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Water Reporter Post of the Month

While you are advised to remain socially distant from other people, you don’t need to stay socially distant from Casco Bay! We encourage you to get outside and stroll by the waterfront, a beach, or rocky shore. While you are out there, keep an eye out for pollution, nuisance algal blooms, and streets and properties that are flooding during high tides. Become a Water Reporter and document what you see on your smartphone. Not only will you be helping the Bay, you will also be part of a cadre of 199 volunteers documenting evidence of a changing Casco Bay.

One of those volunteers in Friends of Casco Bay’s observing network is Rick Frantz. Rick had just stepped off the Diamond Island ferry when he spied construction debris floating between the Casco Bay Lines pier and Maine Wharf. Workmen shoring up supports under one of Portland’s many piers had neglected to contain the boards, piling ends, and other debris from the construction project. Rick first noticed the flotsam at 9 am; when he returned at noon, the amount of rubble in the water had increased. He used his smartphone to post an image and comment on our Water Reporter volunteer observing network.

After seeing Rick’s post, Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman alerted the Harbor Master and the Coast Guard. At 1:37 pm, Sarah posted that a containment boom was in place and the debris in the water had been removed.

Good eye, Rick! For his swift reporting and for this positive outcome, we are making his post our inaugural Water Reporter Post of the Month.

By using the Water Reporter smartphone app, a keen-eyed observer with a few minutes to spare can have a significant, immediate, and positive impact on Casco Bay. In addition to reporting pollution, as Rick did, our volunteers are also tracking the growth of nuisance algal blooms, documenting wildlife, and capturing images of flooded waterfronts that portend the impact of continuing sea level rise.

You can join our Water Reporter network to share observations of things you are seeing on the Bay, both good and bad, all year long. The more of us who keep watch on the health of the Bay, the better protected our waters will be.

The Bay Is Blooming

What are the signs of spring for you? Chirping chickadees? Street sweeping? Longer daylight? Changing the clocks? (March 8th is the start of Daylight Savings Time!)

The lengthening daylight jumpstarts the growth of phytoplankton, the single-celled plants that are the foundation of the ocean food web. Like plants on land, they respond to increasing sunlight by bursting into bloom.

The graph of chlorophyll fluorescence shows the increase and decrease in phytoplankton abundance in Casco Bay throughout the year at our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth.

How can we know what is happening in the ocean? Our Continuous Monitoring Station indicates the abundance of phytoplankton in Casco Bay by measuring chlorophyll fluorescence. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that traps the energy of the sun for photosynthesis.

Our long-term monitoring station, anchored just above the sea floor off Cousins Island in Yarmouth, collects measurements of temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and chlorophyll fluorescence, every hour, year-round.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan observes, “Our Continuous Monitoring Station is going into its fifth year of data collection. During the first two springs [2017 and 2018], the chlorophyll levels peaked, as expected, around March, which would be consistent with seasonal phytoplankton bloom cycles. Last year, we experienced a winter bloom that peaked in January, much earlier than we would have expected. So far this winter we have experienced a similar situation, with a moderate bloom over the winter. We are very interested in seeing what the February and March data tell us.”

We update our website each month, so come back often to see if these early blooms continue to occur in Casco Bay, yet another signal that things may be changing in the Bay.

A warm winter, even in Casco Bay

If you are thinking this past January was unusually warm, you would not be wrong. January 2020 was Earth’s warmest January in 141 years of temperature records, according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. According to WCSH6 meteorologist Keith Carson, Portland’s average temperature from December 1, 2019, to February 12, 2020, was 30.2 degrees Fahrenheit. So far, 2020 ranks as the 3rd warmest winter on record in Portland and the 6th warmest in Bangor.

Friends of Casco Bay’s Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth confirms that water temperatures in Casco Bay were also especially warm. Our station has been amassing hourly data on the health of the Bay for nearly four years. This graph compares water temperatures from 2016 to date. Staff Scientist Mike Doan says “It is too soon to claim a trend, but the data are concerning. January 2020 water temperatures were on average the warmest we have seen at the station.”

Dreaming of a green yard…and a blue Bay

BayScaping helps you grow green yards that keep Casco Bay blue. By being a BayScaper, you can help keep pesticides and fertilizers from polluting the Bay.

While there is snow on the ground when you really want to be digging in the garden, you can spend some carefree hours creating a beautiful BayScape in your mind!

You can incorporate ecological lawn care strategies into planning a new look for your yard, one that will require less maintenance and less expense than the outdated, overrated, “perfect” lawn of old.

 

Reflect on what you have now and design your ideal yard

Ask yourself, “What would I like my yard to do for me?” Are there areas of your lawn that demand more attention, maintenance, or chemicals than you would like? Are there views from inside your home that you could enhance by planting different vegetation? Do you want to attract birds and pollinators?

Sketch a map of your yard and its features, preferably on graph paper. Include:

  • Buildings, driveway, walkways, and borders: neighboring yards, brook, street
  • Garden beds, water gardens, lawns, trees, and shrubs
  • Current uses, such as, sitting areas, playscapes, sports areas, gardening work areas, or vistas for visual enjoyment

Highlight with yellow marker those areas of your lawn where you have turf challenges: areas that receive little sunlight, experience heavy foot traffic, or are poorly drained.  Perhaps you should think of alternatives to grass such as patios of permeable paving stones or ground cover such as bunchberry, partridgeberry, or Canada mayflower. In wet areas, consider placing rain barrels, rain gardens, or bushes that can help prevent runoff.

Now create another map that includes all those elements you would like to have in your yard.

 

Ask the experts

Bring your ideal yard map to a nursery or garden supply store to learn more about native plants, low maintenance grass seed mixes, and ecological lawn care. The staff will appreciate the company, they will have more time to brainstorm with you, and you may appreciate being around lush greenery.

 

DON’T pile snow on the lawn

This promotes snow mold disease in the grass.

 

DO put a BayScaper sign in your yard

Come by our office and pick up a free sign that announces to your neighbors that a green yard and a blue Bay will be the “in” colors for Spring! Request a BayScaper informational packet, a yard sign, or a presentation for a neighborhood association or garden club within the coastal Casco Bay area.

Reach us at Friends of Casco Bay, 43 Slocum Drive, South Portland, keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org, or (207) 799-8574.

Friends of Casco Bay Testimony neither for nor against LD 1942: An Act to Protect Water Quality by Prohibiting Consumer Fireworks in the Shoreland Zone. The bill should be strengthened

January 30, 2020

Senator Brownie Carson
Representative Ralph Tucker
Environment and Natural Resources Committee
c/o Legislative Information Office
100 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
ENR [at] legislature [dot] maine [dot] gov

Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony neither for nor against LD 1942: An Act to Protect Water Quality by Prohibiting Consumer Fireworks in the Shoreland Zone. The bill should be strengthened

Dear Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and Distinguished Members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,

Friends of Casco Bay offers the following testimony and recommends that LD 1942: An Act to Protect Water Quality by Prohibiting Consumer Fireworks in the Shoreland Zone be strengthened. As written, LD 1942 restricts but does not prohibit the use of fireworks in the shoreland zone. Its language is actually less restrictive than protections in place in almost every community along the coast of Casco Bay.

For 30 years, Friends of Casco Bay has worked to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay. We monitor water quality to identify problem areas, and use our data to inform and support our advocacy. Our volunteer community helps us, by using a smartphone app to report pollution and track other water quality issues. Our volunteers also perform beach cleanups through the spring, summer, and fall. After July 4th celebrations, we receive photos and complaints of debris from fireworks in our waters and along our shores.

Municipalities around Casco Bay know that fireworks negatively impact the health of marine waters and wildlife, including disturbing sea birds and killing fish (if an explosion occurs in the water).

Almost every community that borders Casco Bay prohibits consumer firework displays or restricts them more than what is proposed in LD 1942.

  • Most Casco Bay shoreland communities prohibit all consumer
    fireworks: Brunswick, Bustins Island, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Freeport, North Yarmouth, Portland, South Portland, and Yarmouth.
  • Other Casco Bay towns restrict fireworks to far fewer days than LD 1942: Cumberland, Harpswell, Long Island, and Scarborough (just outside Casco Bay). These towns only allow consumer fireworks on July 3-4 and December 31-January 1 for limited hours. LD 1942 allows consumer fireworks to be used in the shoreland zone during the calendar week that includes July 4th, from New Year’s Eve until 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day, Labor Day, and Memorial Day.

The prohibitions and restrictions in place along Casco Bay exist for good reason. Fireworks cause extensive air pollution in a short amount of time, leaving metal particles, dangerous toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke in the air for hours and days. The particles that fall to the ground (chemicals and actual physical pieces of waste) often contain propellant chemicals and colorants, which find their way into soil and water systems. These particles often include perchlorates, which are used to produce the oxygen needed for an explosion and known to be a source of water pollution. Some newer, ‘cleaner’ fireworks replace perchlorates with safer alternatives, or use compressed air to reduce smoke created.

LD 1942 should be strengthened to follow the lead of Casco Bay’s shoreland towns: All consumer fireworks should be prohibited in the shoreland zone.

Moreover, this committee should consider measures requiring permitted, non-consumer firework displays to use only newer, cleaner fireworks and to clean up debris from the land and waters
within 24-48 hours after a display. Those displays should be limited to certain hours on July 3-4 and December 31-January 1

.
Thank you for considering our testimony and the recommended amendments to LD 1942.

Respectfully submitted,

Ivy L. Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay
43 Slocum Drive
South Portland, ME 04106
Office: (207) 799-8574 ext. 202
Cell: (207) 831-3067
ifrignoca [at] cascobay [dot] org

Let us know you plan to celebrate Mary Cerullo with us!

Mary Cerullo, Associate DirectorMary Cerullo will soon begin a new chapter in her life. At the end of March, Mary will be retiring from Friends of Casco Bay. 

Over the past 22 years, Mary has been our writer-in-residence, our media maven, the developer of our Casco Bay Curriculum, our lead ambassador for BayScaping, and a key team member in our community relations work. Her warmth, collegiality, and talents have been a key part of our work.

While we are excited for her and her future adventures (we hear she will soon be adding to the 23 books she has already authored!), Mary will be sorely missed.

Before she turns the page, we invite you to a party we’re hosting at the Cumberland Club on March 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. to celebrate all she has done for Casco Bay, our organization, and our community.

If you plan on attending, you can RSVP above or by emailing Will Everitt.

At the event, we will ask attendees to share some of their stories about Mary as we raise a toast to her service to the Bay. We will also have a guest book so you can write your well-wishes for a happy retirement. 

At the party, the drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be on us. If you would like to make a donation in honor of Mary, which we will memorialize in this year’s Annual Report to the Community, we invite you to make a donation to our Emeritus Fund for Advocacy

 

What: Mary Cerullo’s Retirement Party!

When: Wednesday, March 18, 5-7 p.m.

Where: The Cumberland Club, 116 High Street, Portland

RSVP by March 10

Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Support of LD 1832: An Act To Ensure Adequate Funding for the Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and Waste Discharge Licensing Program

January 15, 2020

Senator Brownie Carson
Representative Ralph Tucker
Environment and Natural Resources Committee
c/o Legislative Information Office 100 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333
ENR [at] legislature [dot] maine [dot] gov

Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Support of LD 1832: An Act To Ensure Adequate Funding for the Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and Waste Discharge Licensing Program

Dear Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and Distinguished Members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,

Friends of Casco Bay offers the following testimony in support of LD 1832: An Act To Ensure Adequate Funding for the Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MEPDES) and Waste Discharge Licensing (WDL) Program. This funding is critical to Maine’s continued success in improving and protecting the health of its waters for sustenance, commerce, recreation, and solace.
For 30 years, Friends of Casco Bay has worked to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay. During our tenure, we have advocated for and witnessed improved water quality through the MEPDES permit program. Here are three examples:

  • MEPDES permits have reduced bacteria and toxic pollutant loads to Casco Bay and its tributaries, resulting in healthier waters for fishing and recreation.
  • Recent permits have required sewage treatment facilities that discharge into Casco Bay to test for nitrogen and, in some instances, reduce nitrogen loads to Casco Bay. Excess nitrogen can fertilize large blooms of macro-algae that smother marine life and harmful micro-algal blooms that can close areas to harvesting and aquaculture. As the blooms die, they release carbon dioxide, which mixes with sea water to make it more acidic. This process is known as coastal acidification. The East End wastewater treatment facility in Portland has seasonally reduced its nitrogen load by an average of 64-70% over the past two years. Eelgrass beds near the discharge pipe are beginning to rebound and an algal bloom that had been present in outer Back Cove disappeared.
  • In the near future, we hope to see more stringent terms in the general permit that regulates stormwater discharges from municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4 permit). The comment period on the draft MS4 permit recently closed. Based on the draft, the new MS4 permit likely will include testing for certain pollutants in the storm water system to eliminate sources and also measures to help restore urban impaired streams.

This level of success cannot continue without adequate funding and staffing at DEP. The funding requested in LD 1832 represents a fraction of the budget needed to run the MEPDES program and a wise investment to improve and protect the waters that form a backbone of our economy and way of life.

The MEPDES program and its role in restoring and protecting Maine waters: Senator Edmund Muskie introduced the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA). He knew firsthand that Maine’s rivers and coastal waters were fouled with industrial chemicals that made people sick and poisoned waters for drinking, fishing and swimming. The CWA created the national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) program. That program makes it illegal for facilities (known as point sources) to discharge pollutants to waters of the United States without a permit. The permit limits the amount of pollutants that can be discharged, in order to maintain or restore water quality; it is illegal to degrade water quality. NPDES permits are issued for 5 year terms, allowing regulators to adjust limits based on new technology or new water quality issues. The CWA also allows for enforcement when permit terms are violated.

The CWA authorizes EPA to delegate its authority to states to run the NPDES program, subject to federal oversight. If a state does not run its program effectively, EPA can take back control.

In April 2000, EPA delegated its NPDES authority to Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Our program became known as the MEPDES permit program.

The Memorandum of Agreement authorizing this delegation of authority requires Maine to process permits in a timely manner, comprehensively evaluate and assess compliance, take vigorous and timely enforcement actions, maintain effective pretreatment programs, and issue annual reports to EPA. To fulfill the terms of this agreement, DEP must have adequate staff and funding.

Why a fee increase is needed: To fulfill the terms of this agreement, DEP must have adequate staff and funding to administer the approximately 940 MEPDES permits it issues to about 400 point source discharges, 500 facilities under the Industrial Stormwater Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP), and 40 entities licensed under the MS4 general permit.

The legislature has not approved a fee increase since 2008. Maine needs these license fees to partially fund the MEPDES program.

According to DEP, it has only 28 core staff (Full Time Equivalents – FTEs) to cover licensing, compliance/technical assistance, enforcement, administration, data management, and the water quality monitoring/modeling inherent to the MEPDES program. Only 6 of those positions are funded by licensing fees. The other 22 positions are funded by federal grants, state general fund, and State Revolving Fund administrative revenue. Two of the federally funded positions (enforcement and permitting) have been held vacant for several years due to a projected shortfall in a federal water grant account. This has led to a backlog of enforcement cases and delays in licensing. In addition, a stormwater inspector position that is funded by stormwater license fees has been held vacant due to insufficient revenue to fill the position.

LD 1832 seeks a 40% across the board fee increase to keep the MEPDES program solvent through FY 2026. Based on conversations with DEP officials, it appears that the State has done what it can to minimize fee increases and to not shift undue financial burden to permittees, which includes municipalities. This investment in clean water may appear difficult but is a modest fee increase when compared to the expenses of restoring impaired waters and the possibility of losing our delegated authority to run the MEPDES program, if the State is unable to fulfill its obligations.

For these reasons, we urge you to vote that LD 1832 ought to pass.

Respectfully submitted,

Ivy L. Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay
43 Slocum Drive
South Portland, ME 04106
Office: (207) 799-8574 ext. 202
Cell: (207) 831-3067
ifrignoca [at] cascobay [dot] org

Cc: Sabrina Carey

We are celebrating our 30th—the “pearl anniversary”

  • Pearls are gemstones that mark a 30th anniversary. Pearls are symbolic of wisdom gained through experience. We have learned a lot in 30 years!
  • A pearl is created by an oyster in response to an irritant. A pearl can form over time as an oyster secretes layer upon layer of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate, around a particle of sand. Friends of Casco Bay was created in 1989 in response to a report that claimed Casco Bay was polluted. We continue to respond to many issues that aggravate the health of the Bay.
  • Oysters thrive in estuaries like Casco Bay. Sea farmers in Casco Bay raise the American and European species of oysters. These sea creatures can tolerate a broad range of temperatures and salinities. Our data document a wide range of water quality conditions around our estuary, where fresh water and salt water meet.
  • Oysters help clean the ocean. One oyster can pump up to 50 gallons of water through its body each day, filtering pollutants from the sea water. Our pumpout boat can remove 650 gallons (or more) of raw sewage from marine toilets in a day.
  • Oysters are vulnerable to ocean acidification. Like other creatures whose shells are made of aragonite, oysters, mussels, and clams have a harder time building and maintaining their shells in acidic conditions. We use data from our Continuous Monitoring Station to calculate the amount of aragonite in seawater (“omega aragonite”) to determine if there is enough raw material for an oyster to build its shell—or make a pearl.
  • Oysters remove nitrogen from the water. An oyster uses nitrogen from seawater for its growth. Excess nitrogen is deposited in the mud as pseudofeces (fake poop), taking that nitrogen out of circulation. Friends of Casco Bay works to reduce excess nitrogen in coastal waters from fertilizers, polluted stormwater, and sewage outfalls.
  • Friends of Casco Bay is the thread connecting the string of pearls. Our community of staff, board, volunteers, supporters, and concerned citizens are bound together by the common goal of improving and protecting the environmental health of Casco Bay.

Save the date for our 30th Anniversary Event

As we look ahead in 2020, we invite you to our 30th anniversary celebration on April 29, 2020, at Ocean Gateway in Portland. Mark your calendar and save the date! More details to come here: 30th Anniversary Event.

Three decades of success – the impact of Friends of Casco Bay

Friends of Casco Bay has a long history of success. Since our founding in 1989, our work-with, science-based approach has moved the needle toward a healthier, more protected Bay.

  • We championed a halt to cruise ship pollution and won a No Discharge Area designation for Casco Bay, the first in Maine.
  • We have secured better long-term protection through Clean Water Act classification upgrades for three areas of Casco Bay, ensuring stricter, permanent pollution restrictions.
  • Our water quality data are sent to Congress every two years; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection uses our data in its Clean Water Act biennial reporting to Congress and would not be in compliance without it.
  • We advocated for Portland to get back on track—and we continue to push to keep efforts on track— to fulfill its court-ordered agreement to clean up and eliminate dozens of combined sewer overflows, reducing the amount of raw sewage flowing into the Bay.
  • We are leading the call to reduce nitrogen discharges into our coastal waters. We forged an agreement with Portland Water District, which set a goal of reducing nitrogen coming out of the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility. During the summer of 2018, they reduced nitrogen levels by 70%, on average.
  • Our data and advocacy inspired South Portland and Portland to pass the strictest ordinances in the state to reduce pollution from pesticides. Harpswell also passed a pesticide ordinance with our input, and other communities are considering similar restrictions.
  • We convinced the legislature to form an Ocean Acidification Commission to investigate and make policy recommendations to address our acidifying waters.
  • We helped form the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to coordinate the work of researchers, government officials, and advocates to reduce acidification and address climate change. Our Casco Baykeeper currently serves as the coordinator of MOCA.
  • We successfully advocated for Portland to pass an ordinance designed to discourage single-use bags in favor of reusable ones. The bag ordinance, in turn, inspired Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Freeport, South Portland, and eight other towns in the state to pass similar laws. We also won a polystyrene (e.g. Styrofoam) ban in Portland.
  • Our BayScaping Program is teaching thousands of residents and landscaping professionals to grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue; this is the model for the state of Maine’s YardScaping Program.
  • Our Casco Bay Curriculum has reached an estimated 17,500 students. We help teachers incorporate our monitoring data into their classroom activities. We have provided professional development courses for more than 700 teachers.
  • We fought to improve the S.D.Warren (now SAPPI) paper mill’s Clean Water Act discharge permit, significantly cutting the pollution released into our waters.
  • We helped lead the response to the largest oil spill in Maine history, the Julie N, and assisted responders in recovering an unprecedented 78% of the spilled oil (a 15-20% recovery is considered a success).
  • We were a founding member of Waterkeeper Alliance in 1999, a network that has grown to include over 300 Baykeepers, Riverkeepers, and other Waterkeepers