Climate change is affecting the health of Casco Bay faster than anyone could have predicted. Warming temperatures and increasing acidity threaten the ocean and the livelihoods of those who depend on the sea. Research is showing that changes in our coastal waters from climate change are putting lobstering, clamming, and aquaculture at risk.
Friends of Casco Bay invites you to attend Ocean Acidification, Climate Change, and You, a free event, open to all.
Staff scientist Mike Doan will talk about the warning signs we see in our monitoring data. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca will share some of the impacts to our marine species and how Mainers are working together to respond to these threats. They look forward to your questions following the presentation.
Healthy marine waters are vital to Maine’s economy and quality of life.This is such an important issue that we are hosting this presentation at three locations in the coming weeks: Portland, South Portland, and Brunswick.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After getting set up with Water Reporter, follow these steps to take a sea level rise photo:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Share your post with Friends of Casco Bay.
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.
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.
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.
Describe more about your photo in the comment field, including our suggested hashtag (you may use multiple hashtags): #sealevelrise.
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.
Thank you to the volunteers who helped fill this map with color!
Sixty-five volunteers have taken 860 color measurements of Casco Bay since we launched our Color by Numbers pilot project last spring. Our volunteers put a modern twist on a century-old oceanographic tool, using their smartphones and tablets to photograph and match the color of the water to the Forel-Ule color scale. This index of 21 colors—from blue to brown—measures color as a revealing indicator of the health of oceans and lakes.
Our next steps are to meet with our partners at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Harbor and evaluate the measurements collected this year. Then we will be assessing this pilot project over the winter.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this important pilot project!
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.
We first met Jesse O’Brien of Down East Turf Farms when South Portland was considering passing an ordinance to limit the use of pesticides. Jesse is a practicing agronomist, who says, “If you want to get good turf, you need to start with good soil.”
Initially, Jesse expressed concern about how businesses would be able to meet (some) customers’ demands for perfect lawns or athletic fields if pesticides were banned.
Jesse attended innumerable public meetings. We were at those meetings as well, sharing our data on pesticides in stormwater and our BayScaping outreach, to encourage town officials to limit the use of lawn chemicals. Jesse served for nine months on Portland’s Pesticides and Fertilizers Task Force, alongside Friends of Casco Bay Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. They found agreement in the philosophy, “Don’t treat your soil like dirt!”
In January 2018, Portland passed a ban on synthetic pesticides similar to one adopted by neighboring South Portland in 2016. The City of Portland Pesticide Use Ordinance went into effect for city property on July 1, 2018, and will extend to private property on January 1, 2019.
Although Jesse worries about the unintended consequences of the ordinances, “We are in agreement that there is an overuse and misuse of lawn chemicals. I want to focus on culture practices that reduce the need for inputs.”
He has put those words into action. Today, Jesse serves on South Portland’s seven-member Pest Management Advisory Committee. In September, he recruited a dozen yard care professionals to demonstrate best practices for organic lawn care at South Portland’s Bug Light Park—teaching about overseeding, watering, aeration, soil testing, and dealing with pests. We applaud Jesse and other landscapers for helping our communities grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue.
Autumn BayScaping tips you can take this fall that will pay off next spring: Let your soil breathe. Aeration allows water and nutrients to reach the grass’s roots. Seeding and composting on top of freshly-aerated soil can be done until the end of the growing season. Take away leaves soon after they fall. Lower lawn mower height. Gradually reduce your mowing height to 2 to 2.5 inches before the first frost to help prevent snow mold.
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. Since July, increasingly Volunteers are joining me in using the WaterReporter app to share what they are seeing. These reports make a difference!”
“It’s like Facebook for the Bay,” says Ivy. We can communicate with our WaterReporters, commenting on their posts and reporting back on actions taken.
Here are some examples:
A WaterReporter captured a potential pollution incident—a large accumulation of fish scales in the water. The posting, complete with the time, location, and a photo, led to action to stop unpermitted, fish processing wastewater discharges into the Fore River in Portland.
We look forward to WaterReporter posts continuing to come in throughout the fall and winter, when we will be on the lookout for any unusual algal blooms, effects of large rainstorms or snowstorms on the Bay, and extreme high tides, called King Tides. The more of us who are keeping watch on the health of the Bay, the better protected our waters may be.
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.
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.