Dear Secretary Moore,
On behalf of the Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds, I write concerning the denial of the Lake Bomoseen application for an Aquatic Nuisance Control (ANC) permit to use the aquatic pesticide ProcellaCOR to address the infestation of the non-native invasive aquatic plant, Eurasian watermilfoil (EWM). We are concerned about the finding under Standard 5, B. V. in which public opposition is considered among the criteria to meet this standard.
“Public interest informs the Secretary’s evaluation of public benefit to the extent the feedback provided by the public, including municipal governments and local lake associations, articulates clear reasons why the project either benefits or adversely impacts the public.”
This appears to be new criteria that is not part of other similar ANC permit approvals or denials. Nowhere does this finding distinguish between public comments based on data and evidence, and public comments based on misinformation, unsupported assertions, or purposeful scaremongering tactics. In addition, this finding cites local selectboard votes as being material to this decision.
“During the investigation of this application, the Secretary received letters from the Selectboards of Castleton (has Lake Bomoseen shoreline), Hubbardton (has Lake Bomoseen shoreline), Fair Haven (has receiving waters from Lake Bomoseen), and Shrewsbury (regionally adjacent to Lake Bomoseen). All four municipalities were opposed to the application of herbicide to control Eurasian watermilfoil in Lake Bomoseen.”
Yet, there is nothing in the application process advising or requiring local municipalities to weigh in on such an application. In fact, it is clearly stated that the state has jurisdiction over the public waters of the state – not local municipalities. Furthermore, no mention was made in the finding of whether these selectboards held hearings in which scientific data was presented and testimony was submitted based on actual evidence. Were the Applicants aware of these hearings? Were the Applicants invited to present to the municipalities involved?
The finding also states: “The applicants for this project are two lake associations. While these associations are considered to represent a degree of public interest, their support for the project does not wholly represent a favorable public interest in the project.”
Once again, this indicates that public good is defined as a measure of popularity rather than a sober analysis of what is best to remediate the damage to the lake ecosystem being caused by this biological pollutant.
The denial also states: “Opposition to the application was primarily related to the potential unknown risks associated with the use of herbicide and instead recommended other control techniques be used to control Eurasian watermilfoil.”
Citing this as a reason to not find this project to be a public benefit seems completely contrary to everything that has been stated about ProcellaCOR as well as all the evidence and data collected from treatments in other lakes in Vermont. No long term, negative risks have been identified either in Vermont or in any other place where ProcellaCOR has been used.
At the same time, this application as well as the work on the many Vermont lakes infested with EWM show that the few alternative methods available and permittable in Vermont are not adequate to address dense, lake-wide infestations of EWM. It is a responsibility of the state to prevent, to the extent possible, the waters of the state from pollution and degradation (https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/10/050/01451).
EWM is biological pollutant and one of the 10 major stressors to Vermont lakes. The damage that EWM does to aquatic ecosystems is well documented in scientific literature. If left to proliferate, EWM will out compete native vegetation, including rare, threatened, and endangered species, eventually leading to loss of aquatic habitat, not to mention the effects it will have on recreational opportunities, property values, and tourism revenue.
While public good is not clearly defined in the permitting statute, we do find a definition in 10 V.S.A §1086. Public good is defined as “…the greatest benefit of the people of the State.” Among the criteria to consider for water-related projects are the project’s effects on “…scenic and recreational values; fish and wildlife;…existing uses of the waters by the public for boating, fishing, swimming, and other recreational uses; the creation of any hazard to navigation, fishing, swimming, or other public uses; the creation of any public benefits; attainment of the Vermont water quality standards…” Neither social media statistics, protests, nor selectboard votes are mentioned.
EWM is currently the most widespread invasive in Vermont lakes and ponds. We have and will continue to strongly advocate that decisions about managing aquatic invasives as well as other threats to Vermont’s lakes and ponds must be based on scientific data and evidence. Public campaigns of misinformation that are purposely used to engender irrationality and emotional reactions make for neither good policy nor good decisions. We believe that it is a mistake to allow such campaigns to inform decisions about the long-term health and protection of the state’s public waters and aquatic ecosystems.
As a final note, we wish to point out that the Lake Bomoseen Association (LBA) is a volunteer organization, as are nearly all the lake and pond associations in the state. These associations are tasked with much of the work for improving water quality and combatting AIS in our public waters. With no professional staff, they rely on the ANR scientific staff for technical help and guidance as they navigate the various permitting requirements. They rely as well on the experiences of other lake associations to determine optimal methods for addressing AIS infestations. In addition, these volunteers then must undertake the complex permitting process and raise large amounts of money to fund this work, including hiring professional contractors. With this interpretation, the ANR appears to be forcing these volunteers to also create and mount public relations campaigns, as well as to publicly defend the scientific decisions made by the Agency. We believe the precedent set by this portion of the denial of the LBA herbicide permit application is a misinterpretation of statute and if it stands will result in many Vermont lake and pond associations declining to undertake the burden of AIS management leaving AIS like EWM to proliferate in already infested lakes and threaten further spread throughout the so far many uninfested lakes in the state.
Thank-you for your consideration.
Pat Suozzi, President, The Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds