Act H.833, a new bill that will help the state protect its surface waters, has passed the Vermont House of Representatives.
As periods of drought increase and seasonal weather patterns grow more erratic, demands for surface water from industrial, agricultural, and municipal users are growing. This intensifying use of water puts Vermont’s surface waters at risk. That risk is magnified by a lack of clear policy; for example, a state permit recently allowed a first-time-ever transfer of water from one watershed basin to another with no authorization in law or regulation.
H.833 would establish a Surface Water Diversion and Transfer Working Group to investigate the environmental, economic, and recreational impacts of surface water diversion. The group would research current surface water diversions in the state, evaluate the need for quantifying and regulating surface water diversion, and, if appropriate, propose legislative changes to protect the state’s watersheds.
The legislation was developed by an environmental coalition that includes the Vermont State Council of Trout Unlimited, Greater Upper Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, MadDog Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Connecticut River Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Connecticut River Conservancy, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and National Wildlife Federation’s Northeast Regional Center. Vermont Law School’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic represents the coalition.
“As we enter a new era of weather patterns and water use, H.833 creates a working group tasked with ensuring environmental resilience of Vermont’s watersheds against climate change and accelerating demands,” said Vermont Law School Environmental Advocacy Clinic Staff Attorney Mason Overstreet.
“The group is tasked with giving the aquatic environment a voice at the negotiating table when multiple cumulative uses of the same surface water are under discussion,” said Grey Hagwood of Trout Unlimited State Council. “This would be a first in Vermont. We might actually know for the first time how much of our surface waters are diverted from our rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds.”
As H. 833 moves on to the Vermont Senate, Jon Groveman of the Vermont Natural Resources Council stated, “It is important that Senators understand that after researching the issue it is clear that Vermont has little to no knowledge of the overall impact of these unregistered and unregulated water withdrawals from our rivers and lakes.”
“Unregulated water withdrawals from rivers and lakes have been a simmering issue for fishers for a long time, because we see them while angling and know that no one is paying attention to them,” said David Deen, former State Representative and chair of the Connecticut River Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “The regulators should be aware of them. We see more of these pipes just stuck in the rivers.”
The Environmental Advocacy Clinic at Vermont Law School works to train the next generation of environmental advocates while protecting people and nature. Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, is home to the nation’s premier environmental law program.
Since 1952, Connecticut River Conservancy has been the voice for the Connecticut River watershed, from source to sea. We collaborate with partners across four states to protect and advocate for your rivers and educate and engage communities. We bring people together to prevent pollution, improve habitat, and promote enjoyment of your river and its tributary streams. Healthy rivers support healthy economies. To learn more about CRC, or to make a contribution to help protect the Connecticut River, visit www.ctriver.org.
Trout Unlimited works to protect, reconnect, and restore the places we love to fish through a national network of local chapters: The chapters of Trout Unlimited in Vermont are: Southwest Vermont, Central Vermont, Greater Upper Valley, Connecticut River Valley, and the MadDog Chapters.
Through research, education, collaboration and advocacy, Vermont Natural Resources Council protects and enhances Vermont’s natural environments, vibrant communities, productive working landscapes, rural character and unique sense of place, and prepares the state for future challenges and opportunities.
The National Wildlife Federation, America's largest and most trusted conservation organization, works across the country to unite Americans from all walks of life in giving wildlife a voice.