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Many eyes keep watch on Casco Bay

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is our watchdog on the health of the Bay. She is on or along the water as much as possible, even in her spare time. But she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely upon our volunteers to be our extra eyes on the Bay. Increasingly, volunteers are joining me in using the Water Reporter app to share what they are seeing. These reports make a difference!” Over the span of a year, more than 190 volunteers have made 837 posts about the Casco Bay Watershed.

Here are some examples:

A Water Reporter captured a potential pollution incident–a large accumulation of fish scales in the water. The posting, complete with the time, location, and photo, led to action by a state agency to stop discharges of fish processing wastewater into the Fore River.

In keeping with our focus on climate change, we encourage volunteers to use Water Reporter to monitor sea level rise. Chronicling King Tides, the highest tides of the year, gives us a glimpse of the future. The photos document current coastal flooding, such as submerged streets and eroding beaches. These images help us all visualize what the “new normal” high tides may look like as sea levels continue to rise, such as the disappearing beach at Winslow Park, Freeport, on August 4 and the pier at Little Diamond island on the same date.


Says Ivy, “Water Reporter is a two-way conversation about protecting Casco Bay.” For example, a Water Reporter post on July 10th caught the attention of Angie Brewer of the Marine Unit staff at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP staff went out to investigate themselves. Here’s the post and the exchange with a Water Reporter that followed. Click on the image to be taken to the Water Reporter website for easier reading.


Another DEP staff person, Wendy Garland, Nonpoint Source Program Coordinator, asked for more details after spotting a post by our summer intern Alexis Burns who regularly monitored algae growth at several sites around South Portland last summer.

You can join our Water Reporter network to share observations of things you are seeing on the Bay, both good and bad, all year long. The more of us who are keeping watch on the health of the Bay, the better protected our waters will be.

Ivy Frignoca appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council

Friends of Casco Bay’s Ivy Frignoca appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council

On September 26th, Governor Janet Mills officially launched the Maine Climate Council. She challenged the 39 members of the Council, and the many others who will serve on its subcommittees and working groups, to create a climate change action plan to make Maine a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the people she was speaking directly to was Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, who had been appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group.

“Casco Bay is already experiencing the impacts of climate change,” said Ivy, “including warming waters, increasing acidity, more nuisance algal blooms, and changes in water chemistry that make it harder for shellfish to grow their shells.”

The Maine Climate Council and its working groups will be meeting monthly through next summer. Collectively, they will develop an action plan for the next four years with strategies to understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change. The report will be submitted to the Governor in December 2020, as required by the bill passed last session, An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council.

“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and act. This Council is not just producing a report that will sit on a shelf somewhere. The statute demands action to address climate change,” responded Ivy. “We applaud our Governor and the bipartisan Climate Council tasked with creating an action plan to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to inevitable climate change.”

Bill Mook, founder of Mook Sea Farm and one of the Council members, echoed that sentiment, “Problems are the raw materials of innovation.”

Said Cathy Ramsdell, Executive Director of Friends of Casco Bay, “We are honored that our chief advocate has been asked to serve on the newly-created council’s Coastal and Marine Working Group. Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has been instrumental in helping to create and guide the all-volunteer network, the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership, which presaged the Governor’s Climate Council. As climate change threatens our oceans, Friends of Casco Bay will continue to shine the spotlight on ways we all can work together to protect the health of this shared resource.”

BEE a BayScaper!

Photographs by Kevin Morris

We are proud to see a BayScaper sign on the lawn of one of Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteers, Jane Benesch. Her South Portland yard is bedecked with flower beds, vegetable patches, and wood chip-lined paths—and just a little turf.

BayScaping is our educational program that encourages residents to restrict or eliminate yard chemicals. We focus especially on lawns, where rainstorms are more likely to wash fertilizers and pesticides off the yard and ultimately into the Bay. Jane doesn’t use any bug killers, weed killers, or fertilizers.

Jane says that it is not necessary to devote an hour or two per day to your yard during the growing season as she does. “You can start small. Convert a small plot of land and replace the grass with native plants or a groundcover. Then, watch for changes in your environment.” 

She replaced grass with insect-friendly milkweed, coneflower, and beardtongue. Now her yard attracts butterflies and bees—and neighbors who stop to admire her winged visitors. One little visitor said to his Dad, “That’s the bee happy garden!”

Jane’s advice:  

  1. Start small. Replace a bit of turf with a few perennials or ground cover.
  2. Leave grass clippings when you mow—they are natural fertilizer.
  3. Water in the morning so that the grass dries out before nightfall. This helps prevent fungal growth.
  4. Be a BayScaper! Show your neighbors that you don’t use pesticides and fertilizers. Pick up a free yard sign from Friends of Casco Bay, 43 Slocum Drive, South Portland, on the campus of Southern Maine Community College.  Email at keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org or call (799) 799-8574.

Volunteer at Friends of Casco Bay’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Help us with our biggest event of the year, our Wild & Scenic Film Festival!

Thank you for your interest in volunteering at the event. All volunteer spots are currently filled. If you would like to be put on the waitlist and notified if openings occur, please email slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org. Thank you.

You can volunteer on Saturday, November 2 for several different shifts between 11 AM- 6:15 PM.
Please note: Most volunteers are unable to see the films the night of the event. If you sign up to volunteer, please know that we will hold a special viewing of the films just for Film Festival Volunteers on Wednesday, October 16, from 5-7:45 PM at a venue in Cumberland Foreside.

Tasks include:
• hanging banners
• scooping popcorn
• ushering
• raffle ticket selling
• checking in attendees
• handing out swag bags

Coastal Cleanup at Bug Light Park

September is World Cleanup Month. Join us at Bug Light Park for a Coastal Cleanup!

When: Saturday, September 14, 2019, 9 AM – Noon

Where: Bug Light Park

RSVP using the form below.

Questions? Email Sarah at slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org

Do you want to help keep Casco Bay clean? Volunteer to help out at our public coastal cleanup!

Trash is an unsightly blight that makes it hard for everyone to enjoy a special place like Casco Bay. Litter and marine debris on our shores come from many sources. Careless beach goers, boaters, fishing vessels, and other ships can leave trash behind. Stormwater washes trash from yards and parking lots into storm drains that empty into Casco Bay.

When you volunteer to help us with a cleanup, you are:

  • Collecting data on the types and size of materials removed
  • The data is then used locally and internationally for marine debris advocacy efforts
  • Making our shores cleaner and safer
  • Ensuring our coast is a place people can go to recreate and relax
  • Helping protect wildlife
  • Supporting the local economy as our coast is part of Maine’s brand; it as an ideal tourist attraction that creates a stream of revenue that supports our community
  • Protecting our quality of life

Sign up to Volunteer at the Bug Light Cleanup Sept. 14

  • Volunteer Release and Waiver of Liability Form This Release and Waiver of Liability (the “release”) executed on the date this form is completed by the volunteer ("Volunteer") who completes this form releases Friends of Casco Bay, a nonprofit corporation existing under the laws of the State of Maine, and each of their directors, officers, employees, and agents. The Volunteer desires to provide volunteer services for Friends of Casco Bay and engage in activities relating to serving as a volunteer to protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Volunteer understands that the scope of Volunteer’s relationship with Friends of Casco Bay is limited to a volunteer position and that no compensation is expected in return for services provided by Volunteer; that Friends of Casco Bay will not provide any benefits traditionally associated with employment to Volunteer; and that Volunteer is responsible for his/her own insurance coverage in the event of personal injury or illness as a result of Volunteer’s service to Friends of Casco Bay.
    1. Waiver and Release: I, the Volunteer, release and forever discharge and hold harmless Friends of Casco Bay and their successors and assigns from any and all liability, claims, and demands of whatever kind of nature, either in law or in equity, which arise or may hereafter arise from the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay. I understand and acknowledge that this Release discharges Friends of Casco Bay from any liability or claim that I may have against Friends of Casco Bay with respect to bodily injury, personal injury, illness, death, or property damage that may result from the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay and occurring while I am providing volunteer services.
    2. Insurance: Further I understand that Friends of Casco Bay do not assume any responsibility for or obligation to provide me with financial or other assistance, including but not limited to medical, health or disability benefits or insurance of any nature in the event of my injury, illness, death or damage to my property. I expressly waive any such claim for compensation or liability on the part of Friends of Casco Bay beyond what may be offered freely by Friends of Casco Bay in the event of such injury or medical expenses incurred by me.
    3. Medical Treatment: I hereby Release and forever discharge Friends of Casco Bay from any claim whatsoever which arises or may hereafter arise on account of any first-aid treatment or other medical services rendered in connection with an emergency during my tenure as a volunteer with Friends of Casco Bay.
    4. Assumption of Risk: I understand that the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay may include inherently dangerous activities that may be hazardous to me including, but not limited to water sampling and/or attending events that are near or on the ocean, slippery docks, rocks, piers, wharves, and boats. As a volunteer, I hereby expressly assume the risk of injury or harm from these activities and release Friends of Casco Bay from all liability for injury, illness, death, or property damage resulting from the services I provide as a volunteer and occurring while I am providing volunteer services.
    5. Photographic Release: I grant and convey to Friends of Casco Bay all rights, title, and interests in any and all photographs, images, video, or audio recordings of me or my likeness or voice made by Friends of Casco Bay in connection with my providing volunteer services to Friends of Casco Bay.
    6. Email Signup: We would like to contact you from time to time to tell you about important updates about the health of Casco Bay, special events, and how you can support our mission. Please opt in to receiving these updates by sharing your email address below. You can opt out at any time by clicking the unsubscribe links at the bottom of each email.
    7. Other: As a volunteer, I expressly agree that this Release is intended to be as broad and inclusive as permitted by the laws of the State of Maine and that this Release shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Maine. I agree that in the event that any clause or provision of this Release is deemed invalid, the enforceability of the remaining provisions of this Release shall not be affected.
    By completing this form and checking the box below, I express my understanding and intent to enter into this Release and Waiver of Liability willingly and voluntarily.

Is it good green or bad green?

Many thanks to our Volunteer Water Reporters for keeping an eye on algal blooms—and other concerns around Casco Bay.

We shared these things to think about as they surveyed conditions around the Bay this summer. We are sharing it here as others may be interested as well.

A little algae is a good thing.

Nitrogen is one of the three most important “food groups” for plants. It is also one of the primary components of fertilizer, along with phosphorus and potassium. In the ocean, nitrogen is generally the critical element needed for plant growth. Algae, ranging in size from microscopic phytoplankton to sinuous seaweeds, form the base of the ocean food web.

Too much algae—when it covers a large area of the flat—is cause for concern.

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. Large phytoplankton blooms can reduce water clarity.

When the algal mats die, they release carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide mixes with sea water to create carbonic acid, in a process known as coastal acidification. Coastal acidification changes water chemistry and can make it harder for shellfish such as oysters, clams, and mussels to build and maintain their shells.

For more information on excess nitrogen and green algae visit cascobay.org/our-work/science/nuisance-algal-bloom-tracking.

Observing and recording observations of an area regularly helps us track algal blooms around the Bay

We want to see images of algae from the small amounts to “concerning” amounts because we can’t predict where and when an outbreak may become a nuisance algal bloom.

To better document and track algal blooms spreading to worrisome levels, we encourage Water Reporters to choose a specific location to observe weekly, ideally an hour before or after low tide. More details at cascobay.org/water-reporter/#WRalgalblooms.

Go back every week—just not at the same time on the same day the next week! The time of low tide differs every week. For example, if it is low tide at 10 a.m. one Wednesday, low tide will be closer to 4 p.m. the following Wednesday. The tidal cycle changes by about 52 minutes each day. Tide charts can help you plan your visit: https://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Southern%20Coast or use a tide app. You do not need to visit on the same day each week.

Green is really good news when it is eelgrass! 

The presence of eelgrass is a sign of healthy water, so share photos using another hashtag: #eelgrass.

Share your #eelgrass posts in celebration of healthy marine waters! We also want posts of places that used to have eelgrass but don’t now.

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is one of the few flowering plants found in the ocean. It grows in shallow water on sandy or muddy bottom, and its long blades grow to 30 centimeters (11 inches) or more. Eelgrass needs clean, clear water to grow, so the presence of eelgrass is a visible sign that water quality is healthy in a location.

How do you tell the difference between eelgrass and green algae?

Eelgrass is usually a less bright green than green algae and is usually underwater. You may see it at the water’s edge at low tide, when the tops of the blades may be seen floating on the surface, as seen in the photo above. In contrast, green algae is usually further up the shore and is often exposed at low tide.

The image to the right shows eelgrass that has been washed ashore. From a distance, this can look like a green algal bloom.

Why do we love eelgrass?

  • It provides essential habitat for fish, crabs, and shellfish
  • It produces oxygen
  • Its roots anchor sediments
  • Its long, flowing leaves dampen wave action
  • It improves water quality by tempering the effect of ocean acidification because eelgrass captures and stores carbon dioxide.

Because eelgrass is such important habitat, it is essential to not disturb or trample it!

“A drowned island of shelter and security for many animals” is how Rachel Carson described the sinuous sea meadows that grow just beneath the surface of the Bay. Many commercially-important species, including flounder, striped bass, cod, lobsters, crabs, mussels, and scallops, use eelgrass beds as a nursery area, feeding ground, or refuge from predators. Dead eelgrass decomposes into a “sea soup” that is an essential part of the marine food web.

 

Get close! A close-up photo can help us to identify the green growth. 

Be careful where you step. We don’t want you falling and getting hurt, treading on private property, or damaging growing eelgrass.

 

Thank you to our Water Reporters!

And how is your summer going?

Summer is going swimmingly here at Friends of Casco Bay, and we have a lot of good news to share:

  • Our priority legislative bill to create a state-level Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Council was incorporated nearly word-for-word into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change Council bill. An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council passed with strong bipartisan support. In recognition of her yeoman’s work on this issue, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was invited to attend the bill signing by Governor Janet Mills on June 26th.

 

  • Our water quality sampling season is well underway, as we continue to add to our long-term dataset at 22 shoreside and deepwater sites around the Bay. You may see Research Associate Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy making the rounds by land and by sea every few weeks from April through October.

 

  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Since early June, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell has been attending bi-weekly meetings of the South Portland Fertilizer Working Group to assist the City in drafting a fertilizer ordinance.

 

  • July 20 marks the third anniversary of the launch of our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. Our Monitoring Station is fondly nicknamed the “Cage of Science” because its high-tech sensors are housed inside a transformed lobster trap. The instruments measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, and carbon dioxide.
    Photo by Kevin Morris

    Together, they collect data once an hour, every hour, year round.  At this time of year, Mike has to scrape off a new array of marine hitchhikers whenever he hauls up the Cage of Science to download data.

 

  • ‘Tis the season to think about what not to put on your lawn! With five workshops behind her, Associate Director Mary Cerullo has scheduled another five BayScaping presentations for August and beyond. She is happy to talk with neighborhood groups about green yards and a blue Bay.

 

  • There has been such a demand by community groups to volunteer for coastal cleanups and storm drain stenciling projects that Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman and summer intern Alexis Burns have been very busy. They already have hosted seven events with 106 participants who collected an estimated 238 lbs. of trash and stenciled 238 storm drains!

 

  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Our new pumpout boat, Headmaster, was launched on June 10th to pump raw sewage from the marine toilets of recreational boats. Captain Jim Splude, our congenial pumpout boat coordinator, can go about his business more efficiently now with a new boat that has more than twice the holding capacity of the old one.

 

  • Our Water Reporter volunteer project is expanding as we hoped and planned. Nearly 40 enthusiastic volunteers attended our Water Reporter training on June 24. Volunteers continue to sign up to keep watch over specific areas of the Bay.
    July 10 was the first anniversary of Friends of Casco Bay’s launch of the Water Reporter app. To date, 162 volunteers in this observing network have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start!

Our growing observing network on Casco Bay

Yesterday was the first anniversary of our launching Friends of Casco Bay’s Water Reporter effort. To date, 162 volunteers have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start!

A standing-room only crowd of 37 Friends of the Bay gathered in South Portland on June 24th for an informal training on the app. Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman, volunteer Rick Frantz, and summer intern Alexis Burns guided newbies and veterans through the steps to post and comment on what they are seeing on the water.

Sarah explained that using hashtags to identify the type of incident helps organize reports. “If you are having trouble remembering the types of posts we are looking for and the hashtags to use, think WATERS!”

W  #wildlife
A   #algae
T   #trash
E   #erosion
R   #reportpollution
S   #sealevelrise

Although many of the posts expose concerning events happening on the water, Sarah reminded the group that we all care deeply about Casco Bay, so we also should share images that represent the reasons we love living near the Bay. You can see all of the Casco Bay related posts on Water Reporter here.

Great questions from the volunteers showed that they already had a good grasp of the Water Reporter app. After Sarah answered questions, she referred people to our website to reinforce her explanations. We recently updated our guide, www.cascobay.org/water-reporter, to include detailed instructions for posting on iPhone or Android device and troubleshooting tips.

After the training, Trish Peterson posted, “The water reporting training we recently received was confidence building for sure. Water reporting is not only interesting, but fun!”

Our summer intern Alexis Burns explained that she is monitoring nusiance algal blooms at three locations in South Portland on a weekly basis: Mill Cove behind Hannaford Supermarket, Pleasantdale Cove off Broadway, and behind Forest Lawn Cemetery on Lincoln Street.

Several people offered to help track nuisance algal blooms at specific locations around the Bay.

Sarah explained that we are connected to a worldwide network through our engagement with the Water Reporter app, developed by a group called Chesapeake Commons. Erin Hofmann, their Data Science and Communications Lead, told us, “Friends of Casco Bay is one our most active groups in terms of members, number of posts, and endurance of ongoing efforts. Some groups get their volunteers to share reports on one issue or event, and then fade away – but the Friends of Casco Bay team has found some really great ways to train volunteers and then keep them active and engaged on the app.”

The map showing the many locations around the Bay where our volunteers have posted images speaks for itself! Kudos to our Casco Bay Water Reporters!

Water Reporter App

Water Reporters: you are a growing observing network on Casco Bay

Water Reporters, this is your reference for using the Water Reporter app. It summarizes the topics covered at the Water Reporter training event held in June 2019. We are so pleased to see how volunteers like you are having an impact by being Water Reporters.

Types of Water Reporter Posts we want to see

Water Reporter App
“The more people who use Water Reporter, the better chance we have to tackle problems that otherwise may go unnoticed.” – Volunteer Rick Frantz

There are a variety of posts that are helpful. Using hashtags to identify the type of incident you are reporting helps organize your reports. If you are having trouble remembering the types of posts we are looking for and the hashtags to use, think WATERS!

W  #wildlife
A   #algae
T   #trash
E   #erosion
R   #reportpollution
S   #sealevelrise

Resources

We have new resources on our Water Reporter webpage. Some sections that may be of interest to you:

 

You can help us collect observations on two special issues we are tracking.

Nuisance Algal Blooms (#algae)

At the training, several people offered to help track nuisance algal blooms at specific locations around the Bay. We are still looking for volunteers to cover the following locations on a regular basis:

If you would like to take part by visiting one of these sites weekly, slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org“>let me know and I’ll send you the instructions.

Sea Level Rise (#sealevelrise)

#sealevelrise is all about capturing photos of extreme high tides and storm surges and their impacts on our coast. Water Reporters are helping us envision what our coastline may look like in the future as sea levels continue to rise:

  • when there is a King Tide, a predicted extra high tide, or
  • when we have storm surge.

When these two conditions happen at the same time, we see the greatest impact. You can see more about this on the Water Reporter webpage as well. Click the Sea level rise tab in the Special Water Reporter Posting Types section. The next opportunity to document a King Tide will be during the first few days of August.

Need help or can’t find what you are looking for?

Contact me via email: slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org, or text or call at (207) 370-7553.

Please keep your posts and questions coming! We are here to help you with Water Reporter, as it is quickly becoming an essential part of our work.