The Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds is always researching and discussing important lakes and ponds issues. From these discussions, the board will occasionally create, vote upon, and issue a policy statement on our website on a specific topic involving lakes and ponds in our state.
The following approved policy statements involve aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention and control funding, and the regulation of wake sports.
FOVLAP White Paper on the Use of ProcellaCOR to Control Eurasian Watermilfoil
– Approved November 6, 2023
FOVLAP Statement On The Proposed Wake Boat Rule
– Approved July 29, 2023
The Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds applauds the work that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has
done in creating this draft rule. The regulation of wake sports is a matter we have long urged the Department to implement. We are pleased that the risk of aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread prompted the DEC to include the home lake requirement in the proposed rule.
However, concerns remain that the DEC’s proposed 500 foot shoreline buffer is
not adequate to protect lake users and lake shorelines from the powerful waves generated by wake surfing and that consideration should be given to enlarging the buffer zone.
Thus far, the best scientific study, which is from the St. Anthony Falls Lab at the University of Minnesota, suggests that a buffer zone of at least 600 feet from shore will attenuate the waves produced by wake boats to the same peak power as those created by conventional motorboats at 200 feet from shore.
However, the rule does not include an expansion of the requirement that these boats maintain a 200 ft distance from other vessels and swimmers. Given that the study shows that 425-600 feet are required to attenuate waves to the same level as waves from conventional motorboats, we ask the DEC to consider requiring wake boats while operating in wake mode to maintain a distance of at least 500 feet from any person or vessel in the water in order to ensure the safety of all lake users.
This study, completed in 2022, only tested two wake boats of 450 horsepower. As of this writing, newer wake boats with engines of over 650 horsepower are on the market and may already be operating on Vermont lakes. The greater horsepower is an indicator of a heavier boat. That greater weight allows the boat to displace more water, resulting in much larger waves with potentially greater safety hazards to other lake users and causing a significant increase in shoreline erosion. In the interests of safety and recognizing that much harm could be done by these larger boats before a modification of this rule could be implemented, we urge the DEC to consider modifying the proposed rule to enlarge the shoreline buffer to 1000 feet.
As the boating industry continues to market larger and more powerful boats, the Federation is concerned that even with establishing a larger buffer many of our lakes may suffer shoreline damage and other negative impacts. To protect lakes that will permit wake sports, it is worth considering only allowing wake boats below a specific size, weight, and horsepower to operate in Vermont. We thus urge the DEC to carefully track the size and power of wake boats as part of the home lake registration process. Should larger or more powerful wake boats register for a Vermont inland lake, we strongly recommend that the DEC move quickly to revisit and modify the final rule to ensure the safety of lake users, and the protection of lake ecosystems and shorelines.
Every lake is unique. The DEC website states: “Each Vermont lake and pond formed under unique conditions in diverse locations; no two lakes and ponds are alike.” Although a “one size fits all” rule such as this, can set a minimum standard, it does not necessarily work for all, given the many differences among lakes and ponds. We, therefore, urge the DEC to create a streamlined process for individual lakes to petition for exemptions to, or modifications of, the final rule, including prohibitions when necessary, and to ensure such petitions are addressed expeditiously. The Federation is fully committed to working with individual lakes and lake associations to support them in crafting modifications to these rules that will fit the particular circumstances of their lakes.
In closing, we want to recognize and thank the DEC staff and especially the staff of the Lakes and Ponds Program for their work in researching and synthesizing the science and data related to this issue. We also want to recognize and thank the petitioners who have worked diligently over several years to gather the information and to educate all of us on this issue. This matter is complicated with differing and sometimes conflicting opinions within our communities. However, all are in full agreement that maintaining public safety and preserving and protecting Vermont’s lakes and ponds for this and future generations is paramount.
Statement Concerning the Reduction of Resources for the Control of Aquatic Invasive Species
– Approved January 9, 2023
The Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds is concerned about the critical threat posed by aquatic invasive species to Vermont’s lakes, ponds, and rivers. As defined by the United States Presidential Executive Order 13112 of 1999 (https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/executive-order-13112), aquatic invasive species are “non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”
Aquatic invasive species are biological pollutants and are extremely difficult to contain, control, or eradicate. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Aquatic invasive species damage wildlife and communities by permanently altering habitats, reducing production of fisheries, decreasing water availability to residential and commercial users, blocking transportation routes, choking irrigation canals, fouling industrial and public water supply pipelines, degrading water quality, and decreasing property values…Once introduced, an invasive species can spread uncontrollably, harming vital ecosystems and native wildlife and plants and impacting recreation, human, animal, and plant health, the economy, and infrastructure.” (https://www.fws.gov/initiative/aquatic-invasive-species)
The spread of aquatic invasive species is a human-caused problem impacting humanity as well as the ecosystem at large, and as such, it is our ethical responsibility to prevent the spread and to work to remediate already infested waters. Overland transport of watercraft and other water-related recreational or commercial equipment by humans is a primary cause of the spread of aquatic invasive species. Aquatic invasive species “hitchhike” from one body of water to another by attaching to portions of a boat, trailer, or gear; or by being carried in the boat bilge, ballast tank or live well.
In 1978, Vermont lawmakers recognized the critical threat posed by aquatic invasive species and passed Vermont’s Aquatic Nuisance Control law (10 V.S.A. Chapter 50). This law states: “It is the policy of the state of Vermont to prevent the infestation and proliferation of invasive species in the state that result in negative environmental impacts, including habitat loss and a reduction in native biodiversity along with adverse social and economic impacts and impacts to the public health and safety.” (10 V.S.A, Chapter 50. §1451)
Prevention programs that include education, monitoring and public access greeter programs to target aquatic invasive species are the best and most cost-effective protection for our public waters. Once an invasive species has infested a waterbody, management and control are necessary to prevent it spreading further to other waterbodies. Along with prevention and control, enforcement of existing statutes that prohibit the transport of invasive species is necessary.
The number of aquatic invasive species infestations in Vermont public waters continues to increase despite the State’s foresight to address aquatic invasive species over 40 years ago, despite decades of educational initiatives, and despite knowledge of proven spread prevention techniques. The State of Vermont has continually underfunded aquatic invasive species prevention and management programs and reduced its technical staff responsible for these statewide efforts. In 2022, $450,000 was available in the AIS Grant-in-Aid fund, yet the need reflected in the grant applications received was nearly $2 million. Rather than recognizing this need and increasing those funds, the state has announced that these already insufficient funds will be cut by 22% in 2023.
In Vermont, volunteer-led lake and watershed associations bear much of the burden and costs of aquatic invasive species spread prevention, management, control, and eradication. Our lake and watershed associations work hard to protect and preserve Vermont’s public waters. These thousands of volunteers are passionate about this crucial work and contribute countless hours and resources annually to preserve and protect our precious water resources. Without adequate funding and technical support from the state, this work becomes more difficult, if not impossible. Given adequate resources, there is hope for success.
Our lakes and ponds are the jewels of Vermont. They are valuable public assets that provide environmental, ecological, economic, and recreational benefits to all our citizens and to our many visitors. With proper protection and continued stewardship by our lake associations, municipalities, and state agencies, they will continue to provide benefits well into the future.
Therefore, the Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds, consistent with our mission to “preserve and protect Vermont’s lakes, ponds, and their watersheds for the benefit of this and future generations”, and consistent with state law requiring the prevention of aquatic invasive species, urges the Legislature and the Agency of Natural Resources to:
- Develop a consistent and adequate revenue stream to support Vermont’s aquatic invasive species management and control programs by developing new revenue sources along with increasing allocations from the General Fund.
- Strengthen the protection of lakes and ponds from aquatic invasive species by working with lake associations, municipalities, and other conservation organizations to implement greeter programs on those lakes currently lacking such a program, and to expand existing programs, including funding boat wash stations at as many public accesses as possible.
- Ensure that the state Aquatic Nuisance Control Program that supports our lake associations is fully staffed and that the Aquatic Nuisance Control Grant-in-Aid Program is fully funded.
- Vigorously enforce the state’s regulatory statutes and policies regarding aquatic invasive species transport and spread.
With clear evidence of the damage that the spread of invasives does to native ecosystems, we can anticipate the serious degradation to our public waters, the decrease in property values, and the loss of tourism income that will result if we allow such infestations to proceed unchecked in our lakes. Science has given us the knowledge and the tools we need to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species and to manage and control existing infestations. The state must fulfill its statutory responsibility and provide the funding and support necessary to prevent the spread and infestation of this biological pollutant.
– Supported by The Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds Board of Directors & Auxiliary Board, and the following Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds Association Members: