- Associated Press - Thursday, October 19, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont’s top environmental regulator wants to fund water quality improvements through the state’s capital bill, money usually used to pay for large construction projects.

Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources Julie Moore released a plan Tuesday, which said the state should commit $22 million a year to fund water quality improvements ultimately designed to clean up Lake Champlain, where phosphorus runoff into the lake has caused toxic blue-green algae blooms that has forced the closure of beaches and decreased some lakeside property values.

The state will have to spend an estimated $1 billion over the next 20 years to address the problem, according to policy makers.

Lawmakers instructed a “working group” to develop a long-term funding plan. The group, led by Moore, issued a draft report Tuesday that recommends reallocating existing funds to pay for clean water efforts through at least 2024, Vermont Public Radio reported.

Moore said the solution isn’t ideal because there are competing needs.

“It’s always a conversation about trade-offs, and certainly we’ve been having those conversations, and they need to continue within the various agencies of state government,” she said.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said he’s pleased that the administration of Republican Gov. Phil Scott recognizes the need for more water quality funding.

The funding plan, however, takes money away from a capital program already under pressure, said Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive.

“We have mental health facility needs that would likely come from the capital bill. We have Woodside, the detention facility for youth, which is in great need of either replacement or repair. We have corrections facilities that are in need or replacement or rehabilitation,” he said.

The working group was asked to come up with long-term methods to fund water quality investments, said Rebekah Weber, of the Conservation Law Foundation.

“We were hoping to see that come in that report, and I would say the agency fell short in that charge,” she said.


Information from: WVPS-FM, https://www.vpr.net

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