We are seeing the effects of climate change in Casco Bay: rising seas, rising temperatures, more harmful and nuisance algal outbreaks, increasing precipitation, and acidifying waters.
The effects of climate change are here now.
Casco Bay is invaluable to the economy and quality of life in Maine. A healthy Bay is vital to our lobster and clam fisheries and to a rapidly expanding aquaculture sector. Tourists from near and far soak up the scenery, sail on our world-class waters, and partake of the local food scene highlighted by fresh seafood. The Bay’s open waters, protected coves, and hundreds of islands provide endless recreational opportunities from birding and angling to diving, boating, and exploring. Recruitment and retention of workforce talent in the region are enhanced by the allure of the Bay. A day spent on Casco Bay can inspire and transform your outlook on life.
But Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly. The data that Friends of Casco Bay has been collecting from monitoring water quality conditions for nearly three decades reveal that our waters are warming and rising, and the basic chemistry of the Bay is changing.
The ecological mix of marine life in the Bay is in flux. Our native crab species, Jonah and rock, are being displaced by green crabs that are decimating soft-shell clam populations and eelgrass beds in the intertidal zones. Once-abundant intertidal mussel beds are almost nonexistent, sea star populations seem to be fluctuating wildly, and sand dollars have disappeared.
Rising temperatures and nutrient overloads lead to nuisance algal blooms that smother coves and clam flats with green slime. Worse, we have seen an influx of harmful algal blooms that can threaten human health; some of these harmful species have never before been seen in the Gulf of Maine.
Rising seas, dramatic storm events, and increasing amounts of stormwater runoff are becoming more problematic. Our roads, coastal buffers, culverts, and other infrastructure are being washed away when large storms coincide with high tides. Torrential downpours cause massive runoff events, intensifying erosion and leading to overloads of nutrients, sediments, and organic materials gushing into coastal waters. High winds and storm surges cause further erosion and damage.
We know the world’s oceans are acidifying and warming at unprecedented rates; the Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming marine waterbodies on earth. More changes are on the horizon in unforeseeable ways, which will impact our economy, heritage, and way of life.
Unfortunately, climate change is framing the need for our work all too well.
It is up to us.
Friends of Casco Bay has been shouldering more and more of the water quality monitoring and protection work that government used to do. State government increasingly is dependent on our data collection and advocacy efforts, to ensure that the limits in pollution discharge permits protect water quality, to help keep the state in compliance with Clean Water Act standards, and to respond to emerging threats to the health of our waters. Resistance to exploring climate resiliency planning and attempts to roll back both Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act protections at the federal level have coincided with financial constrictions at all government levels.
The cavalry is not coming to rescue us.
In Casco Bay, other data collection efforts come and go with the short attention spans of limited funding cycles. In contrast, Friends of Casco Bay has been collecting water quality data in the nearshore estuarine environment for almost three decades, and we intend to continue these efforts over the long haul.
There are almost no long-term, year-round data sets being amassed in nearshore coastal environments, the places where we most interact with the sea. At one time, the federal government oversaw and generously funded the collection of offshore oceanographic data. Buoy networks such as the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System provided critical information about offshore conditions. But buoys can be prohibitively expensive to maintain. The 2008 recession led to the removal of one-third of the offshore buoys in the northeast region, and the national observing system was reorganized and downsized. In the face of the threats that climate change poses to the health of the oceans, this is ironic and shortsighted.
Casco Bay belongs to all of us. By working together as a community, we must continue to do everything we can to protect the health of this vital resource for our time and for future generations. We have the expertise, the relationships, and the credibility to do this work. It is up to us to move the work forward.
Central to our work is advocating for solutions to environmental challenges facing the Bay. Using scientific data to support our positions has been invaluable. Key to our effectiveness is the engagement of our community in understanding how the Bay is changing and inviting participation in advocacy and hands-on efforts.
Through our Baykeeping Program, we use a collaborative approach to build and maintain support for clean water initiatives and policies at the local, state, and national levels. We create and participate in collaborative networks to improve and protect the health of our coastal waters.
The acidification of our coastal waters is a huge issue. Friends of Casco Bay, in conjunction with Island Institute and other stakeholders, formed the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to continue the work of Maine’s short-lived but effective Ocean Acidification Study Commission in 2015. In order to tackle the threat of acidification, we need good data as we coordinate our efforts locally and regionally.
In addition, we:
- Work at the local level continuing to ensure Clean Water Act permits require reductions in nitrogen loads and improvements in acidity levels.
- Work at the state level to move climate change policy forward.
- Work at the federal level in collaboration with Waterkeeper Alliance (the international network of Waterkeepers that we helped form in 1999), to prevent rollbacks to the Clean Water Act, support reductions in carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases, and promote policy improvements.
- Update our community on what the data are telling us by translating them into meaningful infographics, presentations, and stories that are accessible and understandable to the public.
- Shine the spotlight on how changes in the Bay are impacting the burgeoning aquaculture industry, and vice versa.
- Advocate for improved sewer and stormwater systems that can handle increasing loads from a growing coastal population and from more intense weather events.
- Explore innovative local solutions.
- Engage residents through invitations to public presentations, opportunities to volunteer, and calls to action to communicate with decision makers as they vote on policy changes.
Whatever else may lie ahead, your support helps ensure that we have the scientific technology and the staffing needed to track the health of the Bay, communicate what we see, and respond to opportunities to improve and protect the health of the Bay.
How this campaign came to be
We are using the most up-to-date technology to better understand how Casco Bay is changing. Your support will foster a decade’s worth of data from an expanded array of Continuous Monitoring Stations and help build on our nearly 30-year data set established through our other long-term monitoring efforts.
At its earliest inception, our Water Quality Monitoring Program was designed to address the question “How healthy is Casco Bay?” For more than 25 years, our staff, along with volunteers we trained in EPA-certified water quality monitoring techniques, collected data on the health of the Bay. Our efforts produced snapshots of conditions in the Bay on temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, clarity, and other parameters, at scores of sites. As a result of these efforts, we identified the healthy and challenged areas of the Bay. These data sets have been foundational and invaluable at scoping out conditions in various regions of the Bay. Our staff continues to add to this long-term, snapshot data set. We collect these data twice a month from spring through fall, at sites across the Bay (see chart to left).
It became clear to us that the fundamental question we needed to be asking had shifted to “How are conditions changing?” To address that question with statistical credibility, we needed to be collecting data more frequently. As we learned more about the dynamics of ocean and coastal acidification, we realized collecting pH measurements was not enough. We also needed to be assessing carbon dioxide, alkalinity, calcium carbonate saturation, and other aspects of water quality we were not (yet) collecting. Further, there were no long-term, hourly, year-round data collection efforts going on anywhere in the Bay.
In response, Friends of Casco Bay designed the Continuous Monitoring Station, affectionately known as our “Cage of Science.” Having worked with electronic data sonde technology for more than 25 years, our staff assembled components that measure the most important data parameters for assessing the effects of climate change on water quality. The design presents the perfect balance between the need for scientific accuracy and resolution in how the data are measured, and the need for cost efficiency and ease of maintenance compared to offshore buoy technology.
A station consists of a data sonde with sensors that simultaneously measure a number of parameters, and a device that measures carbon dioxide. These electronic devices are suspended in a lobster trap, our “Cage of Science,” and secured on the ocean floor off Yarmouth, in relatively healthy water. The Station collects data once an hour, every hour, year round.
Thanks in part to support from the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, we have been operating this first Station at Cousins Island in Yarmouth since July 2016. We now have a complete understanding of all the operating requirements to service and maintain an array of three Stations. In addition, we are producing data products and engaging our community around how conditions are changing.
Where do we go from here?
While we are embracing technology to better understand a changing Bay, science alone is not enough. Our work employs a three-part strategy: collecting and presenting relevant data, communicating our findings to members of the community to explore how to adapt to or mitigate the changes we are seeing, and leveraging that engagement to help enact policy and behavioral changes that will help protect the health of the Bay.
Our array of three Continuous Monitoring Stations will collect a vital suite of data that will allow us to look beyond seasonal, daily, and tidal influences, to detect and document how climate change and other emerging coastal stressors may be affecting the health of the Bay.
- Temperature: Are our waters continuing to get warmer? How quickly?
- pH: Is the overall trend toward acidity?
- pCO2 (partial pressure of carbon dioxide): Is Casco Bay absorbing more carbon dioxide, a key climate change driver? Is the source of excess CO2 coming from the atmosphere or from productivity dynamics?
- Omega aragonite (saturation state of calcium carbonate): Is shell-building material available for clams, mussels, oysters, and other sea creatures that require calcium carbonate? Is it available at critical times during their growth cycles?
- Water depth: How fast is the water rising in Casco Bay?
- Salinity: Can we see how changes in the circulation and weather patterns are impacting salinity levels?
- Dissolved oxygen: Are we starting to see compromised levels of dissolved oxygen? Can we tie these to decaying algal blooms, temperature increases, or other factors?
- Chlorophyll fluorescence: What do phytoplankton levels tell us about the base of the food chain? Does the frequency of spikes of chlorophyll correspond to algal outbreaks or other episodic events?
- Turbidity: If the cloudiness or haziness of the water can be impacted by stormwater runoff, are our waters becoming more turbid?
You can see the most up-to-date data anytime on our Continuous Monitoring Station page.
Budget for Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund
Climate Change and Casco Bay:
A Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement
$1.5 Million Over 10 Years
Technology to deploy three Continuous Monitoring Stations and equip seasonal sampling program: $240,000
Ten Years of Deploying and Maintaining Technology
Equipment insurance, annual repair, annual pCO2 calibration, and replacements: $228,000
Precalibration cleaning, calibration, equipment preparation, travel, data downloadig, quality assurance checks: $260,000
Analyzing and Communicating Data and Engaging the Casco Bay Community
Data calculations and analyses, graphics development and engagement of community in discussions and advocacy: $636,000
Campaign Costs: $136,000
Fund Total: $1,500,000
We invite you to look at the specifics of how we intend to use the Fund:
For a printable one page budget, click here.
For a full budget with the details of how we plan to utilize the Fund over ten years, click here.
Invitation to Participate
As the effects of climate change impact conditions in Casco Bay, we will be here to monitor our coastal waters and work with our community to advocate for apt responses. The need for this work is both disappointing and exciting. It is our sincerest hope that the excitement and relevance of this work will resonate with you, as well.
We invite you to consider making a significant contribution to the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. There are many ways to make donations, and we will be honored to explore options with you.
Thank you for partnering with us to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay.
Cathy L. Ramsdell
Friends of Casco Bay
Your financial support makes a difference. . .
Casco Bay matters — and so does your support.
We invite you to give as generously as you can to our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. There are many ways to give to the campaign, and you may use the giving vehicles that work best for you.
Gifts of cash
The simplest means of supporting the work of Friends is to donate cash, either by cash, check, or credit card.
Make gifts of stock
We welcome gifts of securities to support the Fund. A gift of appreciated securities not only will help the Bay but may also result in capital gains tax savings. To initiate a gift of stock, please contact Communications and Development Director Will Everitt.
Spread your gift over time
You may pledge to the campaign and schedule donations toward your pledge over time: monthly, quarterly, yearly, or whatever schedule works for you. You may complete your pledge through a combination of ways, including checks, credit card donations, stock gifts, and planned gifts. You may pledge via our online form or by contacting us.
Double your gift through corporate matching
Does your employer match charitable contributions? If so, you can double your impact by requesting that your company match your gift. Be sure to send us the required forms for us to process the matching gift request.
Join our Anchor Society through making a planned gift.
A planned gift may provide you with significant benefits through future estate tax savings, income tax savings, and a reduction of capital gains tax. Planned gifts can include: bequests, charitable gift annuities, gifts of life insurance, IRA charitable rollovers, and retirement plan beneficiary designations. Contact us to receive our Anchor Society brochure.
We love hearing from you. If you have a question, would like to have a confidential discussion about making a planned gift, or would like to receive a copy of our Gift Acceptance Policy, please contact Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell [(207) 838-1572] or Communications and Development Director Will Everitt [(207) 671-1315].
Thank you for being a Friend of Casco Bay
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 and 2019, 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 served as the coordinator of MOCA for two years.
- Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca serves on the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council. The Council is working to create a climate change action plan to make Maine a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- 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
More than 470 volunteers assist us each year. A board of 15 directors and five honorary directors oversee our efforts. We are known as a great place to work. Taken as a whole, our staff has more than 100 years of service to the Bay through working with our organization. Our balance sheet remains strong, with ample working capital and no longterm debt.