The Permit Application Process

Frequently when scientists from the State are asked questions about chemical treatment of our lake they suggest that we look to Lake Morey’s aquatic herbicide permit for guidance.  This document is available on the Department of Conservation’s website, and we have previously provided a link to it on this blog. Because it is 34 pages long and may seem daunting, we will try to summarize the parts of it that might apply to Lake Fairlee’s permit process.

Lake Morey’s Herbicide Permit

There are two sections to the document.  The first 9 pages contain the actual terms of the permit,  There are 36 sections and numerous subsections spelling out the requirements under which the herbicide application may proceed.  Among many other terms are included

  • Specifications about the herbicide to be used
  • Instructions for the disposal of surplus herbicide and containers
  • Detailed instructions to ensure actual notice of abutting and downstream landowners
  • Requirements for posting signs every 1000 feet around the lake
  • Who may actually put the herbicide in the lake
  • A requirement that all benthic barriers be removed from treated areas
  • Restrictions on swimming/boating/fishing for two days
  • Restrictions on use of lake water for irrigation for up to 120 days
  • Frequent water sampling and testing
  • Reporting requirements

The second section is called Findings.  It enumerates the conclusions that the Department of Environmental Conservation has come to that provide the legal justification for the issuance of the permit.  There are five ‘findings’ that they have to determine in the alternative before a chemical permit can be issued.

1.  There is no reasonable non-chemical alternative.  Here they enumerate the various milfoil control methods and explain why each is ineffective or inappropriate in this situation.

2.  There is acceptable risk to non-target environment.  Here exhaustive evidence is presented to explain how and why triclopyr will not adversely affect other plant or animal species.  This section is nine pages long, and relies on Vermont’s growing body of experience with chemical control methods, including tables of data from Lake Morey itself.  Its primary concern is that other plant species in the lake do not suffer as the result of our actions.  It talks about the timing of the treatment and the concentration of chemical to be used.  It also addresses specific concerns raised by VT Department of Fish and Wildlife about toxicity to fish eggs that might be in the targeted areas.

3.  There is negligible risk to public health.   This section is the result of the Department of Health’s review of the proposed treatment.  It prescribes many of the restrictions that find their way into the requirements of the first section of the permit, like how far downstream must be placarded and tested, and when various water uses may resume.  It concludes that if all of the restrictions are met, there will be negligible risk to public health.

4.  A long range management plan has been developed which incorporates a schedule of pesticide minimization.  Here the state seems to be concerned that the chemical treatment is an integrated part of a macro health plan for the lake.  In particular, they want a five year plan that employs non-chemical measures where they can be effective.

5.  There is a public benefit to be achieved from the application of the pesticide.   This section seems to be a recitation of the environmental and economic harm done by milfoil that the proposed treatment will alleviate.

Our Comments

The State of Vermont is very strict in its regulation of pesticides.  There seems to be quite a lot of requirements and restrictions built into the process.  While we are not glad for the amount of work  to complete the application, we support the State’s generally restrictive attitude towards chemicals.  We cannot be sure how nearly Lake Fairlee will track Lake’s Morey’s process.  Nonetheless we are grateful for their proximity and their similarity.  As we proceed in the process we will learn more, and will share it with you here.