Kathy OBrien

State of the Lake - Lake Champlain Report


Matthew Vaughan, State of Lake
Matthew Vaughan describing water quality at Lake Champlain Basin Program’s State of the Lake report release.

GRAND ISLE – The good news from Lake Champlain is that no new invasive species have made their way into its waters since 2014, but the by now familiar bad news is that phosphorus levels in many parts of the lake remain disconcertingly high.

These were among the findings in the 2018 State of the Lake Report released on Friday. The report, a health check compiled every three years by the Lake Champlain Basin Program, covers water quality, aquatic species, and economics. The basin program, a creation of Congress, is a partnership of the states of Vermont and New York, and the Canadian province of Quebec, to monitor the health of the lake and its more than 8,000 square mile watershed.

“Without monitoring and assessing the results of all this work, we wouldn’t know if we were making progress,” said Melville Cote, EPA project manager, addressing those assembled for the report’s release at the basin program’s Grand Isle offices.

The emphasis on invasive species monitoring is so that Lake Champlain doesn’t suffer the fate of the Great Lakes, whose fisheries were devastated when the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 allowed the introduction of non-native species.

Vermont in recent years has ramped up efforts to stop invasive aquatic species from entering its own great lake. Boat greeters are stationed at access points around the lake, to educate boaters about invasive species and to remove plant material from watercraft entering and leaving the lake. Greeters have removed 4,782 invasive specimens from the 95,177 boats they have surveyed, according to the report.

As a result, the water chestnut that in 1999 choked more than 25 percent of the narrow south end of Lake Champlain, clogging boat motors and destroying fish habitat, has been significantly reduced. Removal may soon get more high-tech with the use of drones to detect any new spread of water chestnut all around the lake.

A long term sea lamprey management program has led to a significant decrease in the lake’s most notorious invasive species. Sea lamprey come equipped with a suction-cup mouth — and a ring of many teeth. They feed on freshwater fish by latching onto their smooth sides, and draining bodily fluids.

There has been a marked decline in the “wounding” of salmon over the last 15 years, but for reasons that are not entirely clear, the wounding of lake trout “has increased dramatically” in the past two years, Ellen Kujawa, technical associate for the basin program.

Even so, the juvenile lake trout population nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017, and for the first time in a century landlocked Atlantic salmon have begun to reproduce naturally in the Winooski River, Kujawa said. “For the most part, Lake Champlain sport fish continue to thrive,” she added.

The stubborn phosphorus problem is in part a result of the geography of the lake. For every square mile of water, 18 square miles of land drain into the lake, which is significantly more than the drainage into the Great Lakes, said Matt Vaughan, technical coordinator with the LCBP.

“Most nutrients come from sources on the land, so the relatively high land-to-lake ratio for Lake Champlain poses significant challenges in limiting pollution,” said Vaughan, who added that the lake’s tributaries deliver around 2 million pounds of phosphorus each year.

“Long term phosphorus loading trends have not improved for most Lake Champlain tributaries,” he said.

Phosphorus levels are highest in the Missisquoi Bay, the South Lake and St. Albans Bay — areas that face a potent combination of shallow water and heavy agricultural runoff. ANR Secretary Julie Moore said the northern bay areas have cyanobacteria blooms that “continue to be persistent despite all our efforts to reduce nonpoint source pollution.”

Although 38 percent of the lake’s phosphorus load comes from agricultural lands, developed land contributes more than twice as much phosphorus per square mile, according to the report. The state is using edge of field monitoring to determine the effectiveness of agricultural best practices such as cover cropping and no-till planting in reducing sediment runoff into the lake, Lake Champlain Basin Program manager Eric Howe said. Moore called the ongoing effort to reduce phosphorus across the watershed a “sustained heavy lift” by partners around Vermont, New York and Quebec.

Lake Champlain generates $300 million in tourist revenue each year, and a decline in water quality could lead to a $16.8 million decrease in summertime business, the report warned. Speakers at the report release highlighted the importance of funding infrastructure, like boat access points and lakeside bike trails, that connects tourists and residents to the lake.

“Vermont’s crown jewel,” Gov. Phil Scott called the lake on Friday. “Water quality goes hand-in-hand with the growth of our economy,” Scott said, though he added, “From my perspective, we don’t have to choose between the environment and our economy — we can support both.”

What $700,000 Can buy in Vermont

The New York Times featured 4523 Duffy Hill Road, a property listed by Kathy O'Brien, in an editorial that is titled 

"$700,000 Homes in South Carolina, Vermont and Utah"


Jared Vincent

Fairfield, Vt. | $699,000

A 2002 house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms

This architect-designed timber-frame home, with a three-bedroom septic plan, was built for an airplane pilot who used it as a retreat. It sits on 98 acres, 45 minutes from Burlington, Vt. The Canadian border is about 40 minutes away. Lake Champlain is visible from the property, as are (on clear nights) the twinkling lights of Montreal.

Size: 1,424 square feet

Price per square foot: $491

Indoors: The house is warmed visually by custom cherry, maple and mahogany finishes and physically by radiant-heated floors. The centerpiece is a great room with a double-height ceiling and wood-burning fireplace. This level also has a kitchen with a built-in beer tap and cooler, a small library and a bathroom with a shower.

Upstairs, the main bedroom is part of a suite overlooking the great room that includes a bathroom with a soaking tub and a study that could be converted into a bunk room. A ladder provides access to a loft that sleeps an additional two people. The house also has a full basement with a workshop and a wine storage area.

Outdoor space: The owner personally hauled the rose-colored granite used for the path to the entrance and created several trails through the property. The land is divided equally between meadows and forest.

Taxes: $5,719

Contact: Kathy O’Brien, Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty, 802-343-9433; kathyobrien.com


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    Reduce Refinancing Charges


    Reduce Refinancing Costs

    There is much more than a lower rate and payment to determine whether to refinance a mortgage.  Lenders try to make refinancing as attractive as possible by rolling the closing costs into the new mortgage so there isn't any out of pocket cash required.

    The closing costs associated with a new loan could add several thousand dollars to your mortgage balance.  The following suggestions may help you to reduce the expense to refinance.

    ?         Tell the lender up-front that you want to have the loan quoted with minimal closing costs.

    ?         Check with your existing lender to see if the rate and closing costs might be cheaper. 

    ?         Shop around with other lenders and compare rate and closing costs.

    ?         If you're refinancing an FHA or VA loan, consider the streamline refinance.

    ?         Credit unions may have lower closing costs because they are generally loaning deposits and their cost of funds is less.

    ?         Reducing the loan-to-value so mortgage insurance is not required will reduce expenses and lower the payment.

    ?         Ask if the lender can use an AVM, automated valuation model, instead of an appraisal.

    ?         You may not need a new survey if no changes have been made.

    ?         There may be a discount on the mortgagee's title policy available on a refinance.

    ?         Points on refinancing, unlike a purchase, are ratably deductible over the life of the loan ($3,000 in points on a 30-year loan would result in a $100 tax deduction each year.)

    ?         Consider a 15-year loan.  If you can afford the higher payments, you can expect a lower interest rate than a 30-year loan and obviously, it will build equity faster and pay off in half the time.

    A lender must provide you a list of the fees involved with making the loan within 3 days of making a loan application in the form of a Loan Estimate and a Closing Disclosure Form.  Every dollar counts, and they belong to you.


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      TAKE THE PLEDGE! Keep Lake Champlain Clean!!!!


      Take the Lake Protection Pledge!

      We all need to take personal responsibility for the health of Lake Champlain. That's why the Lake Champlain Committee has put together a list of actions, the Lake Protection Pledge (pdf), you can take to protect water quality around your home, in your garage, and around your community. 

      Fill out the online pledge form below to commit to taking personal action to protect the health of the lake.

      Yes. I/we agree to take the Lake Protection Pledge!

      I/We Pledge To:


      • Dispose of pharmaceuticals at Drug Take Back days or at safe disposal boxes at law enforcement agencies; never flush medicines down a toilet or drain.
      • Position gutters to drain onto grass, soil or into a rain barrel.
      • This lets the water filter into the ground rather than flowing directly to streams.
      • Clean up pet waste at home and when walking the dog. Dog and cat wastes contain high levels of bacteria harmful to people and the lake. Deposit pet poop in toilets or garbage cans.
      • Use permeable pavement for driveways and walkways. They allow rainwater and snowmelt and the pollution they carry to drain into the ground rather than run off untreated into waterways.
      • Never dump toxic materials down stormdrains, garage drains, or on the ground. Waste dumped in stormdrains or on the ground is not treated before it enters waterways.
      • Keep stormdrains and ditches clear of debris. Debris prevents proper drainage and can cause flooding.
      • Conserve water to reduce loads to wastewater treatment plants, save energy and costs. Fix leaks, add faucet aerators, and replace showerheads and toilets with low-flow models when upgrading. Choose EPA WaterSense-labeled fixtures for greater efficiency and performance.
      • Use non-phosphate dishwasher detergents, it’s the law. Check labels - excess phosphorus leads to cyanobacteria  and blooms that can turn toxic. .
      • Have your septic tank inspected and pumped regularly. Without regular checks and pumping, septic systems can fail, causing severe water quality problems and costly repairs.


      • Don’t use phosphorus-based fertilizer on your lawn or garden unless a soil test indicates you need it. It’s the law in NY & VT. Most lawns don’t need fertilizer, and whatever excess is applied ends up in the water, feeding algae and cyanobacteria growth.
      • Use compost and mulch to improve soil health. These products release their nutrients slowly, providing long- term feed for your lawn and garden.
      • Landscape with native groundcover and shrubs instead of lawn. Plants naturally adapted to local conditions require less maintenance and fertilizer.
      • Choose drought-tolerant and pest-resistant plants. This minimizes the need for pesticides and excess watering.
      • Avoid using pesticides and herbicides. They kill beneficial organisms as well as bothersome ones. When it rains, they wash into stormdrains and streams. Non-toxic insecticidal soaps, dormant oil sprays and "helpful insects" such as ladybugs can keep pests at bay just as well.
      • Raise the blade of your lawn mower and cut your lawn to three inches to encourage a stronger root system that captures rainfall and lessens the need to water during a dry spell.
      • Leave grass clippings on the lawn. Grass clippings and other organic matter provide natural slow-release fertilizer and improve the lawn‘s ability to hold water.
      • Maintain a vegetated buffer along the stream, river or lake if you live along a shoreline. Buffer strips shade the stream, filter runoff, stabilize streambanks, prevent erosion and provide habitat for animals.
      • Water in the early morning to prevent losing water to evaporation during mid-day. Water slowly and deeply to avoid surface runoff, inspect hoses for leaks and direct overhead sprinklers toward vegetation and away from the street or driveway.
      • Avoid over-watering. Excess water runs off the lawn into the stormdrain system.
      • Install rain barrels to collect water from rooftops to water your lawn and garden. An inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof will contribute about 600 gallons of water.
      • Re-seed thin areas in the lawn to prevent erosion and keep soil from running off into waterways.


      • Avoid single-use items like plastic bottles, coffee cups and lids, cutlery, bags, plastic wrap, products with microbeads and microplastics and “free” gifts you don’t need.
      • Wash the car at a commercial car wash where the water is collected and recycled. If you wash at home clean vehicles on lawn instead of pavement. This minimizes dirt and detergents entering streams through the stormdrain system. If washing at home, use environmentally-friendly soap products and shut the hose off between rinses.
      • Maintain the car with regular tune-ups and check for leaks. Leaking fluids end up on parking lots and are washed into stormdrains and waterways during the next rain.
      • Dispose of oil and antifreeze properly. Keep it out of stormdrains.
      • Reduce automobile trips. Take a bus, ride a bike, walk or carpool whenever possible. The average car emits about 900 pounds of pollution into the air each year and some of this ends up in the lake.


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        Move to Vermont. Work From Home. Get $10,000. (Or at Least Something.)

        Daydreaming about moving somewhere less populated, maybe to where you can ski in your down time and tap trees for maple syrup? If so, Vermont is beckoning, and might even pay you for your trouble.

        On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed into law a bill that will give a number of people who move to Vermont from another state up to $10,000 to help ease the transition.

        The money — part of a grant program designed to draw tech workers and revitalize the state’s aging work force — is intended to help with costs like relocation, computer software and hardware, broadband access and membership in a shared professional space.

        Those who relocate and take part in the program need to be full-time employees of a business based outside of Vermont and need to be able to work remotely. They also must become a full-time Vermont resident in 2019.


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