TICONDEROGA - New York State has announced funding to assist local farmers fight pollution.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced the dedication of $200,000 in recovered funds to assist Champlain Valley farmers in combating water pollution in Lake Champlain.
The money, recovered from a 2007 case in which a major power company violated the Clean Air Act, will target phosphorous reduction from area farms, improving their operations, fighting pollution, and improving the health of Lake Champlain.
"A healthy Lake Champlain and a vibrant agricultural sector are both vital to sustaining the Champlain Valley's economy and way of life," Schneiderman said. "Our office will continue to fight to protect our natural resources on behalf of New Yorkers. At no cost to taxpayers, these funds will help area farmers improve their operations, while furthering their responsible stewardship of the environment. By promoting the vitality of area farms and Lake Champlain, this funding is an investment in the future of the Champlain Valley."
Areas of Lake Champlain, including its southern segments, suffer from poor water quality due to excessive inputs of nutrients, particularly phosphorous. When too much phosphorous enters the lake, it can cause rapid weed growth which starves the lake of oxygen needed to support fish and other living organisms. For years, area farmers have taken steps to reduce phosphorous runoff from their land, and today's awards will bolster these important efforts.
"We appreciate the attorney general's dedication of funding to implement important water quality projects in Essex County," said Erik Leerkes of Ticonderoga, president of Essex County Farm Bureau. "Protecting the environment is an essential part of any farm businesses and this assistance will help our farmers continue their efforts to protect Lake Champlain in an affordable and effective manner."
Essex County Soil & Water Conservation District will receive $19,800 to assist an Essex County-based beef farmer to prevent cattle from grazing and watering in a tributary stream to Lake Champlain by installing fencing and constructing a dedicated stream crossing. A buffer of vegetation will also be created along the stream's bank in order to filter nutrients, prevent erosion, and provide wildlife habitat.
Essex County Soil & Water Conservation District will also receive $75,000 in funds to assist the owner of a 90-cow beef operation in Essex County to construct a large covering over their barnyard, and install other features that will reduce runoff from the farm and its discharge of nutrients to a nearby tributary to Lake Champlain.
Washington County Soil & Water Conservation District will receive $81,000 to assist the owner of a 200-cow dairy farm in Washington County to install a suite of "best management practices" designed to prevent clean storm water from contacting manure and causing nutrient runoff. These practices will include constructing a covering over the farm's barnyard and installing a roof water diversion system that will direct clean water runoff away from heavy use areas.
Washington County Soil & Water Conservation District will also receive $15,830 to assist the owner of a 175-cow Washington County dairy farm to install rainwater diversion systems and other drainage improvements in order to direct clean storm water away from an existing heavy use barnyard, thus preventing contact with manure and significantly reducing nutrient runoff into a nearby tributary of the Lake.
Funding for the projects comes from a settlement that a coalition of states and environmental groups - led by New York and the federal government - reached in 2007 with American Electric Power, the nation's largest power company, for violations of the federal Clean Air Act. As a result of the settlement, $500,000 was committed to addressing pollution reduction in Lake Champlain in coordination with the State of Vermont.