Four goals outlined in the 2017 version of the Lake Champlain management plan Opportunities for Action—clean water, healthy ecosystems, thriving communities, and an informed and involved public—serve as the framework for much of the LCBP’s work, including the 2021 Lake Champlain State of the Lake and Ecosystems Indicators Report. The report presents the most recent information on the conditions of Lake Champlain and its watershed and highlights the results of some of the management actions taken to achieve the four goals.
State of the Lake Summary
In most parts of Lake Champlain water quality remains good, however the Lake does not meet Clean Water Act goals for all uses. Fortunately, despite current water challenges the Lake continues to provide quality drinking water, and water-based recreation remains available to residents most of the time. Still, cyanobacteria blooms impact recreation during the summer months, especially where phosphorus levels remain too high and in other areas when warm weather persists. Some beaches are occasionally closed due to too much bacteria, typically following large storm events. Lake-wide, fish consumption advisories remain in place due to mercury, a problem in lakes across the Northeast, and chloride levels are increasing but remain well below the point of impacting drinking water quality. Municipalities are upgrading combined sewer systems to reduce the occurrence of overflows, which can send pathogens from untreated waste into the Lake.
The Lake Champlain Basin provides habitat for thousands of native species, including more than 70 species of threatened and endangered fish and wildlife. However, climate change, invasive species, and pressures from human activities all threaten the health of the Basin’s ecosystem. Successful wild lake trout reproduction has allowed for the reduction of stocking of this species to maintain a balance of predators and prey in the Lake. Aquatic passage restoration has provided gains for Atlantic salmon habitat, but many systems remain fragmented. Wounding of lake trout by sea lamprey remains above targets, but Atlantic salmon are near target rates. Lake Champlain freezes over much less often than it did in the recent past, causing ecosystem effects that are not fully understood. Efforts to reduce the introduction of new invasive species have been successful, but established populations continue to do harm, and new threats require vigilance. Impacts from invasive water chestnut have decreased significantly following effective management.
Nearly 40% of the land area in the Lake Champlain Basin is conserved to some extent, providing ample recreational opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the need for conserved lands and public spaces—public trail systems, boat launches, and other outdoor recreation spaces saw a significant increase in use, to the point where New York State has enacted a system to address overcrowding. LCBP and partners have been working to ensure inclusion of traditionally underserved and Indigenous communities in Lake-related programs across the Basin. The LCBP acknowledges the history and culture of Indigenous people of the Basin and recognizes that we are all stewards of our natural and cultural resources.
Watershed education efforts have reached many learners of all ages throughout the Lake Champlain Basin, developing future stewards of our water resources. During the 2018–2020 time period, boat launch stewards reached more than 192,000 boaters at public boat launches with messaging related to invasive species and other water quality issues. The LCBP Resource Room connected in person with more than 70,000 visitors during this same period. New programs target specific focus areas, such as residential lawn care for water quality or field trip opportunities for students. The COVID-19 pandemic created new opportunities to develop virtual programs, which allowed for broader reach to wider audiences and which will likely continue.