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Headmaster sets the standards for a clean Casco Bay


Captain Pam Parker christened the newest member of Friends of Casco Bay’s fleet with the words, “We name you Headmaster. May the elements be kind, your captain wise, and the Bay rejoice in your work.”  More than 100 Friends of the Bay cheered as Portland Yacht Service’s giant blue travel lift Babe lowered our newly-named pumpout boat into Casco Bay. Our 26-foot pumpout boat is a very unique vessel that siphons raw sewage from the holding tanks of recreational boats, transferring the wastewater for shoreside treatment.

The ceremony on Monday, June 10, was emceed by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell, who explained that the boat’s name, Headmaster, was chosen from the nearly 400 names submitted by the public. Fittingly, the name puns on the nautical term for a toilet — “head” — and gives a nod to the educational and ambassadorial role of our Vessel Pumpout Program.  To see photos from this event, visit the photo album on our Facebook page.

Through her work overseeing the state pumpout program at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Pam has been the facilitator for the federal support for our pumpout program for over two decades. Funding from the federal Clean Vessel Act financed 90% of the cost of the new boat. Our Pumpout Program has kept over 200,000 gallons of raw sewage out of the Bay since 1995.

Headmaster, built expressly for Friends of Casco Bay by Marine Boatbuilders of Warwick, Rhode Island, has a 650-gallon sewage holding tank, twice the capacity of our earlier pumpout boat, Wanda. From 1995 through 2018, Wanda pumped out marine toilets at marinas and moorings from South Portland to Freeport. She continues to be a champion for clean water in her new home at the Boston Sailing Center in Boston Harbor.

Headmaster’s Captain, Pumpout Coordinator Jim Splude is our ambassador on the Bay. In addition to servicing recreational boats from May through October, he is happy to teach customers how to perform the task themselves. Jim also educates boaters on the importance of keeping sewage, bacteria, and excess nitrogen out of the Bay.

Our Pumpout Program has done more for the health of the Bay than just serving recreational vessels. In order to become a No Discharge Area, a designation that protects our waters from cruise ship pollution, the EPA required that there be adequate pumpout facilities throughout the region before granting this designation. We encouraged local marinas to install their own pumpout stations while leading an advocacy effort to encourage Maine to request a no discharge status for the Bay. Our Pumpout Program then set the stage for Casco Bay to become Maine’s first federally-designated No Discharge Area, which prohibits vessels from dumping treated and untreated sewage.

This mobile pumpout service is part of our efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution from sewage, fertilizers, stormwater runoff, and air pollution. An overdose of nitrogen in coastal waters can trigger nuisance and harmful algal blooms that may reduce water clarity, prevent juvenile clams from settling, and suffocate animals in the mud. When these plants die, decomposing bacteria can deplete oxygen needed by marine life and create acidic conditions that make it harder for shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and oysters, to build and maintain their shells.

Learn more about our mobile pumpout service at: https://www.cascobay.org/how-to-help/pumpout/.

It Takes a Village

Rick Frantz keeps an eye on Casco Bay as he commutes between his home on Great Diamond Island and Andy’s Old Port Pub, the restaurant that he and his wife Jennifer Fox own on the Portland waterfront. When he sees something out of the ordinary, good or bad, he takes a photo using the Water Reporter app on his smartphone. During his work day, Rick may pause to capture images of an extreme high tide flooding the waterfront or trash adrift in the Bay.

Rick was one of the first friends of Casco Bay to start using the app that is building a network of observers to document, organize, and share their posts. Rick is an incredible ambassador for this volunteer effort. He has been recruiting friends and neighbors to join the observing community.

Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman oversees the program. She says, “Water Reporter is transforming how we connect with our volunteers to identify and help us address threats to the Bay, building a community around clean water.”

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

Currently, 114 Water Reporters are recording their observations on how the Bay may be changing. These observations can be cause for worry or for celebration. One day, Rick posted a photo of a large accumulation of fish scales floating near a wharf. His report, complete with date, time, and location, led to the Department of Environmental Protection halting unpermitted discharges from a fishing vessel.

Another day, Rick noticed a new patch of eelgrass growing off Diamond Cove, a sign of healthy waters. Having a smartphone or camera at the ready encourages volunteers to capture unusual events, like his neighbor’s sighting of nearly 200 cormorants and gulls herding fish onto the shoreline of Great Diamond Island.

A photo is worth a thousand…

Rick's Water Reporter Post on #sealevelrise
A screenshot of one of Rick’s posts on Water Reporter

In keeping with our focus on climate change, we encourage volunteers to use Water Reporter to monitor sea level rise. King Tides, the highest tides of the year, give us a glimpse of the future. The photos can 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.

Chesapeake Commons created the Water Reporter app in partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance (of which we are a founding member). Says Erin Hofmann, Data Science and Communications Lead for Chesapeake Commons, “Friends of Casco Bay is one our most active groups in terms of members, number of posts, and ongoing efforts. Water Reporter has been around since 2014. Every winter, posts would slow to a trickle or stop altogether. I couldn’t believe how frequently posts kept rolling in from Maine this winter — bucking our long-held belief that people don’t engage in environmental efforts in the cold months. Leave it to Mainers to get outside, regardless of the weather, to keep the observations flowing!”

The more of us who are keeping watch on the environmental health of the Bay, the better protected our coastal waters can be. Sign up to become part of our observing network or just check on what is being posted at cascobay.org/waterreporter.

Mike and Ivy on the Boat

Casco Bay Matters: Advancing the conversation—and action—on climate change

Mike and Ivy on the Boat

Living close to the ocean, Casco Bay residents are witnessing the effects of climate change happening here now: warming water temperatures, increasing ocean acidity, and more severe storms. We too are seeing the changes in our data and when we are out on the Bay.

From April through October, our Research Associate Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca are on the Bay frequently to monitor water quality, follow up on pollution reports, or meet with partners on issues best understood from the water. Their vigilance gives them a firsthand view of changes happening in our coastal waters.

Mike, Ivy, and Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell shared these and other observations in our first-ever Casco Bay Matters series. Nearly 400 people attended Ocean Acidification, Climate Change and You presentations about what we are learning about a changing Casco Bay.

They shared how Mainers are working together to shape policies and actions to respond to these threats. Ivy is coordinating the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership, a diverse coalition of scientists, lawmakers, aquaculturalists, and seafood harvesters, who collaborate on research and strategies to confront the threats that climate change and acidification pose to Maine’s marine resources. We also are working with legislators to pass a bill to create a state-sponsored Science and Policy Advisory Council on the Impact of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species.

Video Recordings of Casco Bay Matters:

Casco Bay Matters Intro Video

If you missed our Casco Bay Matters presentations of Ocean Acidification, Climate Change and You, you are in luck — our stalwart volunteer Deb Dawson recorded and edited videos of our South Portland (March 25, 2019) event. See the series of three videos on our YouTube channel.

Highlights from Casco Bay Matters:

Warmer waters: Friends of Casco Bay has been tracking water temperatures for over a quarter century. On average, water temperatures in Casco Bay have risen 2.5°F (1.4°C) since 1993. The growth, reproduction, and survival of marine life are influenced by temperature.

Rising Water Temperatures in Casco Bay

More carbon dioxide in our coastal waters from air and from land: We know that burning fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, trapping heat and warming the planet. Nearly 30% of atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean. Carbon dioxide mixes with water to form carbonic acid, making the water more acidic. This is ocean acidification.

Maine’s nearshore waters are also at risk from coastal acidification. Excess nitrogen from sewage treatment plants, polluted stormwater, and fertilizers can stimulate massive algal growth. When the algal blooms die, decomposition depletes the area of lifegiving oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, further acidifying the water.

Threats to the ocean food web: More carbon dioxide in our waters means less shell-building material (calcium carbonate) for clams, mussels, and planktonic creatures that support the ocean food chain. Data from our Continuous Monitoring Station enable us to calculate the calcium carbonate saturation state — what scientists term omega aragonite — which can tell us whether, at any given time, enough calcium carbonate is readily available to shell-building creatures. Shell formation becomes more difficult for some species when the amount of available calcium carbonate falls below a 1.5 aragonite saturation state.

Our data indicate that for part of the year, levels of calcium carbonate in Casco Bay fall below the threshold for optimal shell-building for some species.

Sea level rise: As water warms, it expands, and the seas encroach on our coastline. Coastal observers and property owners are reporting more erosion.

Increasing precipitation: Maine has seen a six-inch rise in average annual precipitation since 1895, further threatening coastal properties. Torrential rains intensify erosion and flush overloads of nitrogen, pollutants, and sediments into coastal waters.

Those who depend upon the sea can attest to the fast pace of change. What do these changes mean for Casco Bay?

  • As oceans become more acidic, we can anticipate more pitting or thinning of the shells of many commercially viable species in Casco Bay, such as clams, mussels, and oysters.
  • Voracious green crabs — which eat juvenile shellfish — thrive in warming waters.
  • Rising water temperatures are linked with shell disease in crustaceans, directly impacting Maine’s iconic lobster fishery.
  • Scientists and lobstermen are documenting lobster populations shifting north and east.
  • Copepods, tiny crustaceans that are the main food source for juvenile lobsters, may not be as plump as they once were. In laboratory experiments that simulate climate changes now happening in the Gulf of Maine, copepods were less fatty. With a less nutritious diet, young lobsters must divert energy from growth and resisting disease to finding enough food to survive.

Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and You

Climate Change Science and Data

  • The climate is changing faster than expected. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are the culprits. The burning of fossil fuels for homes, industry, and transportation releases almost 10,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. 1
  • Carbon dioxide is changing not only our climate, but also the chemistry of the ocean. About 30% of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. 2 In marine water, carbon dioxide decreases pH and increases acidity through a process known as ocean acidification.
  • Excess nitrogen from sewage treatment plants, polluted stormwater, and fertilizers, is also adding carbon dioxide into nearshore waters through a process known as coastal acidification. 3
  • Nitrogen can fertilize massive algal growth in our waters. When the algal blooms die, decomposition depletes the area of life-giving oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, acidifying the water.

The impacts of climate change are evident right here in Casco Bay

Warmer Waters

Friends of Casco Bay has been tracking water temperatures for over 25 years. On average, our data show a 2.5° F increase in water temperatures since 1993.

Sea Level Rise

As water warms, it expands, and the sea encroaches on our coastline. Coastal observers and property owners are reporting an increase in erosion.

Increasing Precipitation

Maine has seen a six-inch average increase in annual precipitation since 1895, further threatening coastal properties. 4

Threats to the Ocean Food Web

More carbon dioxide in our waters means there is less shell-building material (calcium carbonate) for clams, mussels and oysters, as well as for tiny critters at the base of the ocean food chain. The saturation state of calcium carbonate is a key measurement of shell-building material for many organisms. Shell formation becomes more difficult when the amount of available calcium carbonate falls below a 1.5 saturation state. 5 Our recent data indicate that for nearly half the year, levels of calcium carbonate in Casco Bay are not sufficient for shell-building.

What do these changes mean for Casco Bay?

  • Research Associate Mike Doan with our Continuous Monitoring Station. The Station houses a number of instruments that collect data on carbon dioxide, temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll, and pH, hourly, 365 days a year. This large quantity of data is necessary to accurately track changes in the Bay from climate change, including ocean and coastal acidification.

    As marine waters become more acidic, we can anticipate more pitting or dissolution of the shells of many commercially viable species in Casco Bay.

  • Rising water temperatures are linked with shell disease, directly impacting our lobster fishery and tourism industries.
  • Climate change is bad news for clams because green crabs — which eat juvenile shellfish — thrive in warming waters. 6
  • The distribution and populations of marine species in the Gulf of Maine are shifting. Scientists and lobstermen are documenting the shift in distribution of Maine’s iconic lobsters north and east.
  • Copepods are tiny crustaceans that are the main food source for juvenile lobsters. In laboratory experiments, copepods raised in conditions that simulate the climate changes occurring in the Gulf of Maine were less fatty. With a less healthful diet, young lobsters must divert energy from growth and resisting disease to finding enough food to survive. 7

What is Friends of Casco Bay doing?

  • We helped form the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to coordinate climate change research and policy change work. MOCA is a diverse coalition of researchers, policy experts, lawmakers, aquaculturalists, and seafood harvesters. We are working to create an action plan for Maine to protect the health of our coastal waters.
  • LD 1284 has been selected by the Environmental Priorities Coalition, a group of 34 environmental organizations, as one of its five priority bills to address climate change in Maine.
  • Our Water Reporter volunteers are recording observations of how the Bay is changing. These observations strengthen our advocacy efforts as these reports are shared with regulators, legislators, and other decision makers, alerting them to conditions in the Bay.

What can you do?

  • Tell your legislators to support LD 1284 to create a science and policy advisory council to address the impacts of climate change on Maine’s marine species.
  • Join Water Reporter. Your observations combined with those of other volunteers around the Bay will provide a better understanding of changing conditions.  

References

  1. T.A. Boden, R.J. Andres, G. Marland, Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions, Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics, Appalachian State University, 2017. https://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/trends/emis/overview_2014.html
  2. N. Gruber, D. Clement, R. Feely, et al., The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2 from 1994 to 2007, Science, 2019. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6432/1193
  3. J. Weiss, Marine Pollution: What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  4. I. Fernandez, C. Schmitt, E. Stancioff, et al., Maine’s Climate Future: 2015 Update, The University of Maine, 2015. https://mco.umaine.edu/pubs/pdf/mcf-2015.pdf
  5. J. Ekstrom, L. Suatoni, S. Cooley, et al., Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification, Nature, 2015. http://pacshell.org/pdf/Ekstrom_etal2015.pdf
  6. E. Tan, B, Beal, Interactions between the invasive European green crab, Carcinus maenas, and juveniles of the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, in eastern Maine, USA, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2015. https://downeastinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/tan-beal-2015.pdf
  7. Copepods cope with acidification, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, 2018. https://www.bigelow.org/news/articles/2018-04-10.html

King Tides help us see what sea level rise might look like

Did you see the Armed with smartphones, volunteers track Casco Bay king tides as harbingers of sea-level rise article in the Portland Press Herald that covered this effort?
You can learn more about our Water Reporter effort and join here.

A King Tide is an astronomically high tide. A King Tide is a natural, predictable occurrence that happens a few times a year. This provides the opportunity to envision what our coastal areas may experience as sea levels continue to rise. These extra-high tides can help us spot areas that could be most vulnerable to sea level rise. King Tides are also known as perigean spring tides.

Casco Bay will experience a King Tide on Wednesday, February 20th, at 11:18 AM., which is estimated to reach 11.6 feet.  A normal high tide in the Bay ranges from 8 to 10 feet.

We are mobilizing our volunteer Water Reporters to help us document the February King Tide to help our us visualize what sea level rise may mean for our region. Between 10:48 and 11:48 on February 20,  our volunteers will don their rainboots and pull out their smartphones to capture this extreme tide using the Water Reporter app.

Water Reporter is an easy-to-use “Instagram-like” tool that enables our volunteers to document, catalogue, organize, and share observations of the Bay. This information is aiding our collaborations with other scientists, expand our community engagement by sharing observations on social media, and helping with our advocacy, to illustrate changes happening around the Bay to regulators, legislators, and other policy makers.

Are you interested in helping us document this upcoming King Tide? If so, sign up to be a Water Reporter using these instructions.

Casco Baykeeper Boat trip

Can a boat change perspectives?

Casco Baykeeper Boat trip
Taking our partners out on the Bay provides them with a different perspective on problems that affect the health of Casco Bay. Photo courtesy: Beth and Steve Westra

We are fortunate to have several platforms and partners to help our work to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. We’ll be highlighting each one in the coming weeks. One of those platforms is our Baykeeper Boat.

Our Baykeeper boat is where science, policy, and public engagement converge. As a marine organization, we are on or by the Bay year-round, and we take others there, too, to see the threats to the health of the Bay firsthand.

Our Research Vessel Joseph E. Payne provides a safe, reliable platform to conduct scientific studies, bring stakeholders together to work for clean water, and reach out to those who care about the health of the Bay. This 28-foot Baykeeper boat provides a water-level view of issues such as stormwater runoff and combined sewer pipes that disgorge polluted water into the Bay, suspicious algal blooms never detected here before, coastal flooding from sea level rise and historic storms, and a working waterfront clogged with toxic sediments that displace boat berths.

We convene floating meetings of policy makers from different departments and agencies to foster new working relationships and new approaches to issues we all care about. We provide an alternative perspective, all too rare, to examine issues that threaten the health of the Bay, from being on the Bay itself. We bring government officials and regulators, including staff from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Casco Bay municipalities. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca says, “Many of our concerns are best understood from the water.”

We guide reporters, film crews, and donors around the Bay to show them the resource we all are responsible for protecting.

The Joseph E. Payne is foremost a research vessel, from which we monitor the health of our waters, study how acidification may be impacting our marine resources, assess new technologies for measuring nitrogen and sampling for microplastics, and follow up on reports of pollution, nuisance algal blooms, and other threats to the health of the Bay.

See what is going on beneath the surface. Check out our data!

Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk

On July 20, 2016, our Continuous Monitoring Station began recording data hourly, 365 days a year. We are excited to share the first two and half years of data, collected at our water quality monitoring site in Yarmouth, near the coastal midpoint of Casco Bay. We will update these graphs monthly, so come back often and see for yourself how Casco Bay is changing.

See the data

How we work with you to keep Casco Bay blue

Casco Bay belongs to all of us. In 2019, we at Friends of Casco Bay are continuing our commitment to building a sense of shared ownership throughout our community, to help protect the health of this incredible resource. We see water as fundamental habitat and work to ensure that public policies keep the importance of the health of the Bay in mind.

Our community engagement opportunities provide a wide array of activities for citizens to assist us in our work and to advocate for the health of Casco Bay. For us, advocacy is about relationship building. We work to find common ground.

We pursue policies, laws, and limits based on sound science. Our advocacy efforts take place in many forums—from town halls to the halls of the State House to Washington, D.C. Sometimes, we protect the health of the Bay using education, convincing one homeowner or business at a time to change their practices. Other times, especially on regional or more complex problems, we advocate for the enforcement of existing laws and for the creation of new laws or ordinances. We look forward to working with you this year.

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.