July 22, 2018

Guest Column: We are not wavering on clean water

By Julie Moore

Despite the Gov. Phil Scott Administration’s commitment to restoring Vermont’s waterways and funding clean water initiatives, recent news stories have given the impression that we are decelerating our efforts.

This is not the case. The Agency of Natural Resources and all the partners engaged in this work — including other state agencies, Vermont municipalities, regional planning commissions, conservation districts, non-profit and watershed organizations, and private landowners — are moving ahead as quickly as possible to develop, design, fund and implement clean water projects.

Contrary to some recent news reports, neither I, nor the governor, nor anyone in his administration, have called for spending less money on clean water.

Spending on clean water is increasing year-overyear, not decreasing: There was a full 70 percent increase in clean water funding between fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

It was always anticipated that less money would be spent in the early years on certain types of projects — such as retrofitting existing developments with stormwater controls — as regulatory drivers are put in place, and more would be spent in later years.

We do have an obligation to put funding to work with appropriate management and oversight. Taxpayers expect, and rightly so, that their money will be invested in our water environment as quickly as possible, but also in a way that ensures it is spent effectively and with accountability.

That is our great challenge. Vermonters may remember President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the search for “shovel-ready” projects to fund. We face a similar challenge in lining up projects in Vermont that are ready to go to construction.

Although we understand where many of the water quality needs lie across our landscape, it takes time to develop the expertise and resources in both public and private sectors necessary to implement projects in accountable ways and to ensure we will be measuring what we get for our money.

That is what I have been, and am, advocating for: a realistic, practical and effective long-term strategy. That has unfortunately been misrepresented as a desire to slow down spending on the cleanup of Lake Champlain and other waters.

Together, through the course of decades, even centuries, of living, building and farming on Vermont’s landscape, we have created the problems in our waters.

And it will take time — measured in years, not weeks or months — to correct those problems. Ensuring that we are laying the proper foundation is essential.

I urge Vermonters who are concerned to get involved and learn the real story of what we are doing, how we are doing it and why. Come to a public hearing on the issue, or look at the documents we have gathered related to clean water funding at: anr.vermont.gov/ about/special-topics/act-73-cleanwater-funding.

See for yourselves what progress we are making and what work lies ahead.

Julie Moore is secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

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