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The History of the Lake Champlain Lakekeeper

In the more than 20 years since CLF first hired a Lakekeeper for Lake Champlain, we have fought together for a cleaner, safer, and more accessible lake. Below, explore a timeline of our achievements and learn what fights are still ongoing.


  • The community celebrates 20 years of the Lakekeeper Program! 
  • Lakekeeper helps introduce Plastic Dock Foam Pollution Reduction legislation (H.373) to protect Vermont’s wildlife, beaches, and water quality from expanded polystyrene contamination. 


  • CLF champions the passage of H.466, an act that sets up a monitoring and regulatory framework that is a significant step toward climate-resilient protections for our rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, and their bigger ecosystems. It will also help ensure equitable access for people who use these waters.  
  • CLF and partners advocate for updating the 2017 Water Quality Standards Rules to better monitor and regulate pesticide levels in aboveground waters, and to establish enforceable regulatory standards to address PFAS (“forever chemicals”) for healthier drinking water and rivers, lakes, and ponds. 


  • CLF pushes for adoption of a strong “Three-Acre General Permit,” requiring large properties like shopping malls to properly manage their polluted stormwater runoff before it contaminates Lake Champlain. 


  • CLF supports passage of the Clean Water Service Delivery Act (Act 76), which improves the distribution of Vermont clean water funds to grants that fund watershed restoration projects. 


  • CLF and other advocates persuade the Agency of Transportation to improve its permitting system, which will protect more rivers, lakes, and ponds from stormwater pollution from roads. 
  • The Lakekeeper creates a CLF “Lake Clean-up Report Card” of the state’s progress towards meeting the Lake Champlain pollution reduction goals and gives the state a D+. 


  • Spurred by the 2011 devastating flooding and CLF’s strong advocacy, the state legislature signs the Vermont Clean Water Act (VCWA or Act 64), which includes programs to address polluted stormwater runoff and promote a shift away from traditional infrastructure and towards “green infrastructure.” The Act also reduces agricultural water pollution. 


  • CLF asks the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to recognize Lake Champlain’s diverse sub-watersheds and improve the conservation practices for the most vulnerable areas. The Agency of Agriculture and CLF settle. The Agency agrees to implement these enhanced conservation practices over time. 


  • After several cases where major polluters faced minor penalties, CLF’s Lakekeeper works to change the law to give citizens a voice in helping to bring polluters into compliance with federal law, and to ensure settlements are more likely to be in the interest of protecting the environment.  


  • The EPA agrees with CLF that the daily limit on phosphorus pollution for Lake Champlain is too high. The federal agency commits to working with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to reissue a revised cleanup plan for Lake Champlain. 


  • Bloom: The Plight of Lake Champlain, an award-winning PBS special premieres, prominently featuring the Lakekeeper and a CLF attorney. The program raises public awareness that stormwater runoff from farms, streets, yards, and parking lots is a big problem.  


  • CLF successfully files suit against the EPA seeking to set aside the approval of the 2002 Lake Champlain pollution limits because the limit for phosphorus was too high and didn’t take climate change into account.  

2003 to 2009 

  • CLF and allied environmental groups file a series of court actions, state agency rulings, and petitions to hold the state accountable to curb discharge to clean up the lake and protect water quality. 


  • CLF wins a major legal victory in a Water Resources Board decision finding that the state was not doing enough to clean up the stormwater pollution flowing into the lake. The Board directs the Agency of Natural Resources to strengthen the program to correct the pollution problem within 5 years. 
  • CLF challenges an Agency of Natural Resources decision that fails to protect the lake with sufficient stormwater control strategies. These provisions were necessary to meet water quality standards and make the lake safe for wildlife and people. 


  • CLF hires our first Lakekeeper to monitor Lake conditions, spot violations, and build public support for Lake Champlain cleanup.  
  • With Lakekeeper support, CLF successfully fights back against efforts to seriously weaken Vermont’s stormwater law.