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University of Vermont and SUNY Plattsburgh Reach Milestone in Establishing NOAA Sea Grant College Program

The University of Vermont and SUNY Plattsburgh are one step closer to creating a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant College Program. Their performance with Lake Champlain Sea Grant has earned the program a promotion in the four-tiered system NOAA follows to establish new Sea Grant College programs, which are funded by NOAA to promote the wise stewardship of coastal resources.

A cooperative program of the UVM and SUNY Plattsburgh, Lake Champlain Sea Grant is part of a national network of programs located at coastal and Great Lakes colleges administered by NOAA. Lake Champlain Sea Grant was established as a “Project” by NOAA in 1999. 

Since then, its achievements have met the requirements for advancement to the level of “Coherent Area Program.” With its new status, Lake Champlain Sea Grant will be able to further its efforts to improve the understanding and management of Lake Champlain, Lake George and their watersheds for long-term environmental health and sustainable economic development.

“Lake Champlain Sea Grant has become a critical source of information for watershed and water quality issues, providing basin residents, community leaders and agency staff with critical research and outreach information. The University of Vermont and the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh have demonstrated their ability to apply our best science to resource management issues of the Lake Champlain region,” said Robert Detrick, Ph.D., NOAA assistant administrator for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

"Bringing the Sea Grant program’s research benefits to Lake Champlain is the goal that I sought and that we achieved in the earlier legislation. It is gratifying to see the program maturing and bringing more benefits to the ecosystems and economics of our Lake," said Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.

This Lake Champlain region is home to many species of birds, fish, plants, wildlife and growing communities. Popular activities include boating, sailing, kayaking, swimming, hiking and waterskiing in the summer and ice fishing, skating and skiing in the winter months. Lake Champlain Sea Grant is focused on helping citizens make informed decisions regarding the management, conservation, utilization and restoration of the region’s resources.

Through unique, place-based outreach and education programs and applied research, Lake Champlain Sea Grant strives to:

- Promote a healthy and diverse ecosystem and sustainable human use and enjoyment of Lake Champlain and Lake George, their basins and inland waters by using an ecosystem-based approach to planning and management.

- Restore the functions and productivity of coastal and aquatic ecosystems in the Lake Champlain Basin.

- Strengthen the economic base of Lake Champlain Basin communities through sustainable growth and development of coastal and lake dependent businesses, particularly tourism and recreation.

- Provide technical assistance to support an economically and environmentally sustainable supply of safe seafood that meets public demand.

- Provide local communities with scientifically sound information about regional climate change and potential impacts in the Lake Champlain–Lake George basin and assist them in planning for and adopting practices to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

- Assist vulnerable communities with planning and practices to prevent erosion and shoreline loss.

“We are pleased with Lake Champlain Sea Grant’s excellent progress,” said Leon Cammen, director of the National Sea Grant College Program. “We intend for the University of Vermont and SUNY Plattsburgh to be the lead institutions for research and outreach on critical issues such as storm water management, point-source pollution and aquatic invasive species in the Lake Champlain region.”

Mary Watzin, dean of UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and director of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant, said the program’s new designation will enable it to further advance its goal of using research and education to promote science-based lake and watershed management in the Lake Champlain region.

“We’ve established a solid track record in our science and public education programs,” she said. “It’s very gratifying that Sea Grant not only values this work but would like to see it expand.”

Dr. Tim Mihuc, director or SUNY Plattsburgh’s Lake Champlain Research Institute and co-director of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant program, said, "We are pleased to see Lake Champlain Sea Grant moving forward. Sea Grant is important for community outreach in a variety of areas, including invasive species, climate change and regional issues such as bass tournaments. SUNY Plattsburgh will continue to contribute to the success of Lake Champlain Sea Grant.”

In its application for Coherent Area Status, UVM and SUNY Plattsburgh cited 17 major accomplishments and impacts of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant program to date, ranging from the creation of the Watershed Alliance, an education program that engages 1,200 school children per year, to the development of an Invasive Species Management and Prevention System, to a Non-Point Source Pollution Prevention program, highlighted by the “Don’t P” campaign, designed to mitigate phosphorous discharge into the lake.

The application also highlighted seven research accomplishments and the program’s ability to significantly leverage federal Sea Grant funds with supplemental funding from federal, state and institutional partners.

Establishing Sea Grant College Program status takes several years. The next step for Lake Champlain Sea Grant is Sea Grant Institutional Program status, the last step prior to formal designation as a Sea Grant College. With satisfactory performance, Lake Champlain Sea Grant will be assured of continued NOAA funding and expanded programmatic and geographic responsibilities.

NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program was established in 1966 and now includes 33 Sea Grant colleges and programs located in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Puerto Rico and Guam. Sea Grant’s primary mission is to promote the wise stewardship of coastal resources.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

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