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Our Statement on Environmental Justice

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. We are committed to creating a culture and practices that integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our work.

To work towards that goal, we have been deepening our conversations with one another as a group and as individuals, about the intersections of environmentalism and social justice. This includes, in part, expanding our understanding about systemic racism, tyranny, and violence in our country and our community.

The inequities in our society cannot be separated from the climate crisis, a key focus of our work. Vulnerable and marginalized populations, including black people, people of color, indigenous people, people living in poverty, women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities have disproportionately experienced the brunt of pollution and the effects of climate change. These environmental injustices arise from inequalities and uneven power structures, including structural racism.

We stand in solidarity with the activists and organizations who are leading the call for justice and accountability. We are supporting efforts that recognize environmental justice and are aimed at ensuring equal access to clean waters. We oppose efforts that deny that right.

This is a long-overdue moment for communities to come together and change behaviors and systems. This includes listening and learning. This requires acting to ensure Casco Bay and its watershed are improved and protected with and for all people. We acknowledge that we need to expand our capacity to foster diverse viewpoints, and we commit to continuing our work on this.

We are not experts at confronting the depth of injustices experienced in our nation. We know we will miss the mark sometimes as we move toward more inclusive and equitable practices and culture. We invite you to keep us accountable by letting us know when we do. This will help us all learn and improve together.

Most sincerely,

Cathy, Jeff, Ivy, Mike, Sara, Sarah, and Will

What Casco Bay is telling us

We had a lively and informative What Casco Bay is telling us: a Casco Bay Matters Event as more than 100 Friends joined us for the conversation. Here is a video of the event, for those of you who were not able to attend live or would like to relisten.

If you don’t have time to watch the entire event, here are some key moments that you may want to check out:

In this 3½ minute clip, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca shares her observations on what the Bay was like during this very strange year.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan shares temperature data from our Continuous Monitoring Station (2½ minutes).

Mike explains how we can get a sense of the productivity of the base of the food chain and offers his thoughts as to why our waters have been so clear this season (3 minutes).

Ivy thanks our volunteer Water Reporters for the many ways they have helped us keep watch on the health of the Bay (2½ minutes).

Ivy reflects on what we must do to confront the impacts of climate change on the Bay (2 ½ minutes).

Last but not least, Cathy, Ivy, and Mike explain how our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund is a game-changer for our work (4 minutes). [We are delighted that we have raised 94% of our $1.5 million goal for the Fund, with the help of many of you. If you have not yet made a contribution to the Fund, help us past the finish line!]

Join us for What is Casco Bay telling us?

This year has been unprecedented. Casco Bay is exhibiting changing conditions that may impact our community, marine heritage, and our economy in years to come.

Join Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, and Staff Scientist Mike Doan for a conversation about what we have been seeing out on the Bay this year, what our data are telling us, and what we, as a community and a state, need to do to address some of the impacts of climate change on the Bay.

On Wednesday, October 21, grab your lunch, log on to Zoom, and join the conversation.

You must register to join this event. We would love you to join us.

Register Now

What: What Casco Bay Is Telling Us: A Casco Bay Matters Event

When: Wednesday, October 21, 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.

This event will take place via Zoom. We will send you instructions for joining the event after you register.

Check out our CommUNITY Champions

Want a lift? Watch this! (2 minutes)

We have long thought of our volunteers as champions. Now much of Southern Maine does, too.

WMTW News 8’s anchor, Steve Minich recognized our volunteer Water Reporters as CommUNITY Champions in late August. You can watch the two-minute CommUNITY Champion segment and hear more about the efforts of our volunteers here.

Steve gives a shout out to all 229 of our Water Reporters for “being willing to spend a few hours a week getting their feet wet for the cause.”

If you are interested in becoming a Water Reporter, slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org“>email Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman and join the team.

Donate to Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund

We are 96% of our way to our $1.5 million goal! Help us go over the top!
Friends of Casco Bay is creating a $1.5 million fund to be used over the next ten years to understand how Casco Bay is being affected by climate change. We will launch and maintain three oceanographic Continuous Monitoring Stations at three coastal sites around the Bay to collect data on water quality
conditions. Communicating those changing conditions to our community is paramount for advocating for policies and actions needed to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. You can read all about this work and the fund to support it here

 

Keeping up with the Casco Baykeeper

For Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, the summer has been full of moments of concern and moments of magic.


How was your summer?

Summer means being on the Bay! Staff Scientist Mike Doan and I continued to collect our seasonal data on the health of Casco Bay by land and sea. As we collected water quality data, we had the opportunity to speak with people who rely on the Bay for their livelihoods and deepened our conversations about what we were seeing and how to use our data to shape our advocacy work.

How did the pandemic affect your Baykeeping work this summer?

We kept up with water quality monitoring by limiting crew on our Baykeeper boat, R/V Joseph E. Payne, to just two of us at any one time. We continued to collect hourly data from our Continuous Monitoring Station. We kept up with all water quality monitoring, including responding to the unexpected.

What changed and what we really missed was inviting others out on the boat with us. We love using the boat as our summer office, a way to gather people who can work together to find solutions to problems that impair the health of the Bay. It makes a big difference to view issues from the water and have people aboard with expertise and authority to address problems. We couldn’t do that this year.

What was the most concerning issue you saw this summer?

What stands out was a day in mid-July when we saw a large area of brownish water extending from the mouth of the Royal River. Mike and I thought it might be a phytoplankton bloom. But when we put our sonde in the water, it measured low salinity levels that were startling, extending out almost to Moshier Island. We had captured a stormwater plume from a recent major rainstorm.

What also stands out was how uniformly high water temperatures remained this summer. Broad Cove saw temperatures near 20°C [70°F] and the upper New Meadows River had temperatures between 25-26.5°C [nearly 80°F].

What we saw this summer reaffirmed for me the urgency of our collective work to document change, reduce the causes of climate change, and prepare for its consequences at community, regional, state and national levels.

How about some of your favorite moments of the summer?

There are always moments of astounding beauty on the Bay. Every day on Casco Bay is magical. Watching terns feeding, bald eagles soaring above the boat, leaping sturgeons in a school of bait fish, or the sunlight reflecting like a mirror on the water are moments of magic that underlie why we work to protect this amazing place.

I really enjoyed becoming more deeply connected to our volunteer Water Reporters. Their posts track important issues and give us a great view of what is happening around the Bay. Working with Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman, I spent some socially-distanced time with Water Reporters, following up with them as they tracked algae blooms, marsh conditions, reported pollution, and posted about other changes they were seeing in the Bay. It’s awesome knowing that there is a whole team of people in the community helping with our Baykeeping work.

More eyes on Casco Bay

For Immediate release

August 18, 2020

Contact: Will Everitt, Communications and Development Director: (207) 671-1315 (mobile), willeveritt [at] cascobay [dot] org 

More eyes on Casco Bay

The meaningful observations by hundreds of Volunteer Water Reporters are making a difference for the health of Casco Bay, especially during COVID-19.

Casco Bay encompasses 200 square miles of water, has more than 578 miles of shoreland from Cape Elizabeth to Phippsburg, and includes hundreds of islands. 

To help keep an eye on the health of the Bay, Friends of Casco Bay depends upon a network of more than 200 volunteer Water Reporters.

“Water Reporters have been invaluable during this pandemic,” says Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, the lead advocate for Friends of Casco Bay. “These volunteers work on their own, practicing social-distancing, but are not socially distant from the waters that inspire them. We use their observational data to identify and work to eliminate sources of pollution to the Bay.” 

Using a specially designed app developed by Chesapeake Commons for Waterkeeper organizations, Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteers post observations of nitrogen pollution, nuisance algal blooms, sea level rise, wildlife sightings, and other changes they are seeing in and around the Bay. Volunteers in the network have collectively posted more than 1,400 observations of the Bay. 

Friends of Casco Bay is committed to responding to every post and to ensuring appropriate follow-up, including with state agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as needed.

As Portland Harbormaster Kevin Battle explains, “The sooner we find out about a problem, the sooner it can be addressed. Water Reporters help communicate issues that we can look into and try to fix.”

Volunteer Jeff Walawender’s photo of an algal bloom along Pleasantdale Cove in South Portland is one of many important posts shared this summer. Tracking large algal blooms can help Friends identify sources of excess nitrogen. An overdose of nitrogen can trigger excessive growth of nuisance algae, which smothers animals that live in mudflats, reduces water clarity, lowers oxygen levels, and causes acidic conditions that make it harder for clams and mussels to build and maintain their shells.

See Jeff’s post here: https://www.waterreporter.org/community/reports/14419

In response to this bloom, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca met with South Portland officials and Portland Harbor Master Kevin Battle, talked with the Department of Environmental Protection staff, and collected water samples to identify potential sources of nitrogen that could have fertilized the excessive bloom.

“Thanks to Jeff, we had weekly photos tracking the development of the bloom and could see how much it grew after a major rainstorm caused large flows of stormwater to discharge to the Cove,” says Frignoca. “We then met with City officials and collected water samples from stormwater outfall pipes and tributaries  to help us better understand what may have caused this bloom.”

Fred Dillon, Stormwater Program Coordinator for the City of South Portland, is reassured by the large army of volunteers focusing on the Bay. “It’s great knowing that Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteers are helping keep an eye on things that affect our coastal waters,” he says.

And Jeff Walawender likes being able to help. “It feels good to be part of the solution,” he says. “I have this phone in my pocket all the time, and it’s great that in just a few seconds I can snap a photo that can make a difference. One of the greatest features of Water Reporter is that not only does it track events like nuisance algae blooms, but it can also be used to document positive changes such as the return of wildlife and vegetation. 

Friends of Casco Bay’s mission is to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our Water Reporter project is funded in part by our members, which include 2,400 households around the Bay, as well as by local businesses including L.L.Bean, Dale Rand Printing, and Sprague Energy, and foundations including Bonnell Cove Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation, and Maine Community Foundation. 

# # #

 

Conservation Champions

We are delighted to share that Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) has selected Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Friends of Casco Bay as recipients of the Conservation Champion Award. Each year, RRCT selects a person or an organization doing exemplary conservation work for this award.

RRCT presented Cathy and our organization with the Conservation Champion Award at a small gathering* at the Littlejohn Island Preserve in Yarmouth Thursday evening.

In his remarks, RRCT Executive Director Alan Stearns said, “Every time I ask people, ‘How can we do a better job? What else should we be doing? What’s important to you as far as the environment and Maine’s conservation community?’ Overwhelmingly, from the beginning, people say, ‘Do you work with Friends of Casco Bay? I wish you’d work more with Friends of Casco Bay.’ Cathy and I have had discussions over the years. We have had big successes and small successes and we have come to realize our work is complementary.”

Alan then gave beautifully-inscribed wooden paddles representing the Conservation Champion Award to Cathy and to Friends of Casco Bay Board Member Ann Thayer, who has long volunteered as our liaison with RRCT.

Royal River Conservation Trust highlighted Friends of Casco Bay’s work in winning a No Discharge Area status for the Bay and upgrading Clean Water Act classifications for parts of our waters, among the reasons why we are Conservation Champions.

“It takes a community to take care of the Bay,” reflected Cathy, as she accepted the award. “The synergy between the work that Royal River Conservation Trust and all the land trusts around the Bay are doing combined with the work those of us are doing on water quality is really important. When we work together we get so much more done. With climate change impacting our communities, the more we do to inspire good land stewardship, the healthier our coastal waters are going to be. It is our collaboration that gives me hope that together, we can continue to confront the impacts of climate change.”

 

Royal River is one of the five major rivers flowing into the Bay. The river originates in Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester and flows into Casco Bay at Yarmouth. RRTC helps protect the natural, recreational, scenic, agricultural, and historic resources of the Royal River region for current and future generations. Friends of Casco Bay has long monitored water quality in the tidal portion of the Royal and our Continuous Monitoring Station is located in Yarmouth close to the mouth of the river.

Past Conservation Champion Award-winners include Gulf of Maine Research Institute and its President/CEO (and founding President of Friends of Casco Bay!) Don Perkins (2018), and State Senator and former Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Brownie Carson (2019).

 

The RRCT event was a small, socially-distanced outside event. Given the pandemic, here are the precautions we undertook:

  • Everyone at the event wore masks.
  • The event was outside.
  • Except for a few photos during extremely brief periods of time, we were 6 to 20 feet or more away from each other the entire time.
  • The photographer always had a mask on and took all the photos from 6+ feet away.
  • We used hand sanitizer before and after holding the awards together.  
  • And finally, RRTC collected RSVPs of attendees so that in the unlikely event that something did happen, it will be easy to contact trace.

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.

Working with you to Keep Casco Bay Blue

 

We are excited to share a short film made by Knack Factory in honor of our 30th anniversary.

The Knack Factory team joined Friends of Casco Bay staff and volunteers on the water over the course of a week last fall to create a short film about our work.

Knack Factory is a Maine-based creative agency specializing in video production. They are a creative, highly-skilled community of story-tellers. There is no job too big or small (or crazy or weird or impossible) for them to tackle.