A plan to create a new destination for scuba divers in Lake Champlain has been reversed after pushback from environmental groups and the public.
The Lake Champlain Transportation Company and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation planned to sink the Adirondack, a historic, double-ended ferry. The concept, known as an "artificial reef," was created in the Atlantic off the coast of Delaware and New Jersey by sinking an old Coast Guard vessel.
Instead of being set underwater to create an artificial reef for scuba divers, the vessel will now be scrapped. The Adirondack is no longer needed, since there are others in the Lake Champlain Ferries fleet.
The decision comes after the Lake Champlain Committee and the Vermont Natural Resources Council appealed the state permit to sink the ferry. The environmental groups emphasized harmful consequences for water quality and a lack of proper input from the public.
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“Lake Champlain is a critical drinking water source for nearly 200,000 people. The Adirondack is a steel-hulled vessel that contains PCBs and other toxic contaminants. It has no place at the bottom of our lake, and we are relieved it will not end up there,” said Lori Fisher, Executive Director of LCC.
The state permit, obtained by NECN, called the project "consistent with the public trust doctrine," and laid out a series of expectations. Those included exhaustive cleanup of any oil or other potential pollutants on board.
Jon Groveman, Policy and Water Program Director at VNRC said the issue doesn’t end here, since the permit was granted on the grounds that sinking this ferry was in the interest of the public good.
“For something to be in the public good, it needs to serve the broader Vermont community,” Groveman said. “We need to examine the statutes at play to determine how something like this could have been permitted in the first place.”
In addition to opposition from environmental groups and the public, the proposal to sink the Adirondack—which was built in 1913 and operated for 65 years on the lake—had faced review by the City of Burlington, whose Harbor Commission held a public hearing on the plan in May and had another planned for June.
Meanwhile, the Vermont Legislature is considering a three-year moratorium on the sinking of any vessels in Lake Champlain.