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Implementing Vermont’s Clean Water Law - Act 64

The Vermont Clean Water Act 64 became law on June 16, 2015. This act amends or enacts multiple statutes related to water quality in the State of Vermont including agricultural and forestry practices, stormwater runoff permitting, and the establishment of the Vermont Clean Water Fund. Major components of Act 64 are discussed in more detail below.

Agriculture

Act 64 amends several provisions regarding agricultural water quality. The “accepted agricultural practices”, the rules in place since 1995 which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, have been re-written to a higher level of performance and are renamed the “required agricultural practices (RAPs).” The proposed RAPS include requirements for: small farm certification; nutrient storage; soil health; riparian buffer zones; livestock exclusions; nutrient management; and tile drainage. The Act also requires the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) to adopt requirements for training owners or operators of small, medium, and large farms regarding: prevention of discharges to surface waters; mitigation of stormwater runoff; land application of manure or fertilizers; and nutrient management planning. This training will be a condition of a large farm permit, medium farm permit, or small farm certification. For more information about the proposed RAPs and VAAFM’s efforts to implement Act 64 please visit http://agriculture.verrmont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap or contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at (802)272-0323.

Forestry

The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) is required to revise the “Acceptable Management Practices” for maintaining water quality on logging jobs (AMP’s) to ensure that these prjects are designed to prevent negative water quality impacts. FPR also has to report to the General Assembly regarding whether the AMPs should be mandatory and whether maple syrup production should be enrolled in the Use Value Appraisal Program as forestland and not agricultural land.

Stormwater

The Act clarifies the activities that require a stormwater permit from the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), including: construction of one acre or more of impervious surface; discharge from industrial facilities; municipal separate storm water systems; earth disturbance of one or more acres; expansion of existing impervious surface by more than 5,000 square feet if the resulting impervious area is more than one acre; retrofitting of old impervious surfaces; and runoff from municipal roads.

ANR will oversee issuance of general permits for stormwater runoff from municipal roads. The Municipal Roads General Permit will include a schedule and requirements for the inventory of roads, prioritization of projects, and capital planning for project implementation. All municipalities must apply for the Municipal Roads General Permit by July 2021. As a first step municipalities will identify the sections of their road networks that are connected to surface waters through ditches, culverts or other drainage structure. The second step will involve inventorying the connected potions of the road network to determine if the road and drainage systems meet the new standards. These standards will be consistent with Vermont Road and Bridge Standards and will include measures such as:

  • Ditch slopes greater than 5% to be stone-lined or have stone check dams;
  • Ditches shall be “U-shaped” and disconnected from surface waters where possible;
  • Upgrading road drainage culverts and installing outlet stabilization Soils exposed by maintenance shall be seeded and mulched or otherwise stabilized.

For more information on stormwater or Municipal Road General Permits visit http://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/stormwater.

Basin Planning

The Act also amends or establishes water quality requirements to be implemented by ANR. ANR has developed a schedule to update the 15 Tactical Basin Plans and will conduct specific activities for each basin plan, including: identifying waters for reclassification; identifying projects to protect and enhance water quality; and interacting with municipal officials and the public. ANR has contracted with Vermont’s regional planning commissions to assist in producing Tactical Basin Plans. The Batten Kill, Walloomsac and Hoosic (Basin 1) Tactical Basin Plan was adopted January 4, 2016.

Vermont Clean Water Fund

Act 64 also establishes a Vermont Clean Water Fund to provide funding for: State compliance with water quality requirements and implementation of water quality programs and projects; water quality staff positions; and organizations, associations, and other entities for community-based water quality programs. The Fund will consist of revenue dedicated to it including a 0.2 percent property transfer tax. A Clean Water Fund Board, consisting of the Secretaries of ANR, AAFM, Agency of Transportation, Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and Administration will administer the Fund.

Contact Jim Henderson at the BCRC for more information about Act 64 or other water quality issues.