Help may be on the way for Vermont’s lakes.

A National Lakes Assessment conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 found that of the stressors included in the assessment, poor lakeshore habitat (measured by the amount and type of lakeshore vegetation) is the biggest problem in the nation’s lakes.  Over one-third of the nation’s lakes exhibit poor lakeshore habitat, and poor biological health is three times more likely in these lakes.  Lake assessments in Vermont have shown that Vermont lakes rank worse than the northeast region and the national average (lower 48 states) in terms of shoreland disturbance.  Only 17% of Vermont lakeshores are in good condition as measured by the extent of disturbance and lawns along the shore, compared to 42% regionally and 35% nationally.  Vermont is the only northeastern state without state standards for shoreland development.

Studies in Vermont and nationally show a strong correlation between cleared shoreland and loss of shallow water habitat for fish and other organisms.  After learning of these studies, in 2012 the Vermont Legislature passed Act 138, which in part directed the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to report back to the Legislature with recommendations on how the state should work toward the restoration and protection of lake shorelands, including how the state should regulate development in shorelands, whether the state should enact statewide regulation for activities within shorelands, and whether any regulation of activities within shorelands should be based on site-specific criteria.

The resulting Act 138 Shorelands Report, Lake Shoreland Protection and Restoration Management Options, can be viewed at the following link:

http://www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/waterq/lakes/docs/lp_act138shorelandreport.pdf

 
An Executive Summary of the report can be found at:

It is anticipated that a bill will be introduced in the Vermont Legislature this session to improve lake water quality in Vermont through a new approach to the management of Vermont’s lakeshores.  As the Act 138 Shorelands Report states, “This is an opportunity for the Vermont Legislature to implement a fair and effective program for lakeshore management and protection to ensure that the state’s economic, social, and ecological values are protected for current and future generations.”

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