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Maine Day of Service – January 5, 2019

Sea level is rising and we need your help to capture the changes.

Community members have observed the rise in sea level over the years. Coastal communities are experiencing greater storm surges and King Tides (astronomically high tides that occur a few times year). Maine geologists are planning for a three-foot sea level rise along the Maine coast over the next 100 years. The predicted impacts include beach erosion; landslides; loss of wildlife habitats; and drowned infrastructure, causing more sewage overflows, flooded streets, broken pipes, and costly repairs.

Now we need your help to capture these changes.

On January 5th, Maine Day of Service, you can take the first step towards helping Friends of Casco Bay record these changes over time by becoming a Water Reporter.

Your job will be to take photos during a “normal” high tide using your smartphone and the Water Reporter App. It is easy to take part and everything you need to do can be done between 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM. You will download the Water Reporter App, create an account, find a good location, and take a photo of the coast of Casco Bay between 10 AM and 11 AM. Some steps can be completed in advance, and they are noted below.

We will use the images to shine a light on the impacts of sea level rise and support local, state, and national policies to affect positive change.

  1. Join Water Reporter following these instructions: https://www.cascobay.org/water-reporter/.
    We’d love to help you get set up. Call Sarah Lyman at (207) 370-7553. She is happy to help!  Sarah can help you install the app and get set up quickly over the phone. This can be done before January 5th.
  2. After getting set up with Water Reporter, follow these steps to take a sea level rise photo:
    1. Find a good location: beaches, coastal parks, and public access sites along Casco Bay are perfect locations, for example, Back Cove or East End Beach in Portland, Fort William Park in Cape Elizabeth, Willard Beach, Bug Light, and Spring Point Light Parks in South Portland, Mackworth Island in Falmouth, Wolf Neck State Park in Freeport, Graveyard Point Town Landing in Harpswell, any of the islands in Casco Bay, and many many more places.  Make sure you can stay safe!
    2. Plan your arrival time so that you have enough time to get to your location and take a photo, or series of photos between 10 AM and 11 AM on January 5, 2019. High tide is at 10:30 AM in Portland.
    3. Stand at least two strides up from the water line. Take the photo looking down the shoreline. Include some sort of structure or landmark in your picture, such as a pier, jetty, breakwater, building, or dock, for perspective. This will help you and others take images from the same location and angle in the future.
    4. In the Water Reporter App, click on the center icon with the “+” symbol at the bottom of the screen which will bring you to the “Create Post” page.
    5. Click on the camera icon and choose “camera” or “take a photo”. Ideally, you’ll want your picture to catch the wave as it reaches the highest water line. This definitely requires some patience and luck that no one walks through your picture just as the wave hits the highest point! But, even pictures that show the water line and some water from the waves are still very useful.
    6. Stay in the same location as you complete the rest of the steps: confirm your location by clicking on the location pin, allow Water Reporter to access your location while using the app, and make sure the red dot is in the correct spot on the map (where the photo was taken) and click “Set.”
    7. Share your post with Friends of Casco Bay.
      1. iPhone: Click on the icon with the two figures and then also click on the Friends of Casco Bay logo. You will know you clicked the logo because a small green circle will appear next to it.
      2. Android: Under “Share with your groups” click on the toggle next to Friends of Casco Bay, when the toggle is green it means it will be shared.
      3. Troubleshooting: Sometime the tagging a group feature does not work. If this happens to you, skip this step and continue to post your photo. Once it is posted, you can edit your post and share it with the Friends of Casco Bay group.
    8. Describe more about your photo in the comment field, including our suggested hashtag (you may use multiple hashtags): #sealevelrise.
    9. Click “Save” (iPhone) or the send button (Android) to post your photo.

      Note: All times recorded on the map are in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

It would be really helpful to obtain photos of high tide impacts or effects of storm surges throughout the year! We invite you to revisit this location during other high tides, including King Tides and during heavy rain events, which can be found here: https://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Southern%20Coast/Portland%20Harbor/2019-01. King Tides, though naturally occurring, offer a glimpse of what flooding and future sea level rise will look like in our communities.

Water Temperatures Are Changing in Casco Bay

Our CMS allows us to identify nuances in how the Bay is changing year-to-year in far more detail than we ever could before.

Friends of Casco Bay’s newest workhorse—our Continuous Monitoring Station (CMS)—has been amassing hourly data on the health of the Bay for over two years now.

Research Associate Mike Doan is excited to be able to look at the daily, weekly, and seasonal changes in the Bay in far more detail than ever before. Mike was able to make comparisons between the first two years of data, comparisons we will continue tracking year to year. For example, the graph above shows nuances we could not have documented before:

A. The period of late summer-early fall of 2016 was warmer than the same time period in 2017.

B. The winter of 2017-18 turned colder earlier, with water temperatures dropping below 0°C before the end of December. In the previous winter, water temperatures did not drop below 0°C until late January.

C. Overall, spring and summer of 2018 were warmer than the same periods the year before.

On July 20, 2018, we marked the second anniversary of when our Continuous Monitoring Station began recording data off Yarmouth near the coastal midpoint of Casco Bay. The data are providing insights into how climate change and ocean acidification may be affecting the health of our waters.

The Station consists of a modified lobster trap that houses a data sonde and a carbon dioxide sensor, instruments that collect data on many different aspects of water conditions.

Mike is the architect of our Cage of Science. “It’s been a lot of work to get to this point,” admits Mike, “and it is exciting to see the quality and quantity of data we are collecting.” Colleagues have taken notice of how he has been able to outfit an electronic station with accurate, high-tech monitoring equipment at reasonable cost. Several scientists already are using the continuous data.

We look forward to building the long-term data set that will provide a more complete picture of a changing Casco Bay, information that can help our communities assess, mitigate, and adapt to those changes.

Why is water temperature important?
Temperature influences how much oxygen and carbon dioxide the water can hold, the rate of plant growth and decay, and the movement of currents. Temperatures also impact the geographic distribution of marine life. Menhaden (pogies), typically found in the mid-Atlantic, have been showing up in large numbers in Casco Bay. Lobstermen say that lobsters are remaining farther offshore, with fewer showing up in warmer water areas around inshore eelgrass beds. We are seeing species of phytoplankton that were never before documented in Casco Bay.

Thanks to support from Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and generous donors, our Continuous Monitoring Station collects data once an hour, every hour, year round.

July 26—The Day the Poop Hit the Bay

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper

On July 26, 1.69 million gallons of partially-treated wastewater overflowed from Portland’s East End Sewage Treatment Facility into Casco Bay. This story made the news and captured our attention. That same day, 9.85 million gallons of combined sewer overflows (CSOs), containing raw sewage and toxic chemicals, also entered the Bay. Not a single news outlet reported that fact.

So while swimmers—especially those preparing for the Peaks to Portland Swim—worried about the impact of the partially-treated discharge from the East End plant (wastewater that had already had solids removed and been chlorinated to kill bacteria), we worried about the close to 10 million gallons of a far more toxic slurry that entered the Bay.

On that day, the combined sewer overflow at Mackworth Street discharged 824,000 gallons of untreated water and the CSO at Dartmouth Street discharged 833,000 gallons into Back Cove. The India Street CSO discharged 415,000 gallons and the Long Wharf CSO released 563,000 gallons of untreated water into Portland Harbor.

Polluted water gushes into Casco Bay from a combined sewer overflow beneath Portland’s busy waterfront.
Photo credit: Dave Laliberte

What is a Combined Sewer Overflow?
Combined sewer systems are relics of the past that we are still using today. In Portland and many cities across the county, these systems were designed to collect—and combine— sewage and stormwater in the same pipes. Most of the time, the pipes transport all the collected wastewater to a sewage treatment plant, where it is treated and then discharged into a body of water. But when we experience heavy rains or snowmelt, the runoff entering the system exceeds the capacity of the pipes. When the pipes fill to certain levels, these antiquated systems are designed to dump a mix of stormwater, untreated waste, toxic materials, and debris directly into the ocean, or into nearby streams and rivers that flow into the Bay.
 
 
 

These periodic discharges are far more concerning to us than a one-time breach at the East End facility. For over 25 years, Friends of Casco Bay has been pushing the City to eliminate these combined sewer overflows. We are very supportive of Portland’s current work to separate combined pipes, build storage tanks, and eliminate CSOs. Over the next two years, as Casco Baykeeper, I will represent Friends of Casco Bay as a member of the stakeholder team that helps shepherd a process called integrated planning, which will enable the City to meet these objectives efficiently and in ways that best improve water quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency created the integrated planning approach to help municipalities such as Portland meet multiple Clean Water Act requirements by identifying efficiencies from separate wastewater and stormwater programs and sequencing investments so that the highest priority projects come first. This approach can also lead to more sustainable and comprehensive solutions, such as green infrastructure, that improve water quality and provide multiple benefits that enhance community vitality.

We will continue to participate, as we have for over 25 years, to help ensure that these combined efforts achieve more effective and timely improvements in water quality in Casco Bay.

 

What you can do to reduce stormwater and sewage pollution

  • Support communities’ efforts to upgrade their wastewater and stormwater systems.
  • Employ “green solutions” to reduce stormwater runoff from our own properties:
    • install permeable pavement on driveways and patios, so water percolates into the soil below
    • reduce the size of the lawn; plant shrubs and ground cover, which hold water better then turf
    • use rain barrels to catch runoff from roofs
    • Boaters should use shoreside bathroom facilities or pumpout services to keep raw sewage out of the Bay.
      Our pumpout boat operates from Memorial Day to Halloween. Contact pumpout [at] cascobay [dot] org.

Color by Numbers Volunteer Survey

Enter to Win a One of a Kind Surfboard and Help Us Keep Casco Bay Blue

Coastal Cleanup at Bug Light Park for International Coastal Cleanup Day

Join us at Bug Light Park for International Coastal Cleanup Day!

When: Saturday, September 15, 2018, 9 AM – Noon

Where: Bug Light Park

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

Spring Blooms in Casco Bay

What signs tell you that spring has arrived? Grass turning green? A robin in your yard? Ospreys returning to their nests?

What about huge blooms of phytoplankton in Casco Bay?

The chlorophyll fluorescence measurements in the graph above were recorded by our Continuous Monitoring Station, which has been in place for almost two years.

Chlorophyll fluorescence is a measure that provides an estimate of phytoplankton abundance. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that traps the energy of the sun for photosynthesis.

The graph tells us that this year’s spring bloom of phytoplankton started around the same time as last year, but was bigger in magnitude this year than in 2017.

Why do we care about chlorophyll levels? Phytoplankton are the single-celled plants that make up the foundation of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton also provide half of all the oxygen we breath—so thank phytoplankton for every other breathe you take. You can read more about phytoplankton and chlorophyll in our recent post.

Photography by Kevin Morris

Every hour and every day, the Continuous Monitoring Station—a.k.a our “Cage of Science”—is building a more complete picture of the seasons beneath the Bay. Thanks to support from Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and generous donors, the Station collects measurements of temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and chlorophyll fluorescence year-round. Every other week, Research Associate Mike Doan cleans and calibrates the equipment, and downloads and graphs the data to track conditions in the Bay.

Our Warmest Time of Year is Getting Warmer

Although temperature averages fluctuate year-to-year, the black lines show a trend of warming water at our sentinel sites over ten years.

 

According to Research Associate Mike Doan, Casco Bay’s critters are experiencing longer summers and warmer autumns.

For 25 years, Friends of Casco Bay staff scientists monitored water quality every month of the year at three deepwater sentinel sites in the Bay, from surface to sea floor, aboard our research vessel. This data set indicates that the waters of Casco Bay have been getting warmer.

A comparison of the ten most recent years of data collected from August through October (2007-2016), at these sentinel sites, shows there has been a significant jump in water temperatures in late summer and early autumn (see graph).

Concerned about a changing Casco Bay, we launched a Continuous Monitoring Station* in 2016 to help us better understand the chemistry of our coastal waters. The Station consists of electronic monitoring equipment housed in a converted lobster trap. This “Cage of Science” collects an hour-by-hour record of conditions in the Bay, including temperature, carbon dioxide, oxygen, pH, salinity, and chlorophyll.

While we may appreciate being able to swim in the ocean well into the fall, there are significant downsides to warming water. We run the risk of seeing impacts similar to what others are reporting elsewhere in the Gulf of Maine:

More invasive species may move in
A change in the composition of species could affect the ocean food web
More bacterial outbreaks and nuisance and harmful algal blooms may result
The amount of oxygen available for marine life may decrease, especially in the months of August through October
These and other concerns are all the more reason for us to continue to closely monitor the changes happening in Casco Bay.

*Maintenance of our Continuous Monitoring Station is funded, in part, by Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and by generous donors like you.

Back Cove August 2nd, 2017

Our “Slime Watchers” Are Keeping an Eye on the Bay

Back Cove August 2nd, 2017
Friends of Casco Bay volunteer Deb Dawson took this algal bloom photo over Portland’s Back Cove this summer to document how much the green slime had spread.

If you have ever thought about buying a drone but could not figure out what to use it for, take a lesson from Deb Dawson, a professional photographer and one of our volunteer water quality monitors. This past summer, Deb took her talents to even greater heights—right over Back Cove in Portland with her new drone outfitted with a video camera.

Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell, who regularly walks Baxter Boulevard, had reported seeing green algae growth spreading across Back Cove. She says, “We know that nitrogen fertilizes green plants in the ocean just as it does on land. It would be great if we could determine what is causing this bloom – excess fertilizer? – stormwater runoff? – sewage discharges? – a lack of predators? – car and factory emissions? – or all of the above!”

Before launching her drone, Deb checked with the Portland Jetport to make sure the route she had scouted out would not interfere with the traffic pattern of landing and departing planes.

Deb’s images confirmed what Cathy had feared: the Cove was quickly becoming carpeted in green slime. An email alert went out to Friends of Casco Bay members and the news media.

Other “green slime” reports have come in from other parts of Casco Bay. Report excess green slime by emailing slimewatchers@cascobay. org. Take a photo and tell us the location, with coordinates and landmarks, if you can.