- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) - Water bodies across the state, including rivers in the Southern Champlain Basin, will be targeted in efforts to clean up Lake Champlain, state officials said Monday.

Regional basin plans will be a part of the state’s efforts to limit stormwater runoff into Lake Champlain, said Ethan Swift, watershed coordinator with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

State officials attribute sediment-laden stormwater runoff with polluting the lake, causing algae blooms, deterring tourists and causing increased water treatment costs.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is asking for public comment on the Southern Champlain Basin plan that encompasses the Poultney and Mettowee River watersheds, East Creek and other tributaries.

Swift said he doesn’t expect residents near those rivers to be surprised that the waters have an effect on the greater Lake Champlain basin.

“Most people understand what their connection is to the lake and the effect they have on it,” Swift said.

The Southern Champlain Basin is often called the “banana belt” because of its low elevation and relatively warm, dry climate, officials said. Besides stormwater, the southern Champlain Basin plan would also address invasive species in the region.

Rivers will be targeted for channel erosion prevention and wetland restoration measures, according to the plan. Toxic substances and pathogens, such as E.coli, will also be tracked.

Public meetings will be held in Pawlet and Orwell.

Pawlet’s meeting will be at Pawlet Public Library on April 8 at 5:30 p.m. Orwell’s meeting will be at the Orwell Free Library on April 15 at 6:30.

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