Home » Our Work » Baykeeping

Baykeeping

Our Baykeeping Program exists to advocate for solutions to environmental challenges facing Casco Bay. In short, Baykeeping is about reducing pollution in our waters. This is our most visible program and it has generated significant permanent and positive changes for the Bay.

Who does Casco Bay belong to?  

Casco Bay belongs to all of us. Friends of Casco Bay is committed to building a sense of shared ownership throughout our community, to help protect the health of this incredible resource, Casco Bay. We do that in many ways through our Baykeeping Program.

Friends of Casco Bay is a community of people who share a love for Casco Bay. Our founders chose the name FRIENDS of Casco Bay with purposeful intent. Our community engagement opportunities provide a wide array of activities for citizens to assist us in our work and become advocates and champions for Casco Bay. 

Our advocacy is focused on improving and protecting the health of Casco Bay. We see water as fundamental habitat and work to ensure that public policies keep the importance of health of the Bay in mind.

We advocate for new protections, laws, ordinances, policies, and rules when simply educating the public is not enough to address a threat to the health of the Bay. We advocate against rollbacks to existing environmental laws and new policies that would be detrimental to the health of our coastal waters.

For us, advocacy is about relationship building. We work to find common ground and listen.

Our Casco Baykeeper Advocates for the Bay

Our Casco Baykeeper is our primary public advocate.  The Casco Baykeeper speaks out on behalf of the health of the Bay in public, acting as the eyes, ears and voice for the Bay.

Our Casco Baykeeper advocates for compliance with environmental laws, responds to citizen complaints, identifies and takes action on issues that may harm the health of the Bay, and works with our community to develop appropriate remedies to address problems that threaten the health of our waters. The Casco Baykeeper is just one of hundreds of tenacious Waterkeepers around the world. Each keeper acts as the chief advocate for their waterbody.

Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper Photograph by Kevin Morris

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is our lead advocate and ambassador for Casco Bay, whether on the water or in meetings to assess the potential impacts of activities around the Bay. Ivy has lived in Greater Portland for over 20 years, and she brings an impressive local knowledge of the ecology and environmental issues of Casco Bay. Prior to joining Friends of Casco Bay, she was already working on a host of environmental issues critical to the health of our waters—including ocean acidification, stricter limits on waste discharge permits, management of stormwater runoff, nitrogen polluntion, and marine resource management.

Ivy’s professional experience also includes teaching marine and environmental science, advocating for stronger protections for Lake Champlain, and working for the state of Vermont on policies to protect and promote state parks and forests. At the Conservation Law Foundation, Ivy worked on Many matters integral to the health of Casco Bay.

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Research Associate Mike Doan Photograph by Kevin Morris

As our designated advocate for the Bay, our Baykeeper is working to:

  • Ensure Clean Water Act discharge permits require needed reductions in nitrogen loads
  • Build partnerships to address nitrogen pollution and coastal acidification through the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership
  • Reduce and eliminate Combined Sewer Overflows from Portland’s stormwater and sewer system
  • Observe nuisance and harmful algal blooms
  • Support legislation on marine debris

Our Staff, Board & Volunteers are advocates, too

While Ivy Frignoca has the title of Baykeeper, all of our staff and volunteers work to protect Casco Bay through our Baykeeping Program. We are the voice of the Bay before the Legislature, during public hearings and regulatory processes, with the scientific community, and in educational venues across the region. What we say is based on data we have collected over the past quarter-century and the changes we are observing.

Friends of Casco Bay’s professional staff is engaged in our Baykeeping Program, from advocacy and research, to community engagement, and hands-on pollution prevention.

Our Board of Directors and other Volunteers round out the “neighborhood watch” concept for Casco Bay. We count our many Volunteers among our closest circle of Friends. A cadre of dedicated volunteers assist us with water quality monitoring projects, observation reporting,  coastal cleanups, storm drain stenciling, assistance with presentations and events, and advocating for the Bay. 

We ask the community to weigh in on issues

We do not speak for the Bay alone. We rely on you to advocate for the Bay, too! Whether it is writing a letter to a legislator, talking to your neighbor about fertilizers or making changes in your own daily life, the success of our work and the Bay’s health depend on you.

Be an Advocate for Casco Bay

In order to help our closest Friends speak for the Bay, we provide trainings and workshops on issues that Friends of Casco Bay is addressing, providing talking points and background information to enable people to converse skillfully with neighbors, friends, and elected officials about issues impacting the environmental health of the Bay. These workshops feature our Bay Papers—short primers on issues facing the Bay—which have suggestions for conversation starters to engage listeners, a brief overview of a threat, information on what Friends of Casco Bay is doing to confront the issue, and what individuals can do to help address the problem.

How do we do advocacy?

Photograph by Kevin Morris

Our advocacy is always focused on the health of Casco Bay. We pursue policies, laws and limits that are based on sound science.

We prefer to collaborate with community members, local businesses, and decision makers, to find solutions which are both environmentally sound and economically viable. We understand that real change often occurs incrementally, one step at a time. To foster this collaborative approach, we help convene collaborations to work on an issue—and we are invited to collaborations convened by others.

We are fortunate to live in a place where so many people care and are willing to work together. We describe ourselves as the “eyes and ears of the Bay.” With the extreme positions that people are staking out these days, listening often seems to be a forgotten art. Hearing what others have to say about protecting the health of Casco Bay is a key part of our work.

Our advocacy positions are data-driven and based on science. Much of the data we use has been gathered by our expert staff and our dedicated volunteers. Our water quality monitoring has enabled the State of Maine to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to reclassify parts of Casco Bay to higher water quality designations, setting tougher controls on future discharges. More recently, our data has been used to require nitrogen testing and where necessary, reducing nitrogen loads in wastewater discharge permits.

Our advocacy efforts take place in many forums—from town halls to the halls of the State House, to Washington, D.C. Sometimes, we can protect the health of the Bay using education, convincing one homeowner or business at a time to change their practices. Other times, especially with regional or more complex problems, we advocate for the enforcement of existing laws and for the creation of new laws.

Laws

At the state and federal level, we advocate for good legislation and against bad laws that affect Casco Bay. While community engagement and collaboration are important strategies we rely on, sometimes the force of law is required to protect the health of the Bay. We work to remain a credible source of information for decision makers in Augusta and Washington, D.C., as well as locally.

Ordinances

Maine is proud of its heritage of home rule, which means municipalities can pass laws that are more protective of public health than existing state and federal laws. Much of our work is done within individual communities, collaborating with municipal officials and citizens groups to enact ordinances at the town level to provide local solutions to a broad range of environmental issues. For example, ordinances we supported to reduce the use of plastics and polystyrene in Portland and ordinances to restrict pesticide use in South Portland and Portland, have become models for surrounding communities.

Learn more about our advocacy efforts.

We use the Clean Water Act to defend the Bay

Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk

In our line of work, the federal Clean Water Act is the most important piece of legislation ever passed. The Clean Water Act classifies waterbodies and requires that we ensure each waterbody meets the criteria of its class. When a waterbody fails to meet criteria, the Clean Water Act requires that it be restored. The law authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state agencies, and even private citizens to take legal action against those who violate the regulations of the Act. The Clean Water Act sets a basic structure for regulating the discharge of pollutants from pipes or other conveyances known as point sources. It sets limits through permits that renew every five years. We track and comment on permits for sources that discharge in the Casco Bay watershed to ensure all Clean Water Act permits help protect the health of Casco Bay.

Fifty years ago, sailing magazines urged boaters to steer clear of Casco Bay’s putrid smelling waters as untreated sewage and industrial pollution ran straight into the Bay. Then along came the Clean Water Act of 1972, thanks to Maine Senator Edmund Muskie.

“Can we afford clean water? Can we afford rivers and lakes and streams and oceans which continue to make life passable on this planet?  Can we afford life itself? … These questions answer themselves.” This impassioned speech by Senator Muskie convinced his colleagues to support his landmark legislation to protect the nation’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, and drinking water, Senator Muskie was trying to alert Congress to the threats to our coastal waters, rivers, and lakes, from raw sewage, industrial discharges, ship wastes, and oil spills. The goal of this historic law was to ensure fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters for all Americans.

Thanks to Senator Muskie and bipartisan support for passage of the Clean Water Act, we have tools in place that help remove primary sources of raw sewage and bacteria from the Bay.

We also have water quality standards and limits on the discharge of certain pollutants, such as mercury and ammonia, known to be hazardous to marine and human health.

Nearly a half century after Senator Muskie campaigned for clean water, we are making progress, but we still face challenges to fulfill the promise of the Clean Water Act.  

We are a Waterkeeper Alliance founding member

Waterkeeping in the United States began on New York’s Hudson River in 1966 when commercial and recreational fishermen united to save the river from polluters. The success of Hudson Riverkeeper inspired stewardship programs for other water bodies. Friends of Casco Bay became the seventh Waterkeeper program in the nation when Joe Payne became the first Casco Baykeeper in 1991. In 1999, these pioneers, along with environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., formed a coalition, Waterkeeper Alliance. The organization has become international and has grown to include more than 330 Waterkeeper organizations and affiliates in 40 countries throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. 

A Waterkeeper is a full-time, privately-funded, non-governmental advocate for a particular water body.  Waterkeepers differ from other environmental advocates in that they must have a boat to patrol their water body. While they may do education and community engagement, they must be ready to stand up to protect their bay, river, lake or bayou on the public’s behalf. 

The Waterkeeper concept evolved from gamekeepers during the Middle Ages in Great Britain, who were responsible for maintaining private trout and salmon streams for wealthy landowners. The American interpretation of this role is much more egalitarian, as Waterkeepers safeguard our waterways for everyone. 

Baykeeping means being on the water

Photograph by Kevin Morris

Our Baykeeper vessel R/V Joseph E. Payne provides a safe and reliable platform for investigating pollution incidents, maintaining visibility in the community, and conducting scientific studies and data collection year-round.

When concerned citizens call us about a fish kill or a nuisance algal bloom, we take to our boat to check oxygen levels in the area. We use our Baykeeper boat to look for the source of illegal discharges and leaking pipes. Our boat gives us the opportunity to provide stakeholders with a water-level view of issues we feel merit public attention.

While our 28-foot Baykeeper vessel is our most visible boat, we maintain a small fleet of other boats to get us wherever we need to be on the Bay. 

How is Friends of Casco Bay different from other Waterkeeper programs

Many Waterkeeper programs around the world have to rely on lawsuits and fines to bring polluters into compliance with environmental regulations. Friends of Casco Bay’s Baykeeper Program emphasizes collaboration over confrontation. Our first step is always to bring stakeholders together to try to find collaborative solutions. This “work with” approach is grounded in the shared environmental values of those who live, work, and play on Casco Bay. 

Our science-based advocacy has earned us the credibility to raise troubling issues, ask the hard questions, and bring together disparate stakeholders to take action on threats to the Bay, such as oil spills, polluted runoff, and cruise ship discharges.

The bottom line is to stop pollution using whatever tools are necessary and successful.

A Brief History of our Casco Baykeepers

Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell, Casco Baykeeper Emeritus Joe Payne and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca Photograph by Kevin Morris

Friends of Casco Bay was founded as an all-volunteer organization in 1989. Our founders soon realized they needed a full-time advocate for the Bay, and hired Joe Payne as the first Casco Baykeeper in 1991. He served in that role for nearly 24 years.

Cathy Ramsdell served as both Executive Director and Casco Baykeeper pro tem in 2015, during the year-long search for a replacement after Joe’s retirement. 

Our current Baykeeper, Ivy Frignoca, joined our staff in January 2016.

Learn more about our Baykeeping work:

Tending Portland’s public spaces without pesticides

June 29, 2018

On July 1, Portland’s Pesticide Use Ordinance goes into effect for public properties. (In January, 2019, restrictions on applying synthetic pesticides on private property will go into effect.) We asked City Arborist Jeff Tarling how the Parks Department may manage the City’s 721 acres of parks, playgrounds, trails, fields, and… Read more

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper

June 22, 2018

As always, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has been on the move, working across Casco Bay, the state—and the nation—on efforts to protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. A peek into her appointment calendar shows some of the highlights so far this year, as she continued to track Legislative issues… Read more

Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State by Providing Exemptions to Municipal Ordinances That Regulate Pesticides

March 19, 2018

March 21, 2018 Senator Paul Davis Representative Danny Martin State and Local Government Committee c/o Legislative Information Office 100 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333 Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1853: An Act To Ensure the Safe and Consistent Regulation of Pesticides throughout the State… Read more

Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper

Opposing the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program

February 26, 2018

Ms. Kelly Hammerle, Chief National Oil and Gas Leasing Program Development and Coordination Branch Leasing Division, Office of Strategic Resources, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) 45600 Woodland Road Sterling, VA 20166-9216 February 26, 2018 Re: Docket ID: BOEM-2017-0074: Comments opposing the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing… Read more

Cathy Ramsdell Interview

Protecting the Bay from Pesticides

February 6, 2018

We are delighted to share that in January 2018, the City of Portland passed one of the strongest ordinances in the state to restrict pesticide use. Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell served for nearly a year on a task force to help the city develop the ordinance. She often found herself… Read more

Your eyes on the Bay–new directions in citizen science

January 26, 2018

Casco Bay, like ocean waters around the world, is changing and changing quickly. We are evolving our water quality monitoring to stay on top of the science of how the Bay may be changing. At our Volunteer Appreciation Celebration this week [click here for photos!], we announced that we are launching… Read more