- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Many farms in northwestern Vermont may have to make changes to reduce the phosphorus pollution that feeds toxic algae in Lake Champlain, the secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets says.

The changes could range from a complex structural fix at a larger livestock operation to simply getting appropriate vegetated buffer strips in place, said Jim Leland, director of the agency’s Agricultural Resource Management Division.

Farms will be assessed, and practices already in place on some could suffice to protect water quality, the agency said.

Agency secretary Chuck Ross had previously rejected a petition filed by an environmental group that asked that farmers in the Missisquoi Bay basin be required to follow best management practices such as having cover crops, vegetated buffer strips of at least 25 feet along waterways, incorporating manure into soil and excluding livestock from waterways.

The Conservation Law Foundation appealed and the organization and the agency reached a tentative agreement in late August aimed at settling the lawsuit. After a public hearing in St. Albans in November attended by farmers and lakefront property owners, Ross released a revised decision Wednesday, partially based on a water quality law passed last year.

“Since my initial decision, Vermont has adopted landmark water quality legislation, Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Act,” Ross wrote in a statement. “The agency, coordinating with CLF, has responded to this directive from our lawmakers, and my revised decision contains a framework under which the Agency of Agriculture and Vermont farmers will continue to work together to improve agricultural water quality in the Missisquoi Bay Basin.”

The state says 40 percent of the phosphorous flowing into Lake Champlain comes from farms; the rest comes from roads, parking lots and discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants. The Missisquoi Bay has been plagued by toxic blue-green algae blooms fueled by phosphorus, which suck so much oxygen out of the water that fish struggle to survive.


This story has been corrected to include the full name of the Agricultural Resource Management Division.

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