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Casco Bay Matters: Maine Climate Council, the online presentation 4/30/2020

We had a lively Casco Bay and the Maine Climate Council: A Casco Bay Matters Event last week! Here is a video of the event, for those of you who were not able to attend live or would like to relisten.

The results of the poll taken during the event reflect which coastal and marine strategies participants thought were the most important for the Climate Council to consider. In addition to the poll, many participants told us that all of the strategies are important to them.

Participants asked so many great questions that Cassy and I could not answer them all during the event. Please see the Q&A section below to see responses to the questions we did not have time to answer online.

If you have ideas or thoughts you would like to share with the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council, email me at ifrignoca@cascobay.org by Friday, May 8th. I will collate the feedback and pass it on to the Working Group.

You can find a list of the Maine Climate Council’s upcoming public events on the Council’s webpage.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the Maine Climate Council process, the Coastal and Marine Working Group, the Working Group’s draft recommendations, and how these efforts connect to Casco Bay.

If you have feedback on our online presentation itself, please email keeper@cascobay.org. We are always looking to improve.

You can make a donation to support our work to improve and protect Casco Bay anytime at cascobay.org/donate.

Thank you for helping us care for Casco Bay. Your interest and enthusiasm truly inspire me.

Warm regards,
Ivy Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

Questions from the event and answers:

Q: What type of monitoring is in place and what additions are planned?
A: This is a terrific and broad question, too large in fact to answer quickly or for me to know precisely all of the monitoring in place coast-wide in Maine.

The Science and Technical Subcommittee of the Maine Climate Council is producing reports that catalogue the state of our knowledge across sectors.

The Coastal and Marine Working Group is recommending monitoring and information exchange strategies to provide as much data as possible to decision makers.

We have included with the draft monitoring strategy example sources of existing data. Some broad examples of categories of coastal and marine data include fisheries landings, ocean chemistry data, nitrogen data, bacteria data, harmful algal blooms data, acreage of salt marsh habitat, and projections of the impacts of sea level rise.

Friends of Casco Bay has been monitoring the health of Casco Bay for 28 years. Researchers and state agencies are considering using our Continuous Monitoring Station as a model for coastal monitoring efforts in other areas of the state. You can read more about our monitoring efforts on our website.

Q: Are you looking at incentives for private owners of coastal marshes or public acquisition of these areas?
A: The Coastal and Marine Working Group is exploring ways to preserve salt marshes, and I will share your question with the ecosystem subcommittee of the Working Group.

Q: How can eelgrass bed “salvation” be worked on. I live at Willard Beach and remember that years ago there was such a bed offshore here.
A: According to recent mapping, Willard Beach still has a dense and extensive eelgrass bed. Eelgrass bed salvation depends on the cause of its demise. If an eelgrass bed is unhealthy or dying because of excess nitrogen entering the marine system due to human causes, we can work on eliminating or reducing the sources of nitrogen. This is not necessarily easy but can be done. If the demise is due to invasive green crab foraging, we face a different challenge. Green crabs have proven very difficult to control.

Q: I’m wondering if there’s been any discussion about sources of carbon from coastal and marine systems and whether/how those could be addressed? I get the impression that this working group focuses mostly on impacts from climate change rather than sources of carbon emissions. That makes a lot of sense, but I still wonder about the marine contributions.
A: Yes, the Coastal and Marine Working Group is tasked with considering sources of carbon from coastal and marine sources. My best understanding is that marine vessels make up a small percentage of total carbon emissions. Nonetheless, we are exploring options, such as port electrification. The Department of Environmental Protection recently updated a report on air emissions from marine vessels. Follow this link to view the report and learn how complicated this topic can be to regulate: https://www.maine.gov/dep/publications/reports/index.html

Q: Can you comment on where the focus is for the working group, blue carbon or emission reductions or some relative amount of ‘all of the above’? My concern with integrating blue carbon sequestration into climate policy is that people use those carbon sinks as a reason to not limit fossil fuel combustion, which is ultimately the only adaptation strategy that will work. Also, warming water temperatures, rising sea levels, etc, make blue carbon sequestration really difficult to quantify (it already is, as you know).
A: This is an astute question. We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions significantly to achieve the mitigation goals set forth by statute. A lot of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation sources. The portion of those emissions attributed to marine vessels is fairly small. We are considering mitigation of those sources. The ecosystem subcommittee (of which I am a member) really liked the blue carbon strategy because of the complete suite of mitigation, resilience, and adaptation benefits derived from improving and protecting the health of our marshes and eelgrass beds. I agree that carbon sequestration alone will not solve the problem, and other working groups are developing detailed strategies for transportation, energy, buildings, and more, all designed to reduce our carbon footprint.

Q: How do any of these strategies dovetail with similar GMRI strategies and how they are structured?
A: The Maine Climate Council was created by state law and is an action plan for the state. I cannot answer how the plan may ultimately align with the work of GMRI (Gulf of Maine Research Institute) or others. GMRI is participating in the council, as are many other research and marine organizations around the state, including, for example, Friends of Casco Bay, Island Institute, Downeast Institute, Maine Sea Grant, and Bigelow Labortatory.

Q: Can you comment on the potential benefits to lobster habitat from kelp and other aquaculture? 
A: This is outside of my area of expertise. The fisheries and aquaculture subcommittee has experts who are exploring such questions. If you have information to share in this regard or would like me to try to connect you with the appropriate expert, please email me directly.

Q: Do you think there might be a better recognition in the world’s society as to how we should more rapidly approach “catastrophic risk” planning regarding climate change, perhaps as we should have approached the planning for a pandemic?
A: As a world, we are way behind on coordinated action to address the climate crisis. Through the Maine Climate Council, hundreds of researchers, advocates, and policy experts are working to do what we can at the state level. The four year state action plan intends to build upon existing efforts, foster action, and be rooted in sound science. We are heartened that municipalities, such as Portland and South Portland, are adopting plans for mitigating and adapting to climate change. At Friends of Casco Bay, we are advocating for local, regional, and national solutions. It will be up to all of us to work together on many different levels to tackle these issues.

Q: How can we help Friends of Casco Bay?
A: We’re glad you asked! We have many ways you can help. You can make a donation to our work. You can also help keep an eye on the changes happening around the Bay by volunteering as a Water Reporter.

Q: Do the Maine Climate Council and the Working Groups have an email feed to keep up with meetings and document releases?
A: Yes, the Maine Climate Council does. Visit
https://www.maine.gov/future/initiatives/climate/climate-council and scroll down, looking on the right-hand side of the page to find the sign-up form.

Q: Is Friends of Casco Bay looking at an electric boat?
A: Although we continue to explore ways to reduce our carbon footprint, we are not looking at an electric boat at present. We chose our inboard diesel Baykeeper boat back in 2012, because it provided a large, safe, efficient, and fast enough platform for us to do our work out on the Bay.

Q: Will Ivy’s slides be available on the Climate Council website?
A: No, however the recording of this event is available here: https://youtu.be/fWxc_hHyt_M