Home » Improving and Protecting the Health of Casco Bay, 1989 – Present

Improving and Protecting the Health of Casco Bay, 1989 – Present

A Timeline of Milestones at Friends of Casco Bay

1989
Citizens launch watchdog group
Citizens launch watchdog group

Friends of Casco Bay is founded as a grassroots, citizen watchdog group in response to the report “Troubled Waters” which highlighted Casco Bay as a pollution hotspot. This image shows snippets from the report.

How Polluted Is Casco Bay?
How Polluted Is Casco Bay?

Friends of Casco Bay helps to organize a day-long seminar, How Polluted Is Casco Bay, featuring David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, draws 200 attendees.

1990
EPA recognizes Casco Bay
EPA recognizes Casco Bay

Casco Bay is designated an Estuary of National Significance by the EPA, in part due to Friends of Casco Bay’s actions to raise public awareness about Casco Bay issues, history, and industries.

1991
First Casco Baykeeper hired
First Casco Baykeeper hired

Joe Payne is hired as Casco Baykeeper of Friends of Casco Bay.

1992
Water Monitoring pilot project
Water Monitoring pilot project

Pilot program in Water Quality Monitoring trains 20 citizen scientists to collect water temperature, air temperature, and weather data at 10 sites.

1993
The Baykeeper gets a boat
The Baykeeper gets a boat

A donated vessel, Donovan’s Delight, becomes the workhorse used for 20 years.

Monitoring water top to bottom
Monitoring water top to bottom

Friends of Casco Bay staff members launch a monthly water quality testing program, conducting surface-to-bottom profiles at several stations all around the Bay.

Citizen Stewards aid research
Citizen Stewards aid research

Friends of Casco Bay staff initiates a comprehensive volunteer water quality monitoring program, training 40 Citizen Stewards to monitor surface waters along the Bay.

 

1994
Clam flat restoration begins
Clam flat restoration begins

Friends of Casco Bay initiates a Clam Flat Restoration Project to identify sources of fecal coliform pollution responsible for prolonged clam flat closures.

 

1995
Pumpout boat removes poop
Pumpout boat removes poop

Friends of Casco Bay launches a pumpout service for recreational boats, siphoning away over 250,000 gallons of sewage to date that might have ended up in the Bay. First Lady Mary Herman christens our pumpout boat Wanda (aka Baykeeper II).

Dredging discussions begin
Dredging discussions begin

Friends of Casco Bay assumes a leadership role in helping to develop an environmentally and economically acceptable means of disposing of contaminated dredge materials.

 

1996
Cleaning up Julie N oil spill
Cleaning up Julie N oil spill

Friends of Casco Bay aids in a coordinated response to the Julie N tanker accident and helps recover a remarkable 78% of the 180,000 gallons of spilled oil (15-20% recovery is considered a success).

1997
Flats reopened to clamming
Flats reopened to clamming

Friends of Casco Bay’s research and monitoring lead to re-opening hundreds of acres of clam flats to harvesting.

1998
Campaign targets pesticides
Campaign targets pesticides

Friends of Casco Bay teams up with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control on an anti-pesticides ad campaign: Why Weed’n’Feed isn’t fish food.

1999
Rescuing lobsters from dredging
Rescuing lobsters from dredging

Friends of Casco Bay catalyzes the relocation project that rescues 35,000 lobsters from harbor dredging.

 

Reclassifying Bay waters
Reclassifying Bay waters

Friends of Casco Bay’s data contribute to the State reclassifying waters off Peaks and Little Diamond Islands, and parts of South Portland, including Willard Beach, from class SC to SB, a higher standard for water quality protection.

Measuring low oxygen at dawn
Measuring low oxygen at dawn

Friends of Casco Bay initiates early morning, low tide monitoring to identify hypoxic (low-oxygen) conditions in challenged parts of eastern Casco Bay.

Helping track baby lobsters
Helping track baby lobsters

Friends of Casco Bay joins a research study to monitor juvenile lobsters in the intertidal zone.

 

 

Founding Waterkeeper Alliance
Founding Waterkeeper Alliance

Friends of Casco Bay helps to found Waterkeeper Alliance. Now, the Waterkeeper movement is 350 groups strong, protecting 2.7 million square miles of waterways in 46 countries.

 

 

 

 

2000
The Bay Begins in Your Backyard
The Bay Begins in Your Backyard

Friends of Casco Bay hosts the first BayScaping workshop, From Bethel to the Beach: Protecting Casco Bay Begins in Your Backyard, which draws 200 people and 15 exhibitors. Shortly after, we begin offering neighborhood socials on BayScaping.

2001
Do pesticides get into Bay?
Do pesticides get into Bay?

Friends of Casco Bay begins sampling stormwater runoff for pesticides washing into Casco Bay.

2002
Local strategies to help the Bay
Local strategies to help the Bay

Friends of Casco Bay issues a report on Community Strategies to Improve the Bay, to provide tools for town planning for the municipalities bordering the Bay.

Freeing the Presumpscot
Freeing the Presumpscot

 

Collaboration with Presumpscot watershed groups results in the removal of the Smelt Hill Dam, allowing the lower seven miles of the Presumpscot River to flow unimpeded to Casco Bay.

Cruise ship pollution campaign
Cruise ship pollution campaign

Friends of Casco Bay organizes a forum on Pollution Solutions to Cruise Ship Discharges to alert voters and legislators that cruise ships can legally dump wastewater in Portland Harbor.

Scooping mud to test for toxins
Scooping mud to test for toxins

Friends of Casco Bay scoops mud from 22 nearshore sites around Casco Bay to measure toxins in the sediments.

2003
Nitrogen is a threat to the Bay
Nitrogen is a threat to the Bay

Friends of Casco Bay staff members begin sampling for nitrogen pollution.

First Executive Director hired
First Executive Director hired

Cathy Ramsdell is hired as Executive Director of Friends of Casco Bay.

2004
Tracing toxins in Portland Harbor
Tracing toxins in Portland Harbor

Friends of Casco Bay grabs sediment samples in Portland Harbor for analysis of levels of toxins such as Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

 

Gray water law for cruise ships

Friends of Casco Bay shepherds passage of a state law prohibiting large passenger vessels from dumping wastes from sinks, showers, and galleys into Maine waters.

2005
Bay’s environmental report card
Bay’s environmental report card

Friends of Casco Bay issues a region-by-region Health Index, an environmental report card on the health of the Bay.

2006
Maine’s first No Discharge Area
Maine’s first No Discharge Area

Friends of Casco Bay’s campaign to halt to cruise ship pollution results in Casco Bay being designated the first No Discharge Area in Maine for vessel sewage.

Adapting our data for educators
Adapting our data for educators

Friends of Casco Bay creates the Casco Bay Curriculum, incorporating our water quality data into classroom activities for schools.

2007
State law to limit nitrogen
State law to limit nitrogen

Friends of Casco Bay’s advocacy pushes through a state law requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to set a limit on nitrogen levels in coastal waters.

2008
Portland to deal with sewage
Portland to deal with sewage

Friends of Casco Bay helps convince the Portland City Council to commit $61 million to construction projects to stem the flow of raw sewage, industrial wastes, and stormwater into Casco Bay, by shortening the timeline to clean up and eliminate dozens of combined sewer overflows.

2009
Data help protect The Basin
Data help protect The Basin

Friends of Casco Bay’s data are instrumental in the State reclassification of waters in The Basin in Phippsburg, from class SB to SA, the highest standard of water quality for marine waters.

Taking on “Green Slime”
Taking on “Green Slime”

Friends of Casco Bay’s vigorous campaign against “Green Slime” combats nitrogen pollution on three fronts: stormwater runoff, fertilizers, and sewage treatment plants.

Climate change curriculum
Climate change curriculum

Casco Bay: A Changing Estuary revamps Friends of Casco Bay’s 2006 curriculum, focusing on the impact of climate change on Casco Bay and the Gulf of Maine.

2010
Ready to respond to oil spills
Ready to respond to oil spills

Friends of Casco Bay’s participation in an oil spill clean-up exercise for the Gulf of Maine is immediately followed by advising Waterkeepers involved in the Gulf of Mexico Deep Horizon oil rig disaster.

Collect mud to test for toxins
Collect mud to test for toxins

Friends of Casco Bay collects jars of mud at 60+ sites to document changes in levels of Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other toxins in Casco Bay sediments.

Storm drain stenciling
Storm drain stenciling

We create storm drain stenciling kits for community service projects to remind people, “Do not dump. Drains to Casco Bay.”

2011
Measure acidity on clam flats
Measure acidity on clam flats

Friends of Casco Bay begins to investigate coastal acidification by measuring the acidity of sediments in clam flats.

2012
Share stormwater cleanup costs
After a rainstorm, millions of gallons of polluted stormwater pour into Casco Bay.

Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell serves on a citizen’s committee to help the City of Portland craft an equitable stormwater utility fee. It gives concessions to residents and businesses that limit rainwater runoff from impervious roofs, parking lots, and driveways.

2013
Clam condos in acidic mud
Clam condos in acidic mud

Friends of Casco Bay’s experiments on clam spat placed in “clam condos” in acidic mud show evidence of pitting after one week.

New Baykeeper research boat
New Baykeeper research boat

Friends of Casco Bay christens our new Baykeeper research vessel Joseph E. Payne.

2014
Study on Ocean Acidification

Friends of Casco Bay ask supporters to help convince the Maine Legislature to pass a bill to establish a state Ocean Acidification Commission, the first on the East Coast.

Study calls out nitrogen

Baykeeper Joe Payne is one of 16 commission members who issue a report that calls for more data collection and education to reduce nitrogen pollution, a cause of coastal acidification.

Portland bans plastics
Portland bans plastics

Friends of Casco Bay serves on a citizen task force to help draft Portland ordinances to ban the use of polystyrene food packaging and set a fee for single-use bags.

Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard

Joe Payne retires after 24 years as Casco Baykeeper. Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell serves as Baykeeper Pro tem until Ivy Frignoca is hired as Casco Baykeeper.

State bans microplastics
State bans microplastics

Friends of Casco Bay’s members urge the State Legislature to pass a state law to phase out microplastic beads in cosmetics and personal care products.

2015
How healthy is Casco Bay?
How healthy is Casco Bay?

We release a major report that answers the most commonly asked questions about the Bay, including How healthy is Casco Bay?. A Changing Casco Bay, based on 23 years of data collection, cites nitrogen pollution from fertilizers, rainwater runoff, sewage, and air pollutants, as a leading cause of concern for the health of Casco Bay.

Volunteers take action
Volunteers take action

Friends of Casco Bay catalyzes meetings to discuss how to fulfill recommendations of the Ocean Acidification Study Commission report by creating an on-going volunteer partnership of those concerned about ocean and coastal acidification

No action on ocean acidification

Report of the Ocean Acidification Commission is delivered to the state Legislature, but the State does not act on its recommendations.

2016
South Portland Pesticide Ordinance
South Portland Pesticide Ordinance

Friends of Casco Bay’s data and BayScaping information help South Portland enact an ordinance that restricts the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private properties.

Nabbing Nitrogen flash mob
Nabbing Nitrogen flash mob

Friends of Casco Bay undertakes a Nabbing Nitrogen event to coordinate a “flash mob” of volunteers to simultaneously collect nitrogen samples in the Fore River.

 

Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership
Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca helps organize the first meeting of the newly named Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership to coordinate policy and research to address this little-known impact of climate change. Later that year, the first Ocean Acidification Symposium draws 110 participants to share data on the causes and effects of ocean and coastal acidification in Maine waters.

Monitoring Casco Bay 24/7
Monitoring Casco Bay 24/7

Friends of Casco Bay installs a Continuous Monitoring Station to collect water quality data hourly, 365 days a year.

2017
Baykeeper leads MOCA partnership
Baykeeper leads MOCA partnership

The Casco Baykeeper assumes role as coordinator of the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership (2016-2019), organizing twice-yearly symposia.

Setting nitrogen limits
Setting nitrogen limits

Our advocacy for setting nitrogen limits in sewage treatment plant permits results in the Department of Environmental Protection requiring nitrogen standards in municipalities’ Clean Water Act discharge permits.

Historic agreement to reduce nitrogen
Historic agreement to reduce nitrogen

Friends of Casco Bay secures an agreement with Portland Water District to work to significantly reduce nitrogen discharged into the Bay by treating effluent water from the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility. The goal is to reduce nitrogen pollution entering the Bay by 20-40% within 5 years. Engineering modifications result in nitrogen discharges dropping by 70% on average by 2018.

2018
Portland task force on pesticides
Portland task force on pesticides

Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell serves on a citizen’s task force that leads to the passage of an ordinance to restrict the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private properties.

Launch volunteer Water Reporter
Launch volunteer Water Reporter

Friends of Casco Bay launches a year-round Casco Bay volunteer observing network: Water Reporter.

2019
Shaping fertilizer ordinance
Shaping fertilizer ordinance

Friends of Casco Bay’s Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell is recruited to serve on a Working Group to draft an ordinance to regulate fertilizers in the City of South Portland.

Casco Bay Matters series
Casco Bay Matters series

Friends of Casco Bay hosts our first Casco Bay Matters lecture series, attended by 380 participants.

Our Climate Council bill expands
Our Climate Council bill expands

Friends of Casco Bay shepherds a bill to create a state-funded Science and Policy Advisory Council on the Impact of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species, which is integrated into the Governor’s omnibus bill to address climate change and establish the Maine Climate Council.

Headmaster joins our fleet
Headmaster joins our fleet

Friends of Casco Bay christens and launches our new pumpout boat, Headmaster.

Helping state with action plan
Helping state with action plan

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council.

2020
Launch of Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund
Launch of Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund

Friends of Casco Bay announces our ten-year plan to help our community adapt to and address climate change. We publicly launched the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement, to raise $1.5 million to be used over the next decade to understand how Casco Bay is being affected by climate change.

Casco Bay Matters Moves Online
Casco Bay Matters Moves Online

The covid-19 pandemic causes us to pivot to hosting online events. We begin hosting Casco Bay Matters events that Friends of the Bay attend from their own homes, covering issues like sea level rise, our data analysis, and more.

Maine Won’t Wait
Maine Won’t Wait

The Maine Climate Council publishes the Maine Won’t Wait Climate Action Plan, providing a roadmap for the state’s sustainable future. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca serves on the Climate Council’s Coastal and Marine Working Group, helping to draft the plan’s policy recommendations.

2021
Reaching the goal of the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund
Mike deploys our Portland Harbor Continuous Monitoring Station

Friends of Casco Bay successfully raises $1.5 million to launch two additional Continuous Monitoring Stations in the Bay, maintain all three stations for a decade, and communicate changing conditions to our community.

Three Continuous Monitoring Stations Span the Bay
Three Continuous Monitoring Stations Span the Bay

We launch two new Continuous Monitoring Stations in Casco Bay. The new stations are located in Portland Harbor and off Harpswell. They join our original station first launched in 2016 off the coast of Yarmouth.

Sea Level Rise Resolve Passes
Water Reporter By Sandy Marsters Portland Pier Sea Level Rise

Friends of Casco Bay helps to pass a bill that mandates critical updates to coastal land use and planning laws. These updates account for the projected impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, more intense storms, and increased precipitation. 

 

Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell Retires
Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell Retires

Cathy Ramsdell retires after serving as Executive Director of Friends of Casco Bay for more than 18 years. Throughout her tenure, Cathy was widely credited with securing Friends of Casco Bay’s programmatic and financial foundation, relying on her career experience in accounting, marine ecology, and non-profit organizational development.

1.5 Million Fewer Pounds of Nitrogen
1.5 Million Fewer Pounds of Nitrogen

Following plant upgrades and improved techniques at Portland’s East End Wastewater Treatment Facility in 2017, the facility reduced the amount of nitrogen in its effluent by 1.5 million pounds over four years. These changes came out of collaborative discussions between the Portland Water District and Friends of Casco Bay.

2022
50 years of the Clean Water Act
50 years of the Clean Water Act

We celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a foundational environmental law that lies at the core of our advocacy to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay.

Will Everitt Takes the Helm
Will Everitt Takes the Helm

Friends of Casco Bay hires Will Everitt as our next Executive Director. Will is a familiar face, having served as our Communications and Development Director for 15 years.

Reducing Stormwater Pollution
Reducing Stormwater Pollution

After many years of advocacy from Friends of Casco Bay, new protections that will reduce stormwater pollution in Maine’s most populated areas go into effect in July. These protections come under Maine’s MS4 permit.  

 

Nabbing Nitrogen
Nabbing Nitrogen

165 volunteers join Friends of Casco Bay to collect 178 water samples from Portland Harbor. The samples will be analyzed for total nitrogen and support our advocacy to reduce nitrogen pollution. These data will build on the dataset from our first Nab, held in 2016.

Protecting the Presumpscot
Protecting the Presumpscot

Friends of Casco Bay collects water quality data from the Presumpscot River to support our advocacy to improve its health. Using a data sonde, data is collected every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. The Presumpscot is the largest river that flows into Casco Bay.

Data Milestones
Data Milestones

We complete our 30th year of collecting seasonal water quality data from Casco Bay. We also pass the one-year mark of having three Continuous Monitoring Stations in the Bay.