By Colin Flanders
The Essex Reporter
MONTPELIER- A bill proposed by Rep. Dylan Giambatista could soon give Vermont drivers the chance to show support for clean waterways with the help of the state’s most elusive aquatic dweller: Champ.
Giambatista’s bill would allow Vermonters to purchase “Be a Water Champ” license plates showcasing the fabled creature. A mockup of the plates created by the local lawmaker shows Champ, thought by some to be America’s version of the Loch Ness monster, in its realistic form instead of the cartoony mascot found cheering on baseball games in Burlington.
Giambatista’s proposal is an attempt to both raise money and awareness for Vermont’s ongoing struggle to address water pollution, seen by many as an existential threat to the state’s tourism economy.
Giambatista, who expects the 2019 legislative session will include robust debate over how to devise a permanent funding solution, explained the plates are a “tangible way to show to lawmakers and state policy makers that Vermonters support cleaning up our waterways.”
Using license plates to generate revenue is not new in Vermont. In the months following Tropical Storm Irene, the Vt. Department of Motor Vehicles sold 42,000 plates bearing the mantra “Vermont Strong” which raised over $1 million for relief efforts, according to a 2016 Bennington Banner report.
The legislature planned to allow the plates to be displayed for two years, but thanks to several extensions, including an indefinite pause from former Gov. Peter Shumlin, the plates can still be found on vehicles all across the state.
While those plates served to show Vermont’s unity in the wake of disaster, Giambatista’s proposal is a prelude to what’s expected to be a robust debate about how the state should permanently fund its water cleanup.