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Announcing the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund

Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly. In the two minute video above, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell announces the public phase of our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement. We are creating a $1.5 million fund to be used over the next ten years to understand the ways in which our waters are threatened, while we engage the community in assessing and adapting to climate change.

The great news is that we are 86% of our way to our goal! You can help push us over the top!

We invite you to make a donation to our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund.

Working together as a community to take care of this place may be our only hope to address climate
change; the cavalry is not coming to help. It is up to us.

If you would like to learn more about the Fund, you can read about our 10-year plan and make a donation here.

Casco Bay is heating up

Seem hotter than usual? Yes, indeed.

Our Continuous Monitoring Station has been collecting hourly data on the health of the Bay for more than four years.

Data from the station show that this summer has been the hottest one we have recorded since our “Cage of Science” has been in the water.

This graph compares water temperatures from 2016 to this month. The lavender-colored line represents the daily averages for this year.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan says “The data are concerning. This summer’s temperatures were on average the warmest we have seen at the station.”

You can find the most recent data for all the parameters we measure at our Cage of Science here.

In addition to collecting hourly data, for nearly 30 years, we have been spot-checking sites in the Bay. The temperature data from our three Sentinel Sites (see graph below for annual average, data collected May through October each year) show an upward trend as temperatures in Casco Bay have risen by 2.4° Fahrenheit [1.3° Celsius].

annual temperatures graph 2019

“Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly,” reports Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. “That’s why we have launched the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund, which will help us put two more Continuous Monitoring Stations in the water, one near Portland and one near Harpswell, and operate all three stations for ten years.”

The $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund will be used over the next decade to understand the ways in which our waters are changing, while we engage the community in assessing and adapting to climate change. Friends of Casco Bay has raised 87% of its goal for the Fund. You can read more about the Fund, our 10-year plan, and make a secure donation here.

Notice of Blackbaud Security Breach

Friends of Casco Bay was one of a large number of nonprofits here in Maine and across the country that were affected by a security breach at Blackbaud, a third-party provider of our database. Blackbaud experienced a ransomware attack that occurred between February and May of this year.

We are assured by Blackbaud that no credit card or bank account information was stolen. Furthermore, Friends of Casco Bay does not collect or record other personal information, such as social security numbers or driver’s license numbers. Blackbaud informed us that the compromised data that cybercriminals did have access to may have included demographic information, such as our donors’ contact information and giving history with our organization.

According to Blackbaud, the company paid for the cybercriminals’ confirmed destruction of the copy of the stolen information. Based on the nature of the incident, their research, and third party (including law enforcement) investigation, Blackbaud has stated that “there is no reason to believe that any data went beyond the cybercriminal, was or will be misused, or will be disseminated or otherwise made available publicly.” You can read Blackbaud’s official statement here.

What We Are Doing
We take your privacy very seriously. From what we have learned from Blackbaud about this incident, there is no indication that our information was specifically targeted. We are investigating what occurred and whether there is anything we can do to better protect our donors’ personal data. As part of Blackbaud’s ongoing efforts to help prevent something like this from happening in the future, they already have implemented several changes that will help protect our data from subsequent incidents, and they are accelerating efforts to further defend their network from attacks. We have been told that Blackbaud and its security partners are continuing to scour the web to ensure that your personal information is being protected. We post more information if we learn more details about this incident.

What You Can Do
As a best practice, remain vigilant and promptly report any suspicious activity or suspected identity theft to the proper law enforcement authorities and entities impacted. The Federal Trade Commission provides a resource to help you report identity theft and to help you create a personal recovery plan. Out of an abundance of caution, you can place a credit freeze on your files with the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to prevent a thief from opening up accounts in your name.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Will Everitt, Communications and Development Director, at (207) 671-1315 or by email willeveritt [at] cascobay [dot] org.

Thank you for caring about the environmental health of Casco Bay.

Celebrating Water

What a special evening we had for Celebrating Water – 30 Years of Friends of Casco Bay: A Film, A Poem, and A Conversation with Gary Lawless on July 27! Thank you to all who joined us for this one-of-a-kind event.

If you missed the event — or if you want to share it with some friends — you can watch the video of the celebration above.

We were delighted that Gulf of Maine Poet Gary Lawless joined us for this special event and took time for our conversation about the environment, art, and inspiration. You can read Gary’s poem, “For Casco Bay, For Us,” below.

It was wonderful to share Knack Factory’s film in honor of our 30th anniversary. You can watch the film here.

Special thanks to Friends of Casco Bay’s own Sara Biron for allowing us to use her paintings in promotion of this event. You can find out more about Sara and her art here.

Cathy spoke about our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Science, and Community Engagement. You can learn about our plans over the next decade, and make a donation to support the Fund.


Internationally-renowned Gulf of Maine poet Gary Lawless wrote the poem below in honor of Friends of Casco Bay’s 30th Anniversary. Friends of the Bay heard the first (and second!) reading of this poem during our Celebrating Water – 30 Years of Friends of Casco Bay event on July 27, 2020.

For Casco Bay, for Us

By Gary Lawless


rising in the mountains, the water,

finding its way

from granite to the bay

we are water

and we want to flow

flow through our lives

here a forest, here

a town, flowing, down –

here are rocks, falls –

we fall, at the end,

at the mouth

into a larger body,

our body, body of

water, to become

to become more than we are –

where the future flows

into the sea,

and all that you see

we are water

we are patterns in water,

currents, eddies, we

pool and move

on, we flow –

how many rivers flow

into the bay

how many streams

into the rivers

where does the rain go

where does the wind go

bays to the ocean

how much moonlight

touches the water

how many fish

find their way home

we are water

and we want to flow –

in beauty, in light,

in whatever weather

the rocks are singing

as water passes over

it is high tide

and our hearts are full

it is low tide

and we are waiting

we have been waiting for you

for thousands of years

we are water

the water is the bay

the wind is the bay

the fish, the birds, the plants,

we are the bay

what happens to water

happens to us

we are water

and we want to flow, saying

this is our body and

we are home

we rise as water rises

we fall as water falls

we are water

we are the bay

we are water

we are the bay


About Gary Lawless:
Gary, originally from Belfast/Penobscot Bay, is the award-winning author of 21 poetry collections. In addition to sharing his own writings as a bio-regional poet, Gary has long worked to encourage others to bring their voices into the wider community. He has empowered combat veterans, homeless people, immigrants, refugees, adults with disabilities, and prison inmates to write poetry and publish their works. In honor of his poetry and his community work, the Maine Humanities Council awarded Gary the 2017 Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize, the University of Southern Maine has given him an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, and the Emily Harvey Foundation has offered him two residencies in Venice, Italy. He and Beth Leonard opened Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick 40 years ago as a community hub.


A statement of solidarity and support

Casco Bay belongs to everyone.

This is more than just a phrase to those of us who work at Friends of Casco Bay.

We work to improve and protect the health of this special place for everyone. Like you, we are deepening our conversations with one another as a group and as individuals, about systemic racism, tyranny, and violence in our country and our community. We are not experts at confronting the depth of injustices we are seeing in our nation.

We are taking time to listen and to learn.

Disproportionately, black people, people of color, and indigenous people have long borne the brunt of pollution and the effects of climate change. These environmental injustices are intertwined with structural racism.

Black lives matter. We stand in solidarity with the activists and organizations who are leading the call for justice and accountability.

This is a long-overdue moment for communities to come together and change behaviors and systems. This begins with listening and learning. And we know it does not stop there.

Most sincerely,
Cathy, Jeff, Jim, Ivy, Mike, Sara, Sarah, and Will

Spring Blooms in Casco Bay

What signs tell you that spring has arrived? Grass turning green? A robin in your yard? Ospreys returning to their nests?

What about huge blooms of phytoplankton in Casco Bay?

The chlorophyll fluorescence measurements in the graph above were recorded by our Continuous Monitoring Station, which has been in place for almost two years.

Chlorophyll fluorescence is a measure that provides an estimate of phytoplankton abundance. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that traps the energy of the sun for photosynthesis.

The graph tells us that this year’s spring bloom of phytoplankton started around the same time as last year, but was bigger in magnitude this year than in 2017.

Why do we care about chlorophyll levels? Phytoplankton are the single-celled plants that make up the foundation of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton also provide half of all the oxygen we breath—so thank phytoplankton for every other breathe you take. You can read more about phytoplankton and chlorophyll in our recent post.

Photography by Kevin Morris

Every hour and every day, the Continuous Monitoring Station—a.k.a our “Cage of Science”—is building a more complete picture of the seasons beneath the Bay. Thanks to support from Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and generous donors, the Station collects measurements of temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and chlorophyll fluorescence year-round. Every other week, Research Associate Mike Doan cleans and calibrates the equipment, and downloads and graphs the data to track conditions in the Bay.

How Does the New Tax Plan Affect Your Charitable Giving?

The new tax plan passed by Congress this year will have serious consequences for donors who deduct charitable gifts. We want to be sure you have a sense of how this may affect your giving to Friends of Casco Bay.

If you have questions about the new tax plan, we strongly recommend you talk with your financial advisor.

In a nut shell:
Effective for taxable years 2018 through 2025, the standard deduction has been doubled to $24,000 for married couples ($12,000 for individuals) and the personal exemption is eliminated.* The overall limitation on itemized deductions is eliminated. —And the deduction for charitable gifts is retained and expanded to allow taxpayers to deduct up to 60% of their adjusted gross income for gifts of cash to nonprofits.**

What does this mean for this year?
In 2018 and beyond, if your yearly itemized deductions are not likely to exceed the increased standard exemption you may wish to make a large charitable gift prior to year-end (December 31, 2017) in order to maximize the charitable income tax deduction in 2017.

If you would like to maximize your charitable giving deduction this year, please consider making a gift to Friends of Casco Bay before December 31. You may send a check to Friends of Casco Bay, 43 Slocum Drive, South Portland, ME 04101, make a secure gift online at https://www.cascobay.org/donate/, or contact Will Everitt by email or phone [willeveritt [at] cascobay [dot] org, (207) 671-1315] for stock gift instructions.

What does the new tax plan mean for future years?
For the same reasons, in future years, clients may also benefit by bunching multiple years of charitable gifts into a single year. This strategy may work particularly well if you give annually—you may want to contribute the charitable sum to a Donor Advised Fund and then make grants periodically in future years according to your original giving plan. If you would like to talk with Friends of Casco Bay about planned giving, please email or call Will Everitt (willeveritt [at] cascobay [dot] org, (207) 671-1315).

The implications of this sweeping tax act are still abstract and uncertain. We will continue to monitor and assess the potential effects on nonprofits and governmental agencies.

Again, we strongly recommend you talk with your financial advisor. Thank you for being charitably minded.



* “The Tax cuts and Jobs Act,” an “Advanced Planning” report by UBS, pp. 3-4, December 2017.


Anything but “Fresh” . . .

Stormwater Is Anything but Fresh . . .

After a rainstorm, millions of gallons of polluted stormwater pour into Casco Bay.
After a rainstorm, millions of gallons of polluted stormwater pour into Casco Bay.


The same scene from the Eastern Prom on a dry, sunny day paints a healthier picture.

In recent years, long dry periods have been followed by heavy rains that dump inches of water in a few hours or days, sending plumes of polluted stormwater into Casco Bay. Millions of gallons of raw sewage, industrial wastes, fertilizers and pet wastes from yards, oil slicks from city streets, and toxins from tailpipes and smokestacks are flushed into Casco Bay.

As he gazes out over a brown bay after yet another torrential rain, Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne knows the coffee-colored stain spreading across the water’s surface is anything but fresh water. “This toxic soup can sicken swimmers, make seafood unsafe to eat, and harm marine life,” Joe says. Rainstorms in and of themselves are not bad, but the polluted runoff they flush into Casco Bay reminds us that we all need to do more to protect the waters that define our community. It takes a community to address the problems and ensure a cleaner, healthier Casco Bay for future generations.

You can help. Support Friends of Casco Bay by donating or volunteering.

Thank You to Our Volunteer Citizen Scientists

It Takes a Community to Protect the Bay

Friends of Casco Bay’s most valuable asset is a committed corps of volunteers. Together, they have donated more than 150,000 hours of service over the past 25 years. Our neighbors around the Bay help us tackle issues and projects in ways that significantly enhance the work of our staff of ten.

We piloted our Water Quality Monitoring Program in 1992 to prove that volunteers could collect reliable data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly given our monitoring methods its scientific “seal of approval.” Our communities and governments could not afford to pay professional scientists and contractors for the work our volunteer citizen scientists do for free. Our volunteers sample on 10 selected Saturdays, at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., from April through October.

Our volunteers and staff collect data sets that:

  • Ground our advocacy with credible, scientifically accurate facts
  • Are legally defensible and are incorporated into Maine’s biennial report to Congress under the Clean Water Act
  • Create a portrait of Casco Bay that documents baseline conditions and environmental changes
  • Inspire stewardship by encouraging community service and volunteerism
  • Stimulate and support research by government agencies, universities, and scientific institutions

Read the next section of the report How Healthy Is Casco Bay?

Lawns Are to Blame for Much of the Nitrogen and Toxic Chemicals in the Bay

Joe’s footprints in green slime at a cove in Falmouth

Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne received a panicked call from a member of Friends of Casco Bay who lived on a cove in Falmouth. He asked Joe to discover the polluter whose actions had turned his scenic inlet bright green. When Joe walked out onto the flat to investigate, his boots sank four inches into green slime. He observed that the member had recently installed a culvert under the driveway that channelled rainwater runoff directly into the cove. He turned to his worried friend and said, “You did this.” The culvert was collecting runoff from fertilized yards in the neighborhood, stimulating a lush growth of green algae across the entire cove.

Friends of Casco Bay’s stormwater monitoring reveals that this neighborhood is not the only one over-fertilizing the Bay. We have found nitrogen and lawn care pesticides in waters around Casco Bay.

Because our advocacy is grounded in science, we worked in conjunction with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control to collected water samples around Casco Bay. Chemicals we found are shown on this map.

When Friends of Casco Bay tested stormwater for pesticides in a South Portland waterfront neighborhood, we found Diazinon and 2,4D, a component of weed and feed products. This prompted further testing at every coastal community around Casco Bay. We detected more pesticides flowing into the Bay in stormwater. Our findings inspired our BayScaping program, which teaches residents how to reduce their use of lawn chemicals.

Pesticides and fertilizers can harm marine life, as well as children and pets. But the good news is there are simple ways you can grow a green lawn that keeps Casco Bay blue.

BayScaping will save you time, save you money, save your lawn, and save the Bay! Join your neighbors, and learn more at cascobay.org/bayscaping.

Read the next section of the report What Is Our Coastal Future?