On the last day of the 2013 legislative session, the Vermont legislature passed language in the annual appropriations bill that creates a Lake Shoreland Protection Commission. The Commission has two purposes: (1) provide information regarding current laws or regulations in place to protect the waters of the State, and (2) take testimony regarding the regulation of disturbance, clearing, and creation of impervious surfaces on lake shorelands.

The Commission will be composed of the members of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee and five members from the House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resource Committee. The Commission may hold five public meetings in various parts of the State, including Montpelier, to provide information and collect public input regarding the proposed regulation of activities on lake  shorelands. In addition to the public meetings, the Commission may meet no more than three times and will cease to exist on July 1, 2014.

The Commission, with the assistance of the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), will:

(1) summarize existing regulations that preserve and improve water quality and avoid degradation, including the proposed rules to implement the antidegradation policy and the programs and requirements that may be needed to meet the Total Maximum Daily Load plan for Lake Champlain;

(2) summarize the findings of ANR’s Act 138 Report, including how Vermont ranks in relation to other states with regard to clean water protection;

(3) summarize the need for lake shoreland regulations as part of an integrated policy to preserve and protect clean water in the State;

(4) summarize how other states regulate activities in lake shoreland areas, including what activities are regulated; how development, construction, or creation of non-vegetated surfaces is regulated; whether activities are regulated by the state, a local authority, or some combination of state and local authority; whether a buffer or other area of vegetated surface is required within a specified distance of a lake; and what activities are exempt from regulation;

(5) provide educational materials regarding shoreland protection, including copies ANR’s draft standards for lake shoreland regulation and vegetation management; and

(6) solicit and hear input and proposals from the public in response to the information provided under (1) – (5) regarding how the State should protect water quality, aquatic habitat, and shoreland habitat while also preserving reasonable use of the property.

The Commission will consider the public input and proposals and publish a report of the Commission’s recommendations for legislative action for lake shoreland protection, to be posted on the Legislature’s website by January 15, 2014.

The Legislature also created a Lake Shoreland Protection Commission Working Group to develop, prior to July 15, 2013, the information and educational materials in (1) – (5) above to be presented or provided at the public meetings of the Lake Shoreland Protection Commission. The Working Group will consist of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee; the Chair and Vice Chair of the House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee; and the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation or his/her designee.

The schedule for the Lake Shoreland Protection Commission’s public meetings will be posted in the Legislative Updates when it becomes known.

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