On March 3rd, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca strolled the South Portland shoreline near our office. She was shocked to see green algae growing at the base of the Spring Point seawall. In the past, we have not begun to see widespread nuisance algal blooms until late May or early June. Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman issued an alert to our observing network. Soon, our volunteer Water Reporters were posting images of green algal blooms in coves around the Bay.
What could be fueling these algal blooms so early in the year? Staff Scientist Mike Doan searched for answers by looking at our water quality data. At our Continuous Monitoring Station, the bright green growth did not correspond to a spike in chlorophyll levels, normally associated with a phytoplankton bloom. Our data did show that we have had an extremely warm winter. Heavy rains may have flushed nutrient-laden meltwater into coastal waters weeks earlier than in past years. In fact, just a few days prior to Ivy’s sighting in South Portland, we had an intense rain event. Lengthening daylight and warming temperatures also likely contributed to the emergence of these blooms.
Sarah encourages more people to volunteer as Water Reporters to track these early indicators of excess nitrogen. “Each volunteer can adopt a specific location around the Bay to observe weekly, ideally at low tide, any time between an hour before and after. Images of algae from ‘good’ amounts to ‘concerning’ amounts are helpful because we can’t predict where and when a small patch of algae may become a nuisance algal bloom.”
The blooms we have seen this month are small, but excess nitrogen can stimulate algal growth beyond healthy amounts for the ecosystem. Nuisance algal blooms can cover tidal flats with a thick carpet of “green slime,” smothering animals below the mat and preventing juvenile clams from settling into the mud.
If you are interested in joining our effort to track these blooms, learn more at cascobay.org/water-reporter or call Sarah at (207) 370-7553.
As many Friends of the Bay know, over the past 22 years, Associate Director Mary Cerullo 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. If you attended one of our events in the past two decades, it is likely that you were greeted by Mary’s smiling face. Her warmth, collegiality, and talents have been essential to our work.
Mary is beginning a new chapter in her life. She will retire from Friends of Casco Bay at the end of this week. Casco Bay is a better, more protected place thanks to Mary’s efforts. Mary helped launch our BayScaping program to keep lawn care chemicals out of the Bay. She also developed the Casco Bay Curriculum to make our water quality data accessible to educators and local schools.
“What I’m most proud of is our work to make Casco Bay a No Discharge Area,” says Mary. “I helped organize a public forum on cruise ship pollution in 2002.” The public outcry against ships dumping their waste into the Bay led to the first federal No Discharge Area designation in Maine.
“I never imagined I would work here for so long. It’s been the people—my work colleagues and all of our community members—who have inspired me and kept me excited about this work,” says Mary, reflecting on her tenure here.
Mary plans to stay busy. She is already working on her next book. She also looks forward to travels with her husband Arthur and to more time with her grandchildren. As Mary turns the page, all of us at Friends of Casco Bay wish her a happy retirement.
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.
Improving and protecting the environmental health of Casco Bay for 30 years
Citizens launch watchdog group
Friends of Casco Bay is founded as a grassroots, citizen watchdog group in response to the report “Troubled Waters” which highlighted Casco Bay as a pollution hotspot. This image shows snippets from the report.
How Polluted Is Casco Bay?
Friends of Casco Bay helps to organize a day-long seminar, How Polluted Is Casco Bay, featuring David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, draws 200 attendees.
EPA recognizes Casco Bay
Casco Bay is designated an Estuary of National Significance by the EPA, in part due to Friends of Casco Bay’s actions to raise public awareness about Casco Bay issues, history, and industries.
First Casco Baykeeper hired
Joe Payne is hired as Casco Baykeeper of Friends of Casco Bay.
Water Monitoring pilot project
Pilot program in Water Quality Monitoring trains 20 citizen scientists to collect water temperature, air temperature, and weather data at 10 sites.
The Baykeeper gets a boat
A donated vessel, Donovan’s Delight, becomes the workhorse used for 20 years.
Monitoring water top to bottom
Friends of Casco Bay staff members launch a monthly water quality testing program, conducting surface-to-bottom profiles at several stations all around the Bay.
Citizen Stewards aid research
Friends of Casco Bay staff initiates a comprehensive volunteer water quality monitoring program, training 40 Citizen Stewards to monitor surface waters along the Bay.
Clam flat restoration begins
Friends of Casco Bay initiates a Clam Flat Restoration Project to identify sources of fecal coliform pollution responsible for prolonged clam flat closures.
Pumpout boat removes poop
Friends of Casco Bay launches a pumpout service for recreational boats, siphoning away over 250,000 gallons of sewage to date that might have ended up in the Bay. First Lady Mary Herman christens our pumpout boat Wanda (aka Baykeeper II).
Dredging discussions begin
Friends of Casco Bay assumes a leadership role in helping to develop an environmentally and economically acceptable means of disposing of contaminated dredge materials.
Cleaning up Julie N oil spill
Friends of Casco Bay aids in a coordinated response to the Julie N tanker accident and helps recover a remarkable 78% of the 180,000 gallons of spilled oil (15-20% recovery is considered a success).
Flats reopened to clamming
Friends of Casco Bay’s research and monitoring lead to re-opening hundreds of acres of clam flats to harvesting.
Campaign targets pesticides
Friends of Casco Bay teams up with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control on an anti-pesticides ad campaign: Why Weed’n’Feed isn’t fish food.
Rescuing lobsters from dredging
Friends of Casco Bay catalyzes the relocation project that rescues 35,000 lobsters from harbor dredging.
Reclassifying Bay waters
Friends of Casco Bay’s data contribute to the State reclassifying waters off Peaks and Little Diamond Islands, and parts of South Portland, including Willard Beach, from class SC to SB, a higher standard for water quality protection.
Measuring low oxygen at dawn
Friends of Casco Bay initiates early morning, low tide monitoring to identify hypoxic (low-oxygen) conditions in challenged parts of eastern Casco Bay.
Helping track baby lobsters
Friends of Casco Bay joins a research study to monitor juvenile lobsters in the intertidal zone.
Founding Waterkeeper Alliance
Friends of Casco Bay helps to found Waterkeeper Alliance. Now, the Waterkeeper movement is 350 groups strong, protecting 2.7 million square miles of waterways in 46 countries.
The Bay Begins in Your Backyard
Friends of Casco Bay hosts the first BayScaping workshop, From Bethel to the Beach: Protecting Casco Bay Begins in Your Backyard, which draws 200 people and 15 exhibitors. Shortly after, we begin offering neighborhood socials on BayScaping.
Do pesticides get into Bay?
Friends of Casco Bay begins sampling stormwater runoff for pesticides washing into Casco Bay.
Local strategies to help the Bay
Friends of Casco Bay issues a report on Community Strategies to Improve the Bay, to provide tools for town planning for the municipalities bordering the Bay.
Cruise ship pollution campaign
Friends of Casco Bay organizes a forum on Pollution Solutions to Cruise Ship Discharges to alert voters and legislators that cruise ships can legally dump wastewater in Portland Harbor.
Scooping mud to test for toxins
Friends of Casco Bay scoops mud from 22 nearshore sites around Casco Bay to measure toxins in the sediments.
Freeing the Presumpscot
Collaboration with Presumpscot watershed groups results in the removal of the Smelt Hill Dam, allowing the lower seven miles of the Presumpscot River to flow unimpeded to Casco Bay.
Nitrogen is a threat to the Bay
Friends of Casco Bay staff members begin sampling for nitrogen pollution.
First Executive Director hired
Cathy Ramsdell is hired as Executive Director of Friends of Casco Bay.
Tracing toxins in Portland Harbor
Friends of Casco Bay grabs sediment samples in Portland Harbor for analysis of levels of toxins such as Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Bay’s environmental report card
Friends of Casco Bay issues a region-by-region Health Index, an environmental report card on the health of the Bay.
Maine’s first No Discharge Area
Friends of Casco Bay’s campaign to halt to cruise ship pollution results in Casco Bay being designated the first No Discharge Area in Maine for vessel sewage.
Adapting our data for educators
Friends of Casco Bay creates the Casco Bay Curriculum, incorporating our water quality data into classroom activities for schools.
State law to limit nitrogen
Friends of Casco Bay’s advocacy pushes through a state law requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to set a limit on nitrogen levels in coastal waters.
Portland to deal with sewage
Friends of Casco Bay helps convince the Portland City Council to commit $61 million to construction projects to stem the flow of raw sewage, industrial wastes, and stormwater into Casco Bay, by shortening the timeline to clean up and eliminate dozens of combined sewer overflows.
Data help protect The Basin
Friends of Casco Bay’s data are instrumental in the State reclassification of waters in The Basin in Phippsburg, from class SB to SA, the highest standard of water quality for marine waters.
Taking on “Green Slime”
Friends of Casco Bay’s vigorous campaign against “Green Slime” combats nitrogen pollution on three fronts: stormwater runoff, fertilizers, and sewage treatment plants.
Climate change curriculum
Casco Bay: A Changing Estuary revamps Friends of Casco Bay’s 2006 curriculum, focusing on the impact of climate change on Casco Bay and the Gulf of Maine.
Ready to respond to oil spills
Friends of Casco Bay’s participation in an oil spill clean-up exercise for the Gulf of Maine is immediately followed by advising Waterkeepers involved in the Gulf of Mexico Deep Horizon oil rig disaster.
Collect mud to test for toxins
Friends of Casco Bay collects jars of mud at 60+ sites to document changes in levels of Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other toxins in Casco Bay sediments.
Storm drain stenciling
We create storm drain stenciling kits for community service projects to remind people, “Do not dump. Drains to Casco Bay.”
Measure acidity on clam flats
Friends of Casco Bay begins to investigate coastal acidification by measuring the acidity of sediments in clam flats.
Share stormwater cleanup costs
Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell serves on a citizen’s committee to help the City of Portland craft an equitable stormwater utility fee. It gives concessions to residents and businesses that limit rainwater runoff from impervious roofs, parking lots, and driveways.
Clam condos in acidic mud
Friends of Casco Bay’s experiments on clam spat placed in “clam condos” in acidic mud show evidence of pitting after one week.
New Baykeeper research boat
Friends of Casco Bay christens our new Baykeeper research vessel Joseph E. Payne.
South Portland Pesticide Ordinance
Friends of Casco Bay’s data and BayScaping information help South Portland enact an ordinance that restricts the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private properties.
Nabbing Nitrogen flash mob
Friends of Casco Bay undertakes a Nabbing Nitrogen event to coordinate a “flash mob” of volunteers to simultaneously collect nitrogen samples in the Fore River.
Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca helps organize the first meeting of the newly named Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership to coordinate policy and research to address this little-known impact of climate change. Later that year, the first Ocean Acidification Symposium draws 110 participants to share data on the causes and effects of ocean and coastal acidification in Maine waters.
Monitoring Casco Bay 24/7
Friends of Casco Bay installs a Continuous Monitoring Station to collect water quality data hourly, 365 days a year.
Baykeeper leads MOCA partnership
The Casco Baykeeper assumes role as coordinator of the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership (2016-2019), organizing twice-yearly symposia.
Setting nitrogen limits
Our advocacy for setting nitrogen limits in sewage treatment plant permits results in the Department of Environmental Protection requiring nitrogen standards in municipalities’ Clean Water Act discharge permits.
Historic agreement to reduce nitrogen
Friends of Casco Bay secures an agreement with Portland Water District to work to significantly reduce nitrogen discharged into the Bay by treating effluent water from the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility. The goal is to reduce nitrogen pollution entering the Bay by 20-40% within 5 years. Engineering modifications result in nitrogen discharges dropping by 70% on average by 2018.
Portland task force on pesticides
Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell serves on a citizen’s task force that leads to the passage of an ordinance to restrict the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private properties.
Launch volunteer Water Reporter
Friends of Casco Bay launches a year-round Casco Bay volunteer observing network: Water Reporter.
Shaping fertilizer ordinance
Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell is recruited to serve on a Working Group to draft an ordinance to regulate fertilizers in the City of South Portland.
Casco Bay Matters series
Friends of Casco Bay hosts our first Casco Bay Matters lecture series, attended by 380 participants.
Our Climate Council bill expands
Friends of Casco Bay shepherds a bill to create a state-funded Science and Policy Advisory Council on the Impact of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species, which is integrated into the Governor’s omnibus bill to address climate change and establish the Maine Climate Council.
Headmaster joins our fleet
Friends of Casco Bay christens and launches our new pumpout boat, Headmaster.
Helping state with action plan
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council.
Friends of Casco Bay celebrates our 30th anniversary all year long.
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.
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 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 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).
Amid the delights and demands of the Holidays, we pause here to thank you and all our volunteers, donors, and supporters. You play a crucial role in our ability to monitor the environmental health of Casco Bay, engage community members to be good stewards, and protect our coastal waters from pollution. May the serenity of the season find its way into your heart—along with our gratitude!
We look forward to meeting the challenges ahead in the New Year, confident that with the support of Friends like you, we will forge ahead toward a healthier Casco Bay.
Cathy L. Ramsdell, CPA
Did you see our top 10 stories of 2019?
Let’s walk down Memory Lane together to recall our most popular stories of the year, based on your visits to our website and our social media interactions:
You answered the call when Casco Bay needed your voice. We asked our supporters to urge the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Marine Resources to pass a bill to create a Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commission. Ultimately, our bill was incorporated into the Governor’s comprehensive climate change bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support.
Casco Bay Temperature Extremes Whenever Research Associate Mike Doan is asked, “What were the highest and the lowest water temperatures this year?” he directs folks to our Continuous Monitoring Station data, which document water conditions in the Bay on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.
Keep pet waste out of the Bay! While we were examining a pollution incident in Cumberland, we came across a pile of dog poop bags at the outfall of a storm drain. When pet lovers toss poop bags into a storm drain, they are not doing the Bay any favors.
We look forward to keeping you updated in the New Year. Our emails will help you stay on top of news about Casco Bay in 2020, including our 30th anniversary celebration on April 29, 2020, at Ocean Gateway in Portland. Mark your calendar and save the date!
In this season of giving, please receive our special thanks for helping to protect the health of Casco Bay.
2019 has been a banner year for us. We continue our work at the local level and with focus on the importance of our coastal waters. We have moved the needle toward a healthier, more protected Bay. Our work has resonated in communities around the Bay and beyond:
We worked with state legislators and other environmental groups to draft a bill to establish a state-funded marine advisory commission. This bill was integrated into the Governor’s comprehensive climate bill, which established the Maine Climate Council. CascoBaykeeper Ivy Frignoca was invited to serve on the Climate Council’s Coastal and Marine Working Group.
We organized stakeholder meetings with legislators, resource harvesters, scientists, and concerned citizens, to help the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership write the report, “An Action Plan to Address and Adapt to Ocean Climate Change in Maine.” The report will be used as a resource and guide for Maine Climate Council’s Coastal and Marine Working Group.
We presented three programs, free and open to the public, on Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and You, in our first-ever Casco Bay Matters series. Friends of Casco Bay staff members described the research, policies, and actions needed to help address threats from climate change to Maine’s marine economy and quality of life. More than 380 people in Portland, South Portland, and Brunswick came to hear what we had to say. They left armed with actions they could take to make a difference.
Our 2019 priority legislative bill to create a state-funded Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commission was integrated into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change bill. An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council passed with strong bipartisan support. With Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca in attendance, Governor Janet Mills signed the bill into law on June 26, 2019.
Our Casco Baykeeper has been asked to serve as a member of the Council’s Coastal and Marine Working Group. It is a tribute to the work that Ivy has devoted to nurturing and coordinating the volunteer Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification (MOCA) partnership, which she and Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell helped formally launch in 2016.
In 2019, Friends of Casco Bay received a grant to enable MOCA to draft an action plan to address the impact of climate change on Maine’s marine species. Recommendations from that effort will help the newly-created Climate Council as it drafts its five-year plan of action.
Ivy reflected, “The creation of the Maine Climate Council marks the culmination of five years of efforts to bring attention to the threats of ocean and coastal acidification to our marine ecology and economy. Concerned Mainers built a coalition that is helping to provide the groundwork for the new Administration’s work plan on ocean climate change.”
On November 7, 2019, Woodard & Curran Foundation presented Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell with a whopping gift: $100,000 over three years. The Foundation’s Giving Committee selected Friends of Casco Bay from a competitive pool of nearly 60 grant applicants from around the county. The grant of $100,000 will help support the South Portland-based nonprofit’s ten-year initiative to confront climate change through technology, monitoring, and community engagement.
Friends of Casco Bay will use the $100,000 as it establishes three high-tech continuous monitoring stations across the Bay to collect hourly data year-round and to engage the community in its work to advance policy and behavioral changes to address the impacts of climate change.
Woodard & Curran Foundation supports environmental nonprofits working to protect our water and environment. Barry Sheff, President of the Foundation, said, “The work Friends is doing to monitor the impact of climate change in Casco Bay is incredibly productive in driving education and policy-making within Maine and beyond. This is the first Impact Grant we’ve made in Maine, and on behalf of all of our donors, we are happy to support Friends of Casco Bay with this Impact Grant.”
As Woodard & Curran Foundation looks ahead to its 10th anniversary in 2020, Friends of Casco Bay will be celebrating its 30th year improving and protecting the environmental health of Casco Bay through science, community engagement, and advocating for improvements in water quality.