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Lake Champlain Watershed Water Quality Management Planning

Pollution in Lake Champlain

View of Lake Champlain from Split Rock Mountain
View of Lake Champlain from Split Rock Mountain

Each year, millions of people visit the Lake Champlain area to take advantage of the fishing, boating, swimming, and other recreation opportunities that the Lake provides. The tourism industry is an important source of jobs in the watershed and contributes approximately $4 billion to the regional economy annually. Additionally, farms in the watershed produce over $500 million in agricultural products each year, and approximately 188,000 watershed residents get their drinking water from the Lake.

Because good water quality in Lake Champlain is so important to the regional economy, organizations throughout the entire watershed focus on pollution reduction and control efforts. Improvements to wastewater and sewage treatment plants have greatly improved water quality in Lake Champlain, but polluted stormwater runoff from roads, urban areas, lawns, and farms still causes problems.

roadside erosion
Sediment from roadside erosion can pollute nearby bodies of water.

Photo courtesy of LCLGRPB

Sediment and phosphorus are pollutants that affect both Lake Champlain and its tributaries. Sediment typically erodes from areas where vegetation and topsoil have been disturbed, including road banks, ditches, steep slopes, and deteriorating stream culverts. When stormwater washes across these areas, loose sediment is carried into rivers and streams and eventually into Lake Champlain. Since phosphorus easily bonds with soil, eroded sediment often collects and transports a significant amount of phosphorus. The sediment and phosphorus cloud the water, fill river and lake bottoms, and cause nuisance algal blooms. As algae dies and decomposes, it uses oxygen needed by other aquatic plants and animals, and can produce "dead zones" where oxygen levels are so low that aquatic life cannot survive.

Project Overview

In 2009, the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board (LCLGRPB) received a $130,625 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or Stimulus) grant from DEC to identify roadside areas with ongoing erosion problems that contribute sediment to Lake Champlain, and then to develop stabilization plans for these areas. This project will prioritize erosion sites so that local municipalities and county Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) can address the most critical sites first and reduce the amount of sediment and phosphorus that is transported downstream to Lake Champlain.

Project Status

Essex County map of roadside erosion sites
Map of identified erosion sites in Essex County

This map is from the Roadside Erosion Assessment and
Inventory report, available on CWICNY's website.

LCLGRPB finished work on this project in February, 2012. Working in partnership with the Champlain Watershed Improvement Coalition of New York (CWICNY), and SWCDs in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Warren, and Washington counties, LCLGRPB identified, catalogued, and prioritized critical erosion areas and developed site-specific stabilization and erosion control solutions.

LCLGRPB began by preparing a procedure for erosion data collection, including a list of criteria to be measured and evaluated. Interns were hired and trained by the county SWCDs to collect the data. Project information was collected and incorporated into a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based mapping system. Over 300 sites were identified, photographed, and assessed. Maps identifying erosion sites were created, and best management practices and cost estimates for stabilization of the identified erosion sites were developed. LCLGRPB produced a Roadside Erosion Assessment and Inventory report to summarize their findings. The report was sent to town supervisors and highway superintendents in each of the towns where erosion sites were identified and is available for download on CWICNY's website. A direct link to CWICNY's website is in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of the right-hand column of this page.

Stormwater Tradeshow and Conference
North Country Stormwater Tradeshow and Conference

Photo courtesy of LCLGRPB

To increase awareness of the impacts of land-disturbing activities, LCLGRPB organized erosion and sediment control workshops and stormwater tradeshows for highway crews and contractors throughout the Lake Champlain watershed. Training was provided to planners, contractors, and municipal employees in the watershed on erosion and sediment control, issues associated with erosion, and the use of GPS and GIS to record and map erosion locations.

Final Progress Report

When each ARRA 604(b) project is complete, DEC requires a final report summarizing the entire project to be submitted. The report includes a description of the project's goals, work accomplished, and final project outcomes.

To view the final progress report for this project, click the following link:

Lake Champlain Watershed Water Quality Management Planning - Final Report (PDF) (116 KB)

Regional Demographic Information

The LCLGRPB five-county planning region is located in northeastern New York and includes the counties of Clinton, Essex, Hamilton, Warren and Washington. The five counties cover over 6,600 square miles and more than 245,000 residents. This project also includes Franklin County with its 1,697 square miles and 51,134 residents because part of the county is in the Lake Champlain watershed.

The Lake Champlain Watershed covers 8,234 square miles (about the size of New Jersey) and has over 570,000 residents in New York, Vermont, and the Canadian province of Quebec. It drains part of the Adirondack Mountain region in northeastern New York State, the Green Mountain region in northwestern Vermont, and the St. Lawrence Valley in southern Quebec.

Contact Information


P.O. Box 765, 1 Lower Amherst Street, Lake George, NY 12845