My husband Bruce and I have lived on Fairfield Pond in Fairfield for 16 years. We’ve run the Fairfield Pond Recreation Association for 14 of those years. Water quality issues have been at the forefront of our efforts.
My previous career at Vermont Local Roads was a federal/state program providing training and technical assistance to Vermont municipalities and VTrans. This included incorporation of best management practices and smart growth as outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agency of Natural Resources, and the regional planning commissions.
We’re thankful that the Shoreland Protection Act passed. Due to a lot of hard work and education, phosphorus levels on Fairfield Pond had been stable at around 14-15 (mg/l) for several years. But recent development and clear-cutting around Fairfield Pond prior to the Shoreland Protection Act contributed to a spike in phosphorus to 20-21(mg/l) for the past two years. It likely will take years to recover from this, and we remain committed to preventing further water quality impairment.
The Environmental Protection Agency hosted a series of public meetings to outline the next steps in Vermont’s efforts to restore water quality in Lake Champlain. We attended the Aug. 26 meeting in St. Albans. At that meeting it was stated that the Missisquoi Bay area would need to cut phosphorus by as much as 64.3 percent to meet the total maximum daily load for that region.
According to the EPA report, developed land and stream erosion are the biggest contributors of phosphorus in the central segment of the lake. The EPA underscored that impervious surfaces carry pollutants and nutrients into rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, they account for 14 percent of the lake’s phosphorus loads and are linked to toxic algae blooms and aquatic habitat degradation. We have experienced this on Fairfield Pond in the past few years.
Why would the EPA and the DEC allow the proposed seven, 500-foot wind turbines to be placed on Rocky Ridge in Swanton?
They may as well be on Fairfield Pond and Fairfield Swamp, given the watershed impacts. This area is documented with beaver ponds, wetlands, vernal pools and is recognized as one of the highest value habitat blocks in the region. These wetlands and streams drain into the already impaired Black Creek. This watershed is one of the largest tributaries to the Missisquoi River and ultimately Lake Champlain. Many such facts were made at the August 26 EPA presentation.
The DEC outlines this type of development as “stressors” under its Surface Water Management Strategies. One “stressor” is labeled “encroachment,” which states: “Encroachment increases impervious cover adjacent to lakes, river and wetlands, thereby increasing the rate and volume of runoff, loading of sediment and other pollutants, and temperature of the receiving water.
The cumulative loss of wetlands that provide water quality protection to adjacent surface waters can result in ongoing reduction in water quality. The extent of encroachment, the cumulative effects of impervious cover, and the degree to which natural infiltration has been compromised can also contribute to the instability of the stream channel.”
Under “stressor – Channel Erosion” it states: “The effects of channel erosion are pervasive and consequential throughout the state. Where it occurs, unmitigated channel erosion causes long-term (>25 year recovery time) impacts that are very costly to repair.”
The EPA made this statement in its news release announcing the public meetings. “The greatest threat to a healthy Lake Champlain is phosphorus pollution caused by stormwater runoff, nonpoint source pollution and erosion. Excess phosphorus can cause algae blooms, which disrupt fishing and other recreational uses, threaten drinking water supplies, lead to decreased property values, and pose threats to animal and human health. Phosphorus pollution also harms local streams and rivers that feed into Lake Champlain.”
It is imperative that we put a moratorium on industrial wind projects in the state of Vermont, pending a thorough, systematic study of the stormwater systems at Lowell, Sheffield and Georgia Mountain and all environmental consequences based on such factors as topography, geology, and other impacts to watersheds and our precious aquatic resources.
We must not compromise the long fought, expensive gains related to improving Lake Champlain. Mountaintop removal will exacerbate serious environmental water-quality problems.
According to David Mears, Vermont’s former DEC commissioner, “Vermonters love Lake Champlain and truly care about the health of the streams that flow into it. … The state is committed to working with EPA to ensure that the most strategic, cost-effective practices are featured in our plan to restore the lake. We eagerly anticipate the discussion.”
The comment period for that discussion has been extended to October 15. Please send your comments to Stephen Perkins, USEPA Region 1 – New England, email: Perkins.Stephen@EPA.gov.
The Swanton Wind Industrial Turbine project proposed on Rocky Ridge and Fairfield Pond is not an appropriately sited location. It would further deteriorate the Missisquoi Bay area, a priority for cleanup under the 2015 State of the Lake.
Sally Collopy is a resident of Fairfield.
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