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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.

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.

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.

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.

Warm winter = early algal blooms

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.

Mary Cerullo, Associate Director

Mary Cerullo Begins a New Chapter

Mary Cerullo, Associate DirectorAs 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.

In addition to being a key part of our team, Mary is an award-winning author of 23 books that translate ocean science into stories that inspire children and adults.

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.

You may make a donation in Mary’s honor at: cascobay.org/emeritus-fund.

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

Advocacy: Laying the groundwork for confronting ocean climate change

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.”

Read more about this work in this recent Portland Press Herald article: https://www.pressherald.com/2019/09/16/maine-finally-addressing-climate-change-in-the-gulf/