Chapter

Introduction

Plan implementation includes coordinating state, federal, and provincial programs for the protection and restoration of Lake Champlain; assuring that the public is involved in Lake issues; and building local support through nongovernmental organizations and municipalities. Long-term monitoring of the Lake Champlain ecosystem’s health and measuring the success or weaknesses of the plan are also important. Implementation must also link Lake issues to legislative bodies and interest groups and provide financial resources for specific projects and research.

Many cooperating agencies, organizations, and individuals have contributed their time, knowledge, and commitment to producing a comprehensive pollution prevention, control, and restoration plan for Lake Champlain. The result of these efforts, Opportunities for Action (OFA), outlines priority strategies for protecting and enhancing the environmental, cultural, recreational, and economic activities of or relating to the Lake. The challenge now is to implement these strategies.

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La mise en oeuvre du Plan

La mise en oeuvre du plan comporte plusieurs étapes dont la coordination des programmes d’assainissement de l’État du Vermont, de l'État de New York, de la province de Québec et du gouvernement fédéral américain, l'engagement du public dans la protection du lac et l'appui local par le biais des municipalités et des organismes non gouvernementaux. Le suivi continue de l’état des écosystèmes du lac et l’évaluation des succès et des échecs du plan occupent une place tout aussi importante. Finalement, la mise en oeuvre du plan doit se faire en collaboration avec les autorités gouvernementales et les groupes d'intérêt et prévoir des ressources suffisantes pour financer des recherches et des projets particuliers.

Le plan de prévention et contrôle de la pollution et la restauration du lac Champlain ont nécessité l’implication et la collaboration de plusieurs niveaux de gouvernement, l'engagement du public et des organismes non gouvernementaux. Le résultat de ces efforts se matérialise dans le document Perspectives d’Action où sont décrites les stratégies prioritaires pour protéger et améliorer l’environnement, la culture et les activités récréatives et économiques du bassin versant du Lac Champlain. Maintenant, le défi est la mise en œuvre de ces stratégies.

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Lake Champlain Basin Program Role and Structure

As a partnership of provincial, state, and US federal agencies, the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) brings cross-boundary and multidisciplinary leadership experience to coordinating and implementing the plan. The LCBP works cooperatively with many partners to protect and enhance the environmental integrity and the social and economic benefits of the Lake Champlain Basin. The program is guided by the Lake Champlain Steering Committee, a board comprised of a broad spectrum of representatives of government agencies and the chairs of advisory groups representing citizen lake users, scientists, and educators. Steering Committee membership from New York, Québec, and Vermont reflects each jurisdiction’s commitment to the 2010 Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Cooperation on the Management of Lake Champlain among The State of New York, The State of Vermont and the Gouvernment of Québec. US federal agency participation in the Lake Champlain Steering Committee, codified in OFA, reflects the federal commitments established in the Special Designation Act of 1990 and the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Lake Champlain Basin Program Act of 2002.

LCBP Structure
[Please click on committee names above to learn more about the composition, protocols, and charge of each committee within the LCBP operating structure.]

The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) regularly enters into grant agreements with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), New York, and Vermont to implement tasks according to a single coordinated LCBP workplan approved by the Lake Champlain Steering Committee. Most tasks are implemented by LCBP staff who, as NEIWPCC employees, provide management and continuity through annual budget cycles and who coordinate the advisory committees and procedures involved in annual operations. The states of New York and Vermont each enter into grant agreements with the USEPA to manage implementation tasks that may be more efficiently accomplished by state personnel. Both states maintain Lake Champlain Coordinators, with LCBP funding, who ensure that implementation managed by the states reflects the intentions of the Lake Champlain Steering Committee. Other work in the U.S. sector of the basin is funded by federal appropriations to the National Park Service (NPS) and through other federally funded agencies and commissions. Federal appropriations reflect both the executive branch priority as a line in the President’s budget and the Congressional commitment, through substantial and continuing Congressional support.

Work in the Canadian sector of the basin is funded by provincial appropriations in the Canadian Province of Québec. Led by the Québec Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks - QCMDDEP), the highest priorities of OFA are included in annual provincial ministry action plans.

LCBP and MDDEP staff split water samples for analysis.

Many essential research, monitoring, and resource management endeavors are developed with common methodologies on each side of the border so that data may be shared, analyzed, and reported easily. The successful experience of one jurisdiction is regularly shared with neighboring jurisdictions, and replication often is successful. Cross-marketing of programs, initiatives, and events and collaborative planning efforts are characteristic of the working relationships maintained by Steering Committee members.

 

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Key Functions of Opportunities for Action

The Lake Champlain Steering Committee has identified key functions that must be accomplished to successfully implement the plan. These functions include the following:

Coordinate Programs and Implementation Activities

Coordination among government agencies, regional and local governments, the public and private sectors, nonprofit organizations, residents, and visitors is critical to successful implementation of the plan. Coordination involves facilitating data management and information exchange, resource and data sharing, and improving efficiency among key partners while not duplicating programs or creating new layers of bureaucracy.

Inform and Involve the Public

Public information and involvement efforts are required for successful implementation of the plan. A public that understands the Basin’s water quality and resource management issues can make informed choices about the long-term protection and restoration of the Lake. A commitment to lifelong education about Basin resources is needed to facilitate this process. Furthermore, involving the public in planning and implementation increases both the sphere of responsibility for action and support for recommended actions.

Support Local Level Implementation

Implementation at the local level is the cornerstone of successful plan implementation. Addressing pollution problems at the local level is important because those most affected by an issue are often best able to address that issue. Many communities have existing resources and organizations to help implement programs, but may lack technical expertise, adequate funding, or access to additional human and financial resources. Building local capacity for plan implementation requires strengthening technical assistance to community groups and may require additional financial support for local programs.

Measure and Monitor Success Relative to Plan Benchmarks

A critical component of watershed planning is monitoring, which must accomplish two roles. First, it must be a source of information regarding the health of the Lake and Basin. Management capacity hinges on the availability and reliability of comprehensive monitoring of key ecosystem indicators. Second, monitoring must measure the success of management programs and ensure accountability to the public. Monitoring can help determine progress toward goals and whether or not priorities need to be adjusted.

Create Links with Legislative Bodies

Successful plan implementation depends greatly on the ability to gain political support for recommended actions. A framework is needed to communicate needs and recommend actions concerning the Lake to legislative bodies who formulate federal, state, and local laws and appropriate funds to various programs.

Create Links with Interest Groups

Implementation of the recommended actions in the plan depends greatly on continued support from numerous individuals and groups. Decisions concerning the management of the resources in the Lake Champlain Basin should be made through a consensus-based, collaborative process that encourages the expression and understanding of diverse viewpoints. This process helps integrate economic and environmental goals into plan implementation and ensures that a focus on implementation at the local level is maintained.

Conduct Research

The plan identifies several areas in which research is needed. Research has been an important component of preparing and updating the plan and will continue to provide critical information as implementation evolves. Improved knowledge of the physical, chemical, biological, and social characteristics of the Lake and Basin will help resource managers make effective policy and management decisions in the future.

Secure and Direct Funding

The cost of implementing the plan is high, though not as high as the potential costs of failing to act. The ability to implement watershed programs rests heavily on the availability of and access to funding sources. A mechanism must be in place to seek public and private funding for program implementation as appropriate and to allocate resources to appropriate entities based upon recommended priorities. Refer to Strategies for Funding Implementation for a discussion of funding implementation efforts.

Update Plan Recommendations

Because environmental conditions in the Basin change over time and new technologies will be discovered, priorities for action in the plan may change. Some management programs may become more important, others less. The plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect these changing conditions. Moreover, the Steering Committee periodically should identify new actions requiring implementation based on reports of emerging issues from advisory committees and the LCBP’s adaptive management initiative.

Advise and Encourage Agencies Responsible for Implementation

As the plan evolves, various agencies will fulfill their responsibilities for implementing certain actions. Listed benchmarks provide gauges for monitoring success. Those responsible for implementing actions must be encouraged to follow through with their commitments and reach these benchmarks. Regular reporting of accomplishments, presented with the plan on the LCBP website plan.lcbp.org will both document and communicate progress as it is achieved.

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Partners in Opportunities for Action Implementation

Federal, state, provincial, private, and non-profit partners tour an agricultural buffer in Québec.

Countless partners – including federal, state, and provincial agencies, watershed and conservation groups, heritage and recreation organizations, and local citizens – are working to prevent pollution and protect, restore, enhance, and enjoy the water quality of the Lake Champlain Basin. OFA provides a common road map for all of the various partners in New York, Québec, and Vermont. While many different groups may work on any given task in order to accomplish a general action, the tasks presented in Chapters 3 through 10 are associated with potential “lead partners” who can play a pivotal role in accomplishing the goals of this plan in order to protect Lake Champlain. The organizations, agencies, and jurisdictions identified as lead partners for the tasks are the signatories of OFA and will be responsible for addressing progress and periodically updating the status of each task.

The Lake Champlain Steering Committee, which sets resource management policy and approves budget allocations for the LCBP, relies on the efforts of all partners. As OFA is a plan for all sectors of society, the following sections describe the general roles and responsibilities that fall to the public, various levels of government, organizations, and the private sector in meeting the demands to protect the aquatic resources of the Lake Champlain Basin.

Local Residents and Visitors

Sea Grant helps students install a rain garden at Essex Middle School

The cumulative results of many individual actions make perhaps the greatest difference in the complex issues facing the Lake Champlain Basin. In this context, all members of the public are key partners in implementation of OFA. Nearly 600,000 people live, work, and play in the Lake Champlain Basin, which they share with more than six million visitors annually. Underlying all of the actions in the plan is the need for increased public involvement in the care of the Lake and its Basin. Residents of the Basin can and must be involved in the implementation process in many ways. They can change activities in their own households and workplaces, maintain septic systems properly, and reduce the use of toxic chemicals in cleaning and lawn care. They can support local initiatives for action or demand action and leadership in their own communities to address problems where progress is inadequate. They also can volunteer for local boards, monitor their community’s activities, and participate in citizen groups advocating for a cleaner Lake. Most importantly, residents can inform themselves about caring for their watershed and ensure that their own behavior contributes to improvements. The plan emphasizes education and outreach programs for this reason. Without effective public involvement, the efforts of jurisdictions will not succeed.

Visitors often become involved in implementation of the plan through their support of the economic and environmental integrity of the Basin. The inherent beauty of the Basin is a key attraction for visitors, who often bring a heightened sense of appreciation of the quality of the natural environment. They spend numerous dollars in the Basin and can act in environmentally sound ways when they are here. Business must work to encourage responsible behavior of their clients, particularly by demonstrating their own commitments and actions to reduce contamination and improve the water quality of the Lake and its Basin.

State and Provincial Agencies

State and provincial agencies in New York, Québec, and Vermont have several key roles in protecting the Basin’s resources. They administer a number of critically important resource management programs, including water-quality protection programs, wetlands protection programs, fish and wildlife management programs, and recreation and cultural resource programs, among others. The states and province also provide technical and financial assistance, such as training for wastewater treatment plant operators and funding for local nonpoint source pollution control projects, to ensure that the appropriate people have the expertise to implement their programs.

VTFWD staff collect lake trout eggs for hatching and analysis

Although several state and provincial agencies are listed in the plan, the Regional Director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the Regional Director of Québec Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks - QCMDDEP), and the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VTANR) have major roles in implementation. As the leading environmental agencies in each jurisdiction, NYSDEC, QCMDDEP, and VTANR have critical responsibilities in every major action area in the plan. Other key state agencies are the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (for agricultural land use, nonpoint source and pesticide issues) and the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets (for nonpoint source issues); Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and New York’s Empire State Development (for economic issues); New York and Vermont Departments of Health (for health advisories); and Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and New York Department of State (for recreation and cultural resource issues). Other key ministries in Québec include Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food), and Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec (Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife).

US Federal Agencies

Many of the activities necessary to implement the plan need to occur at the local level and, to some degree, at the state level. However, environmental restoration in the Lake Champlain Basin often benefits from collaboration and support from federal agencies carrying out restoration projects on the ground. US federal agencies have taken a vital role in providing support for plan implementation in the unique network of partnerships reflected below. Several federal agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate their cooperation and coordination through the LCBP. Representatives of these agencies are active in many of LCBP activities.

  • The USEPA provides financial and technical support to the states for implementing several federal environmental programs and is responsible for implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act and other key environmental laws. It ensures that all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn, and work.
  • The US Department of Agriculture provides financial and technical assistance on best management practices for controlling nonpoint source pollution and especially for preventing pollution from agricultural runoff.
  • The US Department of the Interior supports the management plan through three services.
    • The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) cooperates with the states in the management of fish and wildlife resources, carries out site-specific habitat restoration projects, operates a National Wildlife Refuge and a National Fish Hatchery in the Basin, and helps ensure that the actions of other federal agencies are consistent with the needs for fish and wildlife conservation.
    • The National Park Service serves as a partner through the National Heritage Areas Program to provide support, financial assistance, and advice on managing the important cultural heritage and recreational resources within the newly designated Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership.
    • The US Geological Survey (USGS) provides financial and technical support through stream gauge monitoring and watershed research concerning nutrients and contaminants of concern.
  • The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is authorized by Section 542 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (revised 2007) to provide assistance with planning, designing, and implementing projects that contribute to protection and enhancement of the Lake Champlain water quality, water supply, ecosystem, and other water-related issues while preserving and enhancing the economic and social character of the communities within the watershed.

    The types of projects eligible for assistance include, but are not limited to, river restoration, stormwater management, wetland creation/restoration, watershed plans, planning aid reports, alternatives analyses, invasive species control/removal, and wastewater treatment plant studies. All projects and studies are cost shared 65-35 with a nonfederal partner (any local governmental agency, Indian Tribe, or nongovernmental organization). The non-federal 35 percent share may be provided as in-kind services directly related to the task or as cash.

    The USACE works in partnership with the LCBP to implement the Section 542 program within the Lake Champlain Basin. The LCBP coordinates invitations to and applications from interested parties within the Basin to request USACE assistance in the development of projects under the Section 542 program. The USACE then selects projects ranked highest in priority by the LCBP for implementation, given funding availability. Approved projects are then coordinated solely through the USACE throughout implementation.

    In addition to the program-specific authority discussed above, the USACE also has several general and single-project authorities that can provide assistance to Lake Champlain. Please contact the New York District Office for particulars.

  • The US Department of Commerce, through the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Sea Grant College Program, provides financial and technical support for research, management of fisheries and other aquatic resources, and related watershed programs operated by Lake Champlain Sea Grant.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation, through the National Scenic Byways program, provides financial and technical support for recreational, economic, and water-quality programs including the Lake Champlain Byways programs (Vermont) and Lakes to Locks Passage (New York).

New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC)

Established by the US Congress in 1947, NEIWPCC is a 501 (c)(3) corporation that also operates under a seven-state compact. NEIWPCC’s primary mission is to assist member states (New England and New York) by providing coordination, public education, training, and leadership in the protection of water quality and related work in the region. The role of NEIWPCC in the Lake Champlain Basin is to conduct the business and financial affairs of the LCBP, including staffing and administration of grants and contracts, according to its rules and procedures. LCBP operations handled by NEIWPCC conform to its Quality Management Plan, approved by the USEPA.

Local Governments

Most of the solutions to problems affecting the Basin, such as nonpoint source pollution from urban and agricultural land uses, failing septic systems, planning for future development, and recreation conflicts, are best implemented at the local level. The plan identifies several actions that local governments can implement to address these matters. Key partners likely to implement such actions are local boards and commissions. Because local governments have primary authority over planning and zoning (in all cases except agriculture and silviculture in Vermont) and some public health issues, transferring authority to other groups is not envisioned in most situations. Local governments can also incorporate a watershed planning focus into local comprehensive plans.

Regional Government Organizations

Protecting Lake Champlain requires cooperation among the communities within its watershed. Watersheds cross town boundaries, and one town acting alone may not be sufficient to address all issues. Protecting the entire Basin demands a high level of attention from all municipalities in the watershed. Regional organizations – such as the county planning offices in New York and the regional planning commissions in Vermont – work with a number of jurisdictions to coordinate efforts that address issues of mutual concern. They will continue to be key partners in focusing implementation efforts through a watershed approach to planning and ensuring that the recommendations of the plan are carried out equitably.

Legislative Bodies

Legislative bodies in the Basin are responsible for passing laws and appropriating funds for many programs important to the Lake. Several actions in the plan call for consistent policies among New York, Québec, and Vermont. This requires extensive cooperation among their legislative bodies. Successful implementation also requires that legislative bodies respond to the will of their constituents and act decisively and creatively to protect and enhance the resources of the Basin in the face of technical, political, and financial obstacles.

Nongovernmental Organizations

Volunteers with the Winooski NRCD plant trees in Cabot, VT

Many actions in the plan list nonprofit and citizen-based organizations as potential key partners. Watershed associations and environmental groups have long been active in organizing and supporting the activities of individual interests in the Basin. Examples of activities by nonprofit/nongovernmental organizations that implement elements of the plan include water-quality monitoring, research, and conservation of cultural heritage resources found submerged in the Lake. Citizen groups, including watershed organizations, have been especially successful in implementing educational workshops, streambank stabilization, toxin reduction initiatives, aquatic species control, public forums, the restoration of contaminated sites, the encouragement of low-impact recreational activities, and continued communication with the LCBP about emerging issues and priorities.

Academic Institutions and Research Organizations

Academic institutions, research organizations, and cooperative extension programs have served vital roles in studying Lake Champlain and its Basin. Institutions such as the University of Vermont, SUNY Plattsburgh, Paul Smiths College, St. Michaels College, Institut de Recherche et de Développement en Agroenvironnement (IRDA), McGill University, Université de Sherbrooke, Cornell University, Middlebury College, Green Mountain College, Johnson State College, and others have conducted various research projects on the Lake and the Basin. They also have been highly effective in educating students, teachers, and other citizens about Lake Champlain issues. Many actions in the plan call for research concerning Lake-wide problems and emerging issues. Continued plan implementation requires continued participation by academic institutions and research organizations and depends greatly on the soundness of data and information collected by them.

Several academic institutions have established a multidisciplinary research and education program called the Lake Champlain Research Consortium. Membership in the Consortium currently consists of academic institutions conducting research within the Basin boundaries. The Lake Champlain Research Consortium collaborates with the LCBP periodically to sponsor research symposia and conferences, and identifies research needs and priorities related to the management issues in the plan.

Coordinating Organizations

The need for state and international communication and cooperation regarding the management of the Lake Champlain Basin has been apparent since the 1940s. Numerous successful efforts have brought the two states and countries together to deal with common issues since that time.

NYSDEC, VTFWD, and USFWS comprise the Cooperative

The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative was created through a written agreement in 1973 by the USFWS, the NYSDEC, and the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife. The Cooperative Agreement, which has been updated several times, created a Policy Committee consisting of program directors from the three agencies and management and technical committees of agency staff. The Cooperative works closely with the Québec Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune.

The Lake Champlain Ecosystem Team is an association of organizations involved in the conservation of plants, animals, and their habitats in the Lake Champlain watershed. The Lake Champlain Ecosystem Team maintains and enhances ecological integrity throughout the Basin. Their efforts include enhancing interdisciplinary cooperation and partnerships among federal, state, and private conservation organizations and academic institutions; facilitating and coordinating biological resource conservation activities; and exchanging information.

International Treaty Organizations

USGS gaging station on Hungerford Brook, VT established with IJC funds

The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 created the International Joint Commission (IJC) to resolve and to avoid potential disputes regarding the use of boundary waters along the US and Canadian border. IJC membership is comprised of six commissioners appointed by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada. The IJC convened a Champlain-Richelieu Board during the 1970s to examine regulation of water levels in Lake Champlain and more recently has convened a Study Board to guide LCBP research and planning endeavors that it is funding in the Missisquoi River Basin.

The international Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) was created by the 1954 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries between the United States and Canada to coordinate fisheries research, facilitate multi-jurisdictional cooperation through strategic planning, and manage sea lamprey populations in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes and Lake Champlain share many natural resource challenges. The GLFC, the LCBP, and the USFWS entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Native Species and Habitat Restoration and Water Quality Improvements in 2010.

International Partnerships

The Lake Champlain Basin and Adirondack Region have been designated as one of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) international biosphere reserves. This designation is strictly honorary and carries with it no restrictions, regulations, or funding. Additionally, the Lake Champlain Basin is a demonstration watershed for the UNESCO Hydrology for the Environment, Life, and Policy (HELP) initiative led by the International Hydrological Programme. HELP focuses on integrated resource management through the creation of a framework for water law and policy experts, water resource managers, water scientists, and users to work together on water-related problems.

The LCBP is a founding member of the Governing Board of the North American Network of Basin Organizations (NANBO) which is associated with the International Network of Basin Organizations, devoted to collaboration among management entities in the stewardship of watersheds. Based in Québec and with initial funding from the Province of Québec, NANBO members from Canada, the United States, and Mexico meet regularly to share information on water resource management challenges and to exchange experience in addressing common contaminant problems in respective jurisdictions. LCBP represents the US watersheds on the Governing Board.

Through these international partnerships, the LCBP has served as a model for integrated water resources management. Working with other basins that have similar hydrologic parameters has led to scientific data exchange and enhanced management of water resources that benefit all partners. OFA plan implementation has resulted in a number of valuable tools and lessons – such as the development of water-quality indicators, a rapid response plan for aquatic invasive species in the Basin, and diverse stakeholder engagement through nonbinding consensus-based agreements – that may be shared with HELP, NANBO, and INBO basins.

Business and Industry

VT Business conference focusing on sustainability

The activities of private businesses and chambers of commerce are a critical component of protecting the resources that support the economic vitality of the Basin. Voluntary efforts to recycle and prevent pollution are examples of how the private sector has been active in implementing elements of the plan. Educational partnerships with television and other news media have tremendously increased public awareness of the importance of individual citizen participation and community involvement in good Lake stewardship practices. Chambers of commerce have been effective at drawing together business interests to assist in the planning process and will continue to contribute knowledge through the course of plan implementation.

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Themes for Implementation

Several themes that have emerged from the planning process should guide agencies, organizations, and individuals as they implement OFA. These themes include:

Partnership Approach

Numerous agencies and organizations are currently involved in successful programs to manage the resources of the Basin. Implementation of the plan relies on these groups to continue their successful efforts and expand their capabilities through the formation of partnerships. Partnerships can increase communication and coordination among various levels of government, the private sector, and citizens. Partnerships also reduce duplication of efforts, increase efficiency and effectiveness in the use of human and financial resources, evolve as needed, contribute to an informed and involved citizenry, accomplish important goals without the use of new regulations or new layers of government, and ensure a sharing of responsibility for implementing the plan.

Ecosystem-Based Approach

OFA calls for an ecosystem-based approach to planning and management that considers the Lake and its entire drainage Basin as a whole, interconnected, complex system. Each component of the system, including humans, affects other parts of the system. For instance, increased phosphorus levels in the Lake cause algal blooms that deplete oxygen levels, thereby affecting fish populations and populations of other Basin species that depend on fish as a food source. Sound resource management must take into consideration the ways in which various actions will affect other resources in the ecosystem.

Watershed Approach

More than 95 percent of the water in Lake Champlain passes through the 8,234 square miles (21,326 sq km) of the Basin as surface and subsurface runoff before reaching the Lake. As a result, land-use activities and pollution sources throughout the Basin have a tremendous impact on the Lake and its ecosystems. Restoration or protection based on watershed boundaries rather than political boundaries better address polluted or threatened areas. In addition to applying the watershed approach on a Basin-wide level, OFA encourages the watershed approach at a local level. This offers opportunities for citizens to improve water quality based on their knowledge of their local area and for neighboring communities to develop innovative ways to solve pollution problems within their local watersheds. Empowering local communities and their organizations to collaborate gives any effort a better chance of real, sustained success. Implementation of the plan continues to use a watershed approach that links the Lake with activities in its watershed.

Integration of Environmental and Economic Goals

Windsurfers enjoy the Lake's recreational opportunities in NY

A healthy Lake Champlain is crucial to a strong regional economy, and a strong economy is good for the Lake. This plan recommends actions to protect and restore the ecological and cultural resources of the Basin while ensuring economic benefits for long-term positive change in the Lake. Finding the most cost-effective actions to protect and enhance the quality of the Lake while maintaining the economic health of the region is an extremely important and difficult task in implementing the Plan.

OFA includes recreational and cultural heritage interests in its Basin-wide approach to watershed protection. Protecting and expanding opportunities for Basin residents to enjoy clean water and encouraging public appreciation of the rich cultural heritage associated with the Lake are integral elements of both watershed protection and regional economic goals.

Pollution Prevention

Pollution prevention focuses on reducing or eliminating the generation of pollutants at their sources. Pollution-prevention efforts often cut industrial and public costs in the long run by reducing the need for expensive waste treatment, hazardous waste disposal, and cleanup. Such efforts can also reduce the need for regulatory compliance measures, which are costly and time consuming. Pollution prevention is often more economically feasible than subsequent remediation of polluted sites and is a prime method for deterring future harm to ecosystems.

Consensus-Based, Collaborative Approach to Decision Making

OFA is the result of numerous cooperating agencies, organizations, and individuals combining their efforts to protect and enhance the resources of the Lake Champlain Basin while solving identified problems. Implementing the plan continues to involve a broad range of participants in a consensus-based approach to decision making. Encouraging numerous stakeholders to provide input strengthens the outcomes of the decision-making process and broadens the base of citizens and organizations responsible for and active in plan implementation.

Adaptive Management and Ecosystem Indicators

Since its inception, OFA has been an evolving plan to restore and protect water quality and the remarkable natural and cultural resources of the Lake Champlain Basin. Building a formal adaptive management framework into the latest edition ensures that this evolution continues to be responsive to the outcomes of management actions and a changing understanding of the ecosystem. Adaptive management consists of a structured approach to management decisions that incorporates past experience, current knowledge, and future projections about the effectiveness of environmental policies. In adaptive management, an action plan is developed based on best current professional judgment, the plan is implemented, data are collected and evaluated to monitor effectiveness, and adjustments are made to reflect new knowledge (Watzin 2007). It is a dynamic process that results in an evolving document rather than a static plan. Successful program implementation relies on creating measurable priority actions and tasks in order to assess their level of implementation and resulting effectiveness.

Lead partners have been identified in this document for all actions and tasks. In addition, where possible, the actions have measurable outcomes so that progress can be tracked and made publicly available. Using an adaptive management plan, implementation is monitored, along with the state of the ecosystem and the human pressures on it. This is done through an ecosystem indicators approach that LCBP adopted and first presented in 2008 through the State of the Lake and Ecosystem Indicators report. New versions of these reports will be published periodically on indicators directly related to OFA.

In developing the first edition of OFA (1996), the Lake Champlain Management Conference analyzed the capabilities of existing local, regional, state, and federal organizations and determined that these organizations should be responsible for implementing the plan as part of an integrated effort. Informing and involving the public at the local level is an important means through which recommended actions are successfully carried out. When the first edition of OFA was approved, the planning task of the Management Conference was concluded and it ended its existence, passing the tasks of plan implementation to the Lake Champlain Steering Committee.

The Lake Champlain Steering Committee has followed the guidance of the Management Conference through the subsequent fifteen years of plan implementation (1996 through 2010). This chapter describes the framework that the Lake Champlain Steering Committee finds most effective for continued implementation of the plan. The framework described below is based on the established patterns of operations, is responsive to the requirements and constraints of the US federal appropriations that comprise the principle funding of the LCBP, and relies extensively on the partnerships developed in the past fifteen years of implementation.

Measuring and Monitoring the State of the Lake

Monitoring environmental conditions in the Lake and Basin is an integral component of measuring the effectiveness of lake and watershed management efforts. Data produced from monitoring activities provide information on water-quality trends, natural processes, and basic ecosystem characteristics. Managing this information and making it available to policymakers, managers, researchers, community groups, and public stakeholders maximizes the success of management efforts and helps managers recognize strategies that are unsuccessful. Monitoring projects cover a wide range of interests from forest health and biodiversity to atmospheric deposition and surface water quality.

LCBP’s annual monitoring programs include the Lake Champlain Long-Term Water Quality and Biological Monitoring Program, the Blue-green Algae Monitoring Program, the Lake Champlain Zebra Mussel Monitoring Program, and the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program, which has assessed eutrophication-related parameters using citizen volunteers and a consistent methodology every year since 1979 (Picotte 2008).

Recent analyses conducted by the USGS to assess nutrient concentrations entering the Lake through the tributary network indicate that phosphorus loads from many tributaries decreased slightly between 1999 and 2008. These analyses rely on long-term phosphorus data sets, include the relative roles of point source versus nonpoint source pollution, incorporate groundwater into the depiction of surface water quality, and reduce the confounding influence of substantial year-to-year variations in stream flow. The results show encouraging progress toward achieving ecosystem restoration goals in several parts of the Lake Champlain Basin. Trends show that loads for thirteen tributaries had overall decreases between 1990 and 2008, nine tributaries had decreases between 1990 and 2000, and fifteen tributaries had decreases between 2000 and 2008 (Medalie and Hirsch 2010).

Role of the LCBP and Partners in Water Quality and Biological Monitoring

Instruments measure runoff from a field before and after BMP installation.

Water-quality and biological monitoring data are necessary to understand the health of the Lake and its Basin. These data can help partners to measure the relative success of Lake and watershed management efforts and to track progress over time. Monitoring data provide indicators of success and inform the adaptive management process to continue to improve the water quality of Lake Champlain. The associated actions/tasks in this chapter include several key tasks for partner implementation that will continue and expand water-quality and biological monitoring in the Lake Champlain Basin.

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Citations

Medalie, L. and R. M. Hirsch. 2010. Trends in phosphorus concentrations and loads in Lake Champlain tributaries 1990-2008: An evaluation using new statistical methods. Presented at the Lake Champlain Research Conference, 7 June, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT.

Picotte, Amy. 2008. Lake Champlain Lay Monitoring Report. Waterbury, VT: VTANR.

Watzin, M.C. 2007. The Promise of Adaptive Management. Pages 147-158 in: Managing Agricultural Landscapes for Environmental Quality: Strengthening the Science Base, M. Schnepf and C. Cox, eds. Soil and Water Conservation Society Press, Ankeny, IA.

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Associated Actions / Tasks

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Expand 2.1) Continue and expand monitoring of key baseline parameters in the Lake Champlain Basin to support the adaptive management process.

Associated Tasks ID # Lead Partners Updated Status
Continue the bistate Lake Champlain Long-Term Water Quality and Biological Monitoring Program and related monitoring in Québec. View Task Comments 2.1.1 LCBP, New York, Québec, Vermont 05-21-14 Active
Continue annual recommendation to fund the stream gauging network. View Task Comments 2.1.2 LCBP 05-09-14 Active
Expand monitoring in targeted watersheds to evaluate effectiveness of BMP implementation for control of nonpoint source pollution. View Task Comments 2.1.3 LCBP 05-09-14 Active
Support and coordinate development of annual data reports, annual load estimates, and periodic trends analyses. View Task Comments 2.1.4 LCBP 08-31-12 Active
Expand monitoring at tributary mouths to obtain data sufficient to calculate annual loadings and to measure success of phosphorus reduction goals more accurately. View Task Comments 2.1.5 LCBP, New York, Vermont 05-09-14 Active
Improve understanding of Lake Champlain hydrodynamics and its effects on in-Lake phosphorus concentrations, toxic substances, and pollutant transport to drinking-water intakes. Potential monitoring parameters could include water level, temperature, and water current. Coordinate with local academic institutions to accomplish this task. View Task Comments 2.1.6 LCBP, LCSG, New York, Québec, USEPA, Vermont 09-05-12 Active
Continue and expand ecosystem indicators project and periodically publish State of the Lake Reports. View Task Comments 2.1.7 LCBP 05-09-14 Active

Expand 2.2) Create a unified data access system for coordination and data sharing among stakeholders in the Basin and produce timely and accessible summary reports for the general public.

Associated Tasks ID # Lead Partners Updated Status
Establish an online information center with searchable data sets and links to repositories. View Task Comments 2.2.1 LCBP 05-09-14 Active
Identify and locate existing data sets, including historical data where appropriate. View Task Comments 2.2.2 LCBP 05-09-14 Active
Update existing data repositories and establish new ones where important gaps in data exist. View Task Comments 2.2.3 LCBP 05-09-14 Active
Identify protocols for data input, data summaries, and accessibility and ensure that new data collected follow these protocols. View Task Comments 2.2.4 LCBP Inactive

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