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Many eyes keep watch on Casco Bay

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. Increasingly, volunteers are joining me in using the Water Reporter app to share what they are seeing. These reports make a difference!” Over the span of a year, more than 190 volunteers have made 837 posts about the Casco Bay Watershed.

Here are some examples:

A Water Reporter captured a potential pollution incident–a large accumulation of fish scales in the water. The posting, complete with the time, location, and photo, led to action by a state agency to stop discharges of fish processing wastewater into the Fore River.

In keeping with our focus on climate change, we encourage volunteers to use Water Reporter to monitor sea level rise. Chronicling King Tides, the highest tides of the year, gives us a glimpse of the future. The photos 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, such as the disappearing beach at Winslow Park, Freeport, on August 4 and the pier at Little Diamond island on the same date.


Says Ivy, “Water Reporter is a two-way conversation about protecting Casco Bay.” For example, a Water Reporter post on July 10th caught the attention of Angie Brewer of the Marine Unit staff at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP staff went out to investigate themselves. Here’s the post and the exchange with a Water Reporter that followed. Click on the image to be taken to the Water Reporter website for easier reading.


Another DEP staff person, Wendy Garland, Nonpoint Source Program Coordinator, asked for more details after spotting a post by our summer intern Alexis Burns who regularly monitored algae growth at several sites around South Portland last summer.

You can join our Water Reporter network to share observations of things you are seeing on the Bay, both good and bad, all year long. The more of us who are keeping watch on the health of the Bay, the better protected our waters will be.

Volunteer at Friends of Casco Bay’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Help us with our biggest event of the year, our Wild & Scenic Film Festival!

Thank you for your interest in volunteering at the event. All volunteer spots are currently filled. If you would like to be put on the waitlist and notified if openings occur, please email slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org. Thank you.

You can volunteer on Saturday, November 2 for several different shifts between 11 AM- 6:15 PM.
Please note: Most volunteers are unable to see the films the night of the event. If you sign up to volunteer, please know that we will hold a special viewing of the films just for Film Festival Volunteers on Wednesday, October 16, from 5-7:45 PM at a venue in Cumberland Foreside.

Tasks include:
• hanging banners
• scooping popcorn
• ushering
• raffle ticket selling
• checking in attendees
• handing out swag bags

Coastal Cleanup at Bug Light Park

September is World Cleanup Month. Join us at Bug Light Park for a Coastal Cleanup!

When: Saturday, September 14, 2019, 9 AM – Noon

Where: Bug Light Park

RSVP using the form below.

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

Sign up to Volunteer at the Bug Light Cleanup Sept. 14

  • Volunteer Release and Waiver of Liability Form This Release and Waiver of Liability (the “release”) executed on the date this form is completed by the volunteer ("Volunteer") who completes this form releases Friends of Casco Bay, a nonprofit corporation existing under the laws of the State of Maine, and each of their directors, officers, employees, and agents. The Volunteer desires to provide volunteer services for Friends of Casco Bay and engage in activities relating to serving as a volunteer to protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Volunteer understands that the scope of Volunteer’s relationship with Friends of Casco Bay is limited to a volunteer position and that no compensation is expected in return for services provided by Volunteer; that Friends of Casco Bay will not provide any benefits traditionally associated with employment to Volunteer; and that Volunteer is responsible for his/her own insurance coverage in the event of personal injury or illness as a result of Volunteer’s service to Friends of Casco Bay.
    1. Waiver and Release: I, the Volunteer, release and forever discharge and hold harmless Friends of Casco Bay and their successors and assigns from any and all liability, claims, and demands of whatever kind of nature, either in law or in equity, which arise or may hereafter arise from the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay. I understand and acknowledge that this Release discharges Friends of Casco Bay from any liability or claim that I may have against Friends of Casco Bay with respect to bodily injury, personal injury, illness, death, or property damage that may result from the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay and occurring while I am providing volunteer services.
    2. Insurance: Further I understand that Friends of Casco Bay do not assume any responsibility for or obligation to provide me with financial or other assistance, including but not limited to medical, health or disability benefits or insurance of any nature in the event of my injury, illness, death or damage to my property. I expressly waive any such claim for compensation or liability on the part of Friends of Casco Bay beyond what may be offered freely by Friends of Casco Bay in the event of such injury or medical expenses incurred by me.
    3. Medical Treatment: I hereby Release and forever discharge Friends of Casco Bay from any claim whatsoever which arises or may hereafter arise on account of any first-aid treatment or other medical services rendered in connection with an emergency during my tenure as a volunteer with Friends of Casco Bay.
    4. Assumption of Risk: I understand that the services I provide to Friends of Casco Bay may include inherently dangerous activities that may be hazardous to me including, but not limited to water sampling and/or attending events that are near or on the ocean, slippery docks, rocks, piers, wharves, and boats. As a volunteer, I hereby expressly assume the risk of injury or harm from these activities and release Friends of Casco Bay from all liability for injury, illness, death, or property damage resulting from the services I provide as a volunteer and occurring while I am providing volunteer services.
    5. Photographic Release: I grant and convey to Friends of Casco Bay all rights, title, and interests in any and all photographs, images, video, or audio recordings of me or my likeness or voice made by Friends of Casco Bay in connection with my providing volunteer services to Friends of Casco Bay.
    6. Email Signup: We would like to contact you from time to time to tell you about important updates about the health of Casco Bay, special events, and how you can support our mission. Please opt in to receiving these updates by sharing your email address below. You can opt out at any time by clicking the unsubscribe links at the bottom of each email.
    7. Other: As a volunteer, I expressly agree that this Release is intended to be as broad and inclusive as permitted by the laws of the State of Maine and that this Release shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Maine. I agree that in the event that any clause or provision of this Release is deemed invalid, the enforceability of the remaining provisions of this Release shall not be affected.
    By completing this form and checking the box below, I express my understanding and intent to enter into this Release and Waiver of Liability willingly and voluntarily.

Is it good green or bad green?

Many thanks to our Volunteer Water Reporters for keeping an eye on algal blooms—and other concerns around Casco Bay.

We shared these things to think about as they surveyed conditions around the Bay this summer. We are sharing it here as others may be interested as well.

A little algae is a good thing.

Nitrogen is one of the three most important “food groups” for plants. It is also one of the primary components of fertilizer, along with phosphorus and potassium. In the ocean, nitrogen is generally the critical element needed for plant growth. Algae, ranging in size from microscopic phytoplankton to sinuous seaweeds, form the base of the ocean food web.

Too much algae—when it covers a large area of the flat—is cause for concern.

Excess nitrogen can stimulate algal growth beyond healthy amounts for the ecosystem.

Nuisance algal blooms can cover tidal flats with a thick carpet of “green slime,” smothering animals below the mat and preventing juvenile clams from settling into the mud. Large phytoplankton blooms can reduce water clarity.

When the algal mats die, they release carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide mixes with sea water to create carbonic acid, in a process known as coastal acidification. Coastal acidification changes water chemistry and can make it harder for shellfish such as oysters, clams, and mussels to build and maintain their shells.

For more information on excess nitrogen and green algae visit cascobay.org/our-work/science/nuisance-algal-bloom-tracking.

Observing and recording observations of an area regularly helps us track algal blooms around the Bay

We want to see images of algae from the small amounts to “concerning” amounts because we can’t predict where and when an outbreak may become a nuisance algal bloom.

To better document and track algal blooms spreading to worrisome levels, we encourage Water Reporters to choose a specific location to observe weekly, ideally an hour before or after low tide. More details at cascobay.org/water-reporter/#WRalgalblooms.

Go back every week—just not at the same time on the same day the next week! The time of low tide differs every week. For example, if it is low tide at 10 a.m. one Wednesday, low tide will be closer to 4 p.m. the following Wednesday. The tidal cycle changes by about 52 minutes each day. Tide charts can help you plan your visit: https://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Southern%20Coast or use a tide app. You do not need to visit on the same day each week.

Green is really good news when it is eelgrass! 

The presence of eelgrass is a sign of healthy water, so share photos using another hashtag: #eelgrass.

Share your #eelgrass posts in celebration of healthy marine waters! We also want posts of places that used to have eelgrass but don’t now.

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is one of the few flowering plants found in the ocean. It grows in shallow water on sandy or muddy bottom, and its long blades grow to 30 centimeters (11 inches) or more. Eelgrass needs clean, clear water to grow, so the presence of eelgrass is a visible sign that water quality is healthy in a location.

How do you tell the difference between eelgrass and green algae?

Eelgrass is usually a less bright green than green algae and is usually underwater. You may see it at the water’s edge at low tide, when the tops of the blades may be seen floating on the surface, as seen in the photo above. In contrast, green algae is usually further up the shore and is often exposed at low tide.

The image to the right shows eelgrass that has been washed ashore. From a distance, this can look like a green algal bloom.

Why do we love eelgrass?

  • It provides essential habitat for fish, crabs, and shellfish
  • It produces oxygen
  • Its roots anchor sediments
  • Its long, flowing leaves dampen wave action
  • It improves water quality by tempering the effect of ocean acidification because eelgrass captures and stores carbon dioxide.

Because eelgrass is such important habitat, it is essential to not disturb or trample it!

“A drowned island of shelter and security for many animals” is how Rachel Carson described the sinuous sea meadows that grow just beneath the surface of the Bay. Many commercially-important species, including flounder, striped bass, cod, lobsters, crabs, mussels, and scallops, use eelgrass beds as a nursery area, feeding ground, or refuge from predators. Dead eelgrass decomposes into a “sea soup” that is an essential part of the marine food web.

 

Get close! A close-up photo can help us to identify the green growth. 

Be careful where you step. We don’t want you falling and getting hurt, treading on private property, or damaging growing eelgrass.

 

Thank you to our Water Reporters!

And how is your summer going?

Summer is going swimmingly here at Friends of Casco Bay, and we have a lot of good news to share:

  • Our priority legislative bill to create a state-level Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Council was incorporated nearly word-for-word into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change Council bill. An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council passed with strong bipartisan support. In recognition of her yeoman’s work on this issue, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was invited to attend the bill signing by Governor Janet Mills on June 26th.

 

  • Our water quality sampling season is well underway, as we continue to add to our long-term dataset at 22 shoreside and deepwater sites around the Bay. You may see Research Associate Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy making the rounds by land and by sea every few weeks from April through October.

 

  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Since early June, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell has been attending bi-weekly meetings of the South Portland Fertilizer Working Group to assist the City in drafting a fertilizer ordinance.

 

  • July 20 marks the third anniversary of the launch of our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. Our Monitoring Station is fondly nicknamed the “Cage of Science” because its high-tech sensors are housed inside a transformed lobster trap. The instruments measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, and carbon dioxide.
    Photo by Kevin Morris

    Together, they collect data once an hour, every hour, year round.  At this time of year, Mike has to scrape off a new array of marine hitchhikers whenever he hauls up the Cage of Science to download data.

 

  • ‘Tis the season to think about what not to put on your lawn! With five workshops behind her, Associate Director Mary Cerullo has scheduled another five BayScaping presentations for August and beyond. She is happy to talk with neighborhood groups about green yards and a blue Bay.

 

  • There has been such a demand by community groups to volunteer for coastal cleanups and storm drain stenciling projects that Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman and summer intern Alexis Burns have been very busy. They already have hosted seven events with 106 participants who collected an estimated 238 lbs. of trash and stenciled 238 storm drains!

 

  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Our new pumpout boat, Headmaster, was launched on June 10th to pump raw sewage from the marine toilets of recreational boats. Captain Jim Splude, our congenial pumpout boat coordinator, can go about his business more efficiently now with a new boat that has more than twice the holding capacity of the old one.

 

  • Our Water Reporter volunteer project is expanding as we hoped and planned. Nearly 40 enthusiastic volunteers attended our Water Reporter training on June 24. Volunteers continue to sign up to keep watch over specific areas of the Bay.
    July 10 was the first anniversary of Friends of Casco Bay’s launch of the Water Reporter app. To date, 162 volunteers in this observing network have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start!
Water Reporter App

Water Reporters: you are a growing observing network on Casco Bay

Water Reporters, this is your reference for using the Water Reporter app. It summarizes the topics covered at the Water Reporter training event held in June 2019. We are so pleased to see how volunteers like you are having an impact by being Water Reporters.

Types of Water Reporter Posts we want to see

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

There are a variety of posts that are helpful. Using hashtags to identify the type of incident you are reporting helps organize your reports. If you are having trouble remembering the types of posts we are looking for and the hashtags to use, think WATERS!

W  #wildlife
A   #algae
T   #trash
E   #erosion
R   #reportpollution
S   #sealevelrise

Resources

We have new resources on our Water Reporter webpage. Some sections that may be of interest to you:

 

You can help us collect observations on two special issues we are tracking.

Nuisance Algal Blooms (#algae)

At the training, several people offered to help track nuisance algal blooms at specific locations around the Bay. We are still looking for volunteers to cover the following locations on a regular basis:

If you would like to take part by visiting one of these sites weekly, slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org“>let me know and I’ll send you the instructions.

Sea Level Rise (#sealevelrise)

#sealevelrise is all about capturing photos of extreme high tides and storm surges and their impacts on our coast. Water Reporters are helping us envision what our coastline may look like in the future as sea levels continue to rise:

  • when there is a King Tide, a predicted extra high tide, or
  • when we have storm surge.

When these two conditions happen at the same time, we see the greatest impact. You can see more about this on the Water Reporter webpage as well. Click the Sea level rise tab in the Special Water Reporter Posting Types section. The next opportunity to document a King Tide will be during the first few days of August.

Need help or can’t find what you are looking for?

Contact me via email: slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org, or text or call at (207) 370-7553.

Please keep your posts and questions coming! We are here to help you with Water Reporter, as it is quickly becoming an essential part of our work.

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.

Luke’s Lobster & Allagash team up with us for a Back Cove Cleanup on May 11, 2019

This event is limited to 60 participants, and we have reached that limit. Please consider signing up as a volunteer here: https://www.cascobay.org/about-us/volunteer.

Can you think of a better combination than lobster, beer, and the Bay?

On Saturday, May 11, Friends of Casco Bay, Luke’s Lobster, and Allagash Brewing are teaming up to host a community cleanup of Back Cove in Portland from 9 AM to Noon. Afterward, participants are invited to regroup at Portland Pier for a preview of Luke’s Lobster’s new restaurant, set to open on the site this June.

It takes a community to protect our coastal waters. A Coastal cleanup is a great way to work together to take care of our fragile marine environment. Storm Drain Stenciling is a hands‐on way for you to “take to the streets” and create a greater awareness for reducing stormwater pollution.

The litter and marine debris that wind up on our shores come from many sources and we are delighted to work with Luke’s and Allagash to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Join us by registering below.

Event Details:

Saturday, May 11, 2019 (Rain date: Saturday, May 18)
9 AM-2 PM
Meet in the Back Cove Parking Lot

Note: The cleanup is limited to 60 participants, so don’t forget to sign up in advance!

    • 9:00 – 9:30 AM: sign in, learn about Friends of Casco Bay and get your cleanup supplies
    • 9:30 – 11:45 AM: Cleanup or Stencil Storm Drains
    • 11:45 AM – 12:15 PM: Wrap up
    • 12:30 – 2:00 PM: After-party with food & drink from Luke’s & Allagash
      Cleanup participants are encouraged to join us at Luke’s Lobster Portland Pier (60 Portland Pier, Portland)

The Back Cove cleanup is part of a partnership between Luke’s and Allagash to clean up oceans and raise awareness for The Keeper Fund, a charitable initiative founded in 2018 by Luke’s Lobster and the Ocean Foundation. The purpose of The Keeper Fund is to invest in projects that spur environmentally friendly economic initiatives along the coast and keep our oceans and waterways clean.  Last year, The Keeper Fund made a contribution to the Island Institute in Rockland to further research on the potential for kelp aquaculture to act as a carbon sink. This year, starting on Earth Day, Luke’s Lobster and Allagash will donate $1 to The Keeper Fund for every Allagash White sold at Luke’s, up to $10,000.To date, The Keeper Fund has donated over $18,000 in grants and in-kind donations to support aquaculture-related research and other coastal projects both within and outside of Maine.

And of course, Friends of Casco Bay has its own Keeper, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, who works year-round, along with volunteers, staff, and partners, to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay.

This event is limited to 60 participants, and we have reached that limit. Please consider signing up as a volunteer here: https://www.cascobay.org/about-us/volunteer.