`Clean Water Week' highlights efforts to protect resources

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BURLINGTON - The governor joined state and local officials and others in declaring their commitment to protect the state's waters as they kicked off Vermont Clean Water Week on Monday.

They spoke from the terrace of the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, with Lake Champlain as the backdrop.

"Vermont is a state of green mountains and blue waters known for its natural beauty, and we are here to reaffirm our commitment to the stewardship of those resources," said Julie Moore, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

More than 90 businesses, organizations and parks are sponsoring Vermont Clean Water Week and offering more than 60 events across the state. Experiences include participating in water quality monitoring, touring a dam, or visiting a hydroelectric or wastewater treatment plant.

Gov. Phil Scott noted the news conference nearly coincided with the six-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene, which wreaked havoc and caused millions of dollars of damage around the state.

"Investment in clean water helps us better respond to flooding. It improves the roads we travel on every day," he said. "It helps our businesses, our farms, manufacturers, cheese producers and breweries, invest in their future and in ours."

He said waterway cleanup efforts save Vermonters money in the long term by protecting infrastructure.

"I recognize our economy, and the health of our communities, depend on clean water," Scott said.

The governor also said Vermont's ponds, lakes and rivers are a big part of what draws tourists to the state - an industry that generates $2.5 billion annually. Scott said he has proposed increasing state investment toward clean water by $15 million over the next two years.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city remains committed to clean water efforts, including adding major stormwater and green infrastructure components to projects such as the Burlington Town Center redevelopment.

Weinberger said Burlington became only the second municipality in the state to create a stormwater utility in 2009 and has increased funding for the utility by 50 percent since 2012.

Sugarbush Resort President Win Smith said clean water is good business.

"You can't just assume that water is clean. You have to take a personal responsibility to make sure that it is and remains so, not only for us but for our future generations," he said.

Smith said he has seven employees who focus primarily on water quality issues. Sugarbush Resort will be offering a tour of its water plant this week.

"If we're known as a business that is respectful of the environment, that is doing its utmost to upgrade stream qualities, I think people are going to choose us as a place where they want to recreate and do business," he said.

Champlain Valley Farmers Cooperative was one of several agricultural groups present at the news conference.

President Brian Kemp said farmers have invested thousands in new water quality practices over the past few years, which include cover crops, no-till techniques and manure injection.

"I think the organization of these groups over the past five to 10 years just shows farmers are being proactive, they're trying to do the right thing," Kemp said.

Clean Water Week aligns with a U.S. Department of Agriculture announcement that data show reduced phosphorus runoff into Lake Champlain due to improved farming practices.

Phosphorus is a nutrient found in agricultural fertilizers, some household cleaning products, manure and sewage. It is known to contribute to the growth of algae, which reduces oxygen and can kill aquatic life.

The USDA has been working with farmers to implement conservation practices after the Environmental Protection Agency set new limits last year on how much phosphorus can enter Lake Champlain.


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