A.G. Schneiderman Sends Local Farmers $200,000 To Join Their Fight To Reduce Pollution In Lake Champlain

Funds Recovered from a 2007 Clean Air Act Case Will Help Farmers in Essex & Washington Counties Improve Operations, Fight Pollution & Improve Lake Health

ALBANY - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the dedication of $200,000 in recovered funds to assist Champlain Valley farmers in combating water pollution in Lake Champlain. The money, recovered from a 2007 case in which a major power company violated the Clean Air Act, will target phosphorous reduction from area farms, improving their operations, fighting pollution, and improving the health of Lake Champlain.

"A healthy Lake Champlain and a vibrant agricultural sector are both vital to sustaining the Champlain Valley's economy and way of life," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Our office will continue to fight to protect our natural resources on behalf of New Yorkers.  At no cost to taxpayers, these funds will help area farmers improve their operations, while furthering their responsible stewardship of the environment.  By promoting the vitality of area farms and Lake Champlain, this funding is an investment in the future of the Champlain Valley.”

Areas of Lake Champlain, including its southern segments, suffer from poor water quality due to excessive inputs of nutrients - particularly phosphorous.  When too much phosphorous enters the lake, it can cause rapid weed growth which starves the lake of oxygen needed to support fish and other living organisms.  For years, area farmers have taken steps to reduce phosphorous runoff from their land, and today's awards will bolster these important efforts.

The recipients, selected through a competitive application process are as follows:

  • Essex County Soil & Water Conservation District will receive $19,800 to assist an Essex County-based beef farmer to prevent cattle from grazing and watering in a tributary stream to Lake Champlain by installing fencing and constructing a dedicated stream crossing.  A buffer of vegetation will also be created along the stream’s bank in order to filter nutrients, prevent erosion, and provide wildlife habitat.
  • Essex County Soil & Water Conservation District will also receive $75,000 in funds to assist the owner of a 90-cow beef operation in Essex County to construct a large covering over their barnyard, and install other features that will reduce runoff from the farm and its discharge of nutrients to a nearby tributary to Lake Champlain. 
  • Washington County Soil & Water Conservation District will receive $81,000 to assist the owner of a 200-cow dairy farm in Washington County  to install a suite of “best management practices” designed to prevent clean storm water from contacting manure and causing nutrient runoff.  These practices will include constructing a covering over the farm’s barnyard and installing a roof water diversion system that will direct clean water runoff away from heavy use areas.
  • Washington County Soil & Water Conservation District will also receive $15,830 to assist the owner of a 175-cow Washington County dairy farm to install rainwater diversion systems and other drainage improvements in order to direct clean storm water away from an existing heavy use barnyard, thus preventing contact with manure and significantly reducing nutrient runoff into a nearby tributary of the Lake.
  • US Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (Greenwich, NY Office) will receive $8,370 to assist a 100-head sheep dairy in Washington County  to install a treatment system to process wastewater generated by a milking and cheese making facility.  The wastewater treatment system will eliminate the runoff of nutrients from the facility into a nearby tributary of the Lake. 

Funding for the projects announced today comes from a settlement that a coalition of states and environmental groups – led by New York and the federal government – reached in 2007 with American Electric Power, the nation’s largest power company, for violations of the federal Clean Air Act.  As a result of the settlement, $500,000 was committed to addressing pollution reduction in Lake Champlain in coordination with the State of Vermont. New York's portion of the funding will be dedicated to five projects in New York designed to help farmers to reduce the amount of phosphorous running off their lands and into Lake Champlain. 

The Lake Champlain Basin Program of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission is an interstate agency established by the U.S. Congress in 1947.  It  serves New York and states in the New England region and will administer the funding for today’s projects. 

Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau, said, "Farmers have always worked hard to be excellent environmental stewards, after all, we have a vested incentive in passing our family farm down to our children. I am pleased that Attorney General Schneiderman's settlement dollars will help more of our family farms continue our work to protect water quality and the health of Lake Champlain."

Erik Leerkes, President of Essex County Farm Bureau, said, "We appreciate the Attorney General's dedication of funding to implement important water quality projects in Essex County.  Protecting the environment is an essential part of any farm businesses and this assistance will help our farmers continue their efforts to protect Lake Champlain in an affordable and effective manner."

Brian Ziehm, President of Washington County Farm Bureau and dairy farmer, said, "Farms like mine depend on clean water and fertile ground, so we do everything we can to protect our land and streams.  Attorney General Schneiderman's funding will help farmers enhance their operations for the benefit of their local community and generations to come."

Captain Mickey J. Maynard of Lake Champlain Angler Charters and president of the Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited said, "This investment by Attorney General Schneiderman is evidence that he recognizes the critical importance of a clean and healthy Lake Champlain and its tributaries. This funding will result in significant environmental benefits to our watershed, and help assure continued economic growth through enhanced recreational opportunities."

More information about the grant program can be obtained by contacting the Lake Champlain Basin Program at 802-372-3213 or visiting www.lcbp.org

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Robert Rosenthal and Policy Analyst Jeremy Magliaro of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Acting Bureau Chief for Environmental Protection Lisa Burianek.