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The International Joint Commission in St Armand, Quebec
The International Joint Commission in St Armand, Quebec

Public hearings in VT, Quebec on phosphorus in Lake Champlain's Missisquoi Bay

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Missisquoi Bay is in the northeast corner of Lake Champlain, along the Vermont-Quebec border. The bay has some of the highest phosphorus concentrations in the lake and is frequently plagued by blue/green algae. In 2008, the US government asked the International Joint Commission, a bi-national body that helps manage US and Canadian boundary waters, to assist in reducing phosphorus levels in the bay.

They've now completed a study that identifies where the phosphorus is coming from and how it gets to the lake. Two public hearings are underway to discuss the results. Sarah Harris was at last night's meeting in Saint Armand, Quebec and has more.

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Long‐term trend in total phosphorus concentrations in Missisquoi Bay (Source: International Missisquoi Bay Study Board)

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The study worked to identify places with high potential for phosphorus loss in the Missisquoi Basin in Vermont. It concluded that 64% of the phosphorus that makes its way into the lake comes from agricultural land via waterways and eroding stream beds.

The Joint Commission presented the results of the study at a public hearing at the St. Armand community center in southern Quebec on Tuesday night. Then a small group weighed in.

Annie LaRose works on water quality issues in Saint Jean sur Richelieu, at the northern end of Lake Champlain.

"I came here because I’m a coordinator of a watershed called Risseau Montpiant, which a watershed related to the great watershed of the pike watershed which is also part of the biggest one, Lake Champlain," she explained. 

Annie says she wasn’t surprised to hear that a small, heavily farmed land area generates the majority of phosphorus in the lake. And she hopes that now the study is done, people on both sides of the boarder will take steps to improve water quality in Missisquoi Bay and its watershed. 

"I think it’s great to talk to the people on the commission to make them realize ‘Ok, we understand the problem but now we need action,'" she said. 

A public hearing is scheduled for tonight, Wednesday, May 2nd, at 7 pm in Swanton, Vermont. It will be held at the village of Swanton office. The International joint commission will submit the report, along with public comments, to the US and Canadian governments. The deadline for submitting comments about the study is May 18th


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