Town files request for hearing on Vermont Railway stormwater discharge plans

The Vermont Rail intermodal facility is located next to the LaPlatte River, which in turn empties into Shelburne Bay. A freshwater mussel called the pocketbook is an endangered species that resides in the LaPlatte River Marsh Natural area.
The Vermont Rail intermodal facility is located next to the LaPlatte River, which in turn empties into Shelburne Bay. A freshwater mussel called the pocketbook is an endangered species that resides in the LaPlatte River Marsh Natural area.

Shelburne Town Manager Joe Colangelo filed a request with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation requesting a public hearing regarding a stormwater discharge plan filed by Vermont Railway on July 8. The rail company’s documents outline plans to discharge stormwater into Shelburne Bay via the LaPlatte River.

The town’s concerns focus on possible increased levels of phosphorous that could impair Lake Champlain’s water quality, as well as the effect the discharge could have on endangered species such as the stonecat fish and pocketbook mussel. The town believes a study should be undertaken to prove that there are no adverse effects on these and other species.

In addition to environmental concerns, Colangelo said he was concerned about an increased burden on local taxpayers.

“Shelburne’s property tax and wastewater rate payers will see substantial increases due to mandated capital expenditures required to reduce pollutants such as phosphorus from being discharged into Lake Champlain and its tributaries,” Colangelo said. “There is absolutely no possible way I cannot closely scrutinize permits such as the one Vermont Rail submitted to the State.”

The Nature Conservancy also filed a hearing request relating to the stormwater discharge issue. The environmental conservation organization owns 230 acres, and holds conservation easements on another 52 acres, along the LaPlatte River, adjacent to the land owned by Vermont Railway.

A recent US District Court hearing upheld Vermont Railway’s federal preemption right to build an intermodal facility on their property, but Colangelo said that recent litigation and this request are different issues.

“While some folks might like to tie together this request for a public hearing with the larger litigation battle, they are in many ways two separate matters, and Vermont Railway is not protected by federal preemption when it comes to this permit,” he said.

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