Lake Champlain

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Officials from Vermont and Quebec signed a new agreement Monday that outlines how the two governments will continue to reduce pollution in Lake Champlain.

Douglas Brooks

Although the use of small trapping boats on Lake Champlain may be a thing of the past, students from a career center in Middlebury are keeping the tradition alive by building full-scale replicas.

Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

House lawmakers have spent the first two and a half months of the legislative session working on a $14 million water quality bill. But they still haven’t figured out a way to pay for it.

Angela Evancie / VPR/file

Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders say this is the year to take action to clean up Lake Champlain and other polluted waters. The sense of urgency was heightened last week when the legislature held an unusual joint assembly to hear dramatic testimony from business and environmental advocates about Lake Champlain in crisis.

Zach Hirsch

Even in the dead of winter, the Lake Champlain Transportation Company runs ferries between Plattsburgh and Grand Isle, Vermont.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Supporters of cleaning up Lake Champlain and other polluted waterways hope a forum held at the Statehouse on Wednesday will bring new energy to their efforts.

National Weather Service

Lake Champlain has completely frozen over for the second year in a row, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS Burlington office announced Monday that the lake is fully frozen. According to the agency's data, the Feb. 16 freeze makes 2015 the third year in the past 10 when the lake has frozen over completely.

Last year, it froze completely by Feb. 12. Before that, Lake Champlain hadn't "closed" since March 2007.

Snow, snow, everywhere you look. This past January saw higher than average snowfall totals, and colder than average temperatures to go along with it, meaning that snow isn't going anywhere until it warms up, so Vermont cities and towns are trying to figure out what to do with it all. One environmental group is not happy with what  the city of Vergennes is doing, piling the snow on the banks of Otter Creek.

Burlington Free Press/file

Some might be hesitant to eat fish caught in Lake Champlain, but Candace Page, food writer for the Burlington Free Press, says there are a variety of fabulous eating fish in the lake.

Carolyn Box / AP

The Vermont House passed a bill Tuesday to ban microbeads in beauty products that have been found to cause harm to fish and other wildlife.

The House gave preliminary approval to H.4 with a unanimous voice vote. It was passed unanimously by the House Fish and Wildlife Committee on Friday.

The legislation, first brought to the attention of the House Fish and Wildlife Committee by Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset, has broad support across the political spectrum.

Angela Evancie / VPR

The deteriorating water quality in Lake Champlain has been a topic of ecological concern, litigation and spending in the last two decades. Much of the problem comes from phosphorous washing into the lake from its massive watershed and setting off blooms of toxic, filthy blue-green algae.

Angela Evancie / VPR/file

Environmentalists are giving Gov. Peter Shumlin early accolades for his proposal to reduce the amount of phosphorus running into Lake Champlain. But a prominent agriculture group says the plan to clean up the lake might end up hurting the farms that operate near it.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Efforts to clean up Lake Champlain are about to get a big boost from the federal government. Today, Jason Weller, chief of the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, visited Montpelier to announce that the state will be getting $16 million over the next five years.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Gov. Peter Shumlin says his new Lake Champlain pollution plan contains a "carrot and stick" approach to control water pollution from dairy farms.

The carrot is money. The governor says he'll provide funds to help farmers do a better job handling manure.

But if they continue to pollute, he wants to kick them out of a program that reduces their property taxes. That’s the stick.

Implementing a comprehensive plan to deal with the toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain was a key part of Shumlin's inaugural address on Thursday afternoon.

John Dillon / VPR File Photo

The Conservation Law Foundation is challenging the state of Vermont in court to impose more stringent controls on water pollution from farms in the Missisquoi bay watershed.

Chris Kilian, the Vermont director of the Conservation Law Foundation, said the group filed an appeal in the environmental division of Vermont Superior Court Tuesday after the state Agency of Agriculture declined to mandate “best management practices” on farms in the polluted Missisquoi Bay watershed.

Library of Congress

From the shore of Lake Champlain in Burlington, a faint outline of a small, craggy rock formation is visible, nestled between Juniper Island and Shelburne Point. Its name is Rock Dunder and despite being a tiny blip on the Lake Champlain skyline, it has a deep significance in Abenaki mythology.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR/file

A new report from the University of Vermont says Vermonters are willing to pay more – but still not nearly enough – to improve water quality in Vermont.

Water quality challenges in the state are widespread, the report said, not just in Lake Champlain. As a result, the majority of Vermonters are willing to pay more to help solve pollution issues – including the high phosphorus levels that caused unprecedented toxic algae blooms in parts of Lake Champlain this year.

A leading environmental group says it may appeal a state ruling that rejected stricter controls on farms in the most polluted watershed of Lake Champlain. 

The Conservation Law Foundation wanted the state to require farmers in the Missisquoi Basin to follow best management practices to reduce pollution. These include wide buffers between fields and streams and properly storing manure.

rskvt / Flickr Creative Commons

The state has declined to make best management practices mandatory for farms in the Missisquoi Bay watershed. 

The shallow bay on the northern end of Lake Champlain frequently sees summertime blooms of toxic blue green algae. The algae blooms are fueled in part from farm-run off in the heavily agricultural region.

Conservation Law Foundation Senior Attorney Chris Kilian, seen here observing a cyanobacteria bloom on St. Albans Bay in 2014, says state officials are allowing sewage plants to send more phosphorus into Lake Champlain instead of less.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

The clean-up of Lake Champlain looms as perhaps the largest, and most expensive environmental challenge facing Vermont. And state officials are exploring whether a cap-and-trade program for phosphorus runoff might help solve the problem.

Back in the 1990s, the acid rain problem had gotten so bad that some New England lakes couldn’t support brook trout anymore.