The federal government shutdown has delayed a key project in the state’s continuing effort to clean up Lake Champlain.
Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears said the state’s work with a team of EPA scientists and policy experts was put on hold this month because the federal officials were furloughed.
The team is working with the state to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, policy on phosphorus pollution limits for Lake Champlain. The document has been in the works for several years as EPA and the state try to improve cleanup efforts.
But the shutdown could cause the project to miss its summer 2014 deadline.
“It’s delaying work at a critical time,” Mears said.
EPA and state officials planned to hold public meetings this month to discuss policy options that will help the state reduce phosphorus pollution that has caused toxic algae blooms in the big lake.
Without its EPA partners, Mears said the state “can’t move forward on some really important issues.”
The team plans to present its work to lawmakers in Montpelier during the next legislative session, which starts in January.
If the public meetings scheduled for this month get pushed into next year, Mears said, “we might have missed the window to get committee hearing time.”
Missing the summer 2014 deadline wouldn’t be fatal to the joint project, Mears said, but the health of Lake Champlain might suffer.
“The longer we put it off,” Mears said, “the harder it gets.”