ALBANY, NY, May 10, 2010 -- Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his office is dedicating $500,000 to create a new grant program to help local farmers fight water pollution in Lake Champlain. The funds, from a settlement that Cuomo secured in a court-ordered settlement with American Electric Power, will assist farmers in the southern Champlain Valley to further improve operations and reduce stormwater discharges of nutrients from their land.
Reducing nutrient pollution, particularly phosphorous, is one of the highest priorities for protecting Lake Champlain. Areas of the Lake, especially its southern segments, suffer from impaired water quality due to excessive phosphorous. Area farmers have for years taken steps to reduce runoff, and Cuomo's funding is designed to expand these important efforts.
"This important investment in New York's future will help sustain the Champlain Valley's agricultural economy while preserving one of the state's most majestic natural resources," said Attorney General Cuomo. "By dedicating these funds, we will help support local farmers who are working to improve their operations while being responsible stewards of the environment."
Cuomo's funding will create a new grant program to support farmers in the southern Champlain Valley in continuing to improve their operations and limit stormwater discharges of phosphorous from their land. For example, program funding could be used by farmers to:
- Better control stormwater runoff from plowed fields, milk houses, manure storage areas and barnyards
- Develop "nutrient management plans" that help avoid applying excess fertilizers to farmlands
- Preserve "buffers" of vegetation that serve to intercept and remove nutrients from runoff before they reach the Lake
Excess phosphorus in lakes can promote the rapid growth of algae and other plants, a phenomenon known as "eutrophication." The eutrophication of lakes can lead to number of serious harms, including giving water an unappealing taste, color and odor, and starving it of oxygen needed to support large and diverse populations of fish and other aquatic organisms. This can substantially reduce a lake's ecological, aesthetic, recreational and economic value.
Captain Mickey J. Maynard of Lake Champlain Angler Charters and president of the Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited said: "As a charter boat captain and life-long angler on Lake Champlain, I know first-hand that the watershed is the economic and recreational lifeblood of the region. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his commitment to a clean environment, and his determination to safeguard this vital resource. Kudos to Cuomo for his leadership in this battle."
Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau said, "We are grateful to Attorney General Cuomo for making funds available to our farmers to bolster the efforts they are already taking to protect the precious waters of Lake Champlain. We commend the Attorney General for helping our family farms."
Brian Ziehm, President of the Washington County Farm Bureau said, "Champlain Valley farmers strive everyday to be good stewards of the land. In these tough economic times, we are especially thankful for Attorney General Cuomo's funding which will help to further improve our environmental practices and protect the waters we depend on."
Erik Leerkes, President of the Essex County Farm Bureau said, "Every good farmer knows that protecting the environment is a crucial part of their business. Attorney General Cuomo's funding will assist the ongoing efforts of Champlain Valley farmers to improve our water quality in an affordable manner, benefitting both our local farms and Lake Champlain."
Dave Wick, President of the Champlain Watershed Improvement Coalition of New York ( CWICNY ) said, "The CWICNY greatly appreciates the Attorney General's tremendous efforts to secure and direct these important, needed funds to the southern Lake Champlain basin. These dollars will assist farmers to undertake additional best management practices that will improve their operations and the Champlain environment. CWICNY looks forward to working with the farmers and partners from New York and Vermont to effectively reduce phosphorus inputs and improve water quality in Lake Champlain."
Funding for Cuomo's new grant program comes from a landmark 2007 settlement that a coalition of states and environmental groups - led by New York and the federal government - reached with American Electric Power ( AEP ), the nation's largest power company, for violations of the federal Clean Air Act. From this settlement, Cuomo secured millions of dollars for environmental projects over five years - the largest payment for such projects ever received from a New York State settlement under the Act - with $500,000 designated towards implementing projects, in cooperation with the State of Vermont, to benefit Lake Champlain.
The new grant program will be administered by the Lake Champlain Basin Program of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, an interstate agency established by the US Congress in 1947 to serve New York and states in the New England region. The Lake Champlain Basin Program has extensive experience managing grant programs related to water quality improvement programs in the Champlain Valley. The grant program's funding will be focused on projects that limit agricultural discharges of phosphorous to southern Lake Champlain, and the program will seek to split the total money awarded evenly between New York and Vermont farmers.
More information about the program can be obtained by contacting the Lake Champlain Basin Program at 802-372-3213 or visiting www.lcbp.org.
Cuomo has made a number of past investments from the AEP settlement into protecting and improving environmental and public health in New York, including:
- $1.9 million to create a new oil energy efficiency pilot program, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, to help New York's neediest families cope with the high cost of home heating oil;
- $500,000 towards the creation of a solar power facility in Saratoga County that will help prepare New York's workforce for future "green jobs" in the renewable energy field by providing hands-on education and training in state-of-the-art solar electric technologies; and
- $500,000 towards an innovative program to protect thousands of schoolchildren in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties from harmful air pollution by upgrading approximately 140 school buses in the three counties with state-of-the-art anti-idling technologies.
The case 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.