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Growing green lawns in Portland that keep Casco Bay blue

Growing green lawns in Portland that keep Casco Bay blue

After serving for the past 8 months on Portland’s Pesticide Task Force, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell is hopeful that Maine’s largest city ultimately will pass an ordinance to restrict pesticide use. The 12 member task force consisted of a diverse set of stakeholders, including concerned citizens, lawn care professionals, and scientists. While meetings were occasionally tension-filled, the task force came out in support of an ordinance that bans the use of pesticides on lawns, patios and driveways, and within 75 feet of water. The draft ordinance would also have Portland form an advisory committee to develop data on pesticide use. “The draft ordinance is a good start—it doesn’t solve every problem associated with pesticides, but it does takes a good bite out of the apple,” says Cathy. Stormwater testing by Friends of Casco Bay found pesticides flowing into the Bay in more than a dozen locations. This led to our outreach effort: BayScaping. After nearly two decades of education to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, Maine homeowners still use a large amount of pesticides. That is why we became involved in “grassroots efforts” with local communities to restrict the use of lawn chemicals. In task force meetings, Cathy saw her role as one of finding common ground between those who wanted outright prohibitions on all pesticide use and applicators who did not want any new restrictions. “In times like these, it would be easy to be an obstructionist and stop any forward movement,” said Cathy. “For the task force to do its job, though, we had to find common ground. Everyone on the committee agreed that we need to keep these chemicals out of the Bay. The recommended ordinance is a compromise position based on the idea that aesthetic pesticide use to make our lawns look pretty is not the best use of these toxic chemicals, given the risk to our health and the health of the Bay.” The City Council Sustainability and Transportation Committee will now take up the draft ordinance. The committee may recommend it to the full council for passage or may make its own changes to the draft—and, city councilors may further alter the ordinance before considering...

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MOCA is on the Move

MOCA is on the Move

With increasing research showing that coastal acidification is a threat to Casco Bay, here’s what we’re doing about it. Why do scientists and sea farmers worry about acidifying seawater? Studies by researcher Dr. Mark Green and oyster grower Bill Mook have found that increasing the acidity of seawater can stress sea creatures such as clams, oysters, and mussels. Some shellfish farmers in Maine have already begun storing seawater to use during times when stormwater runoff makes the water unsafe for developing oysters. Climate researchers have found that the ocean absorbs over 25% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by smokestacks and tailpipes.  This is called ocean acidification. In addition, carbon dioxide ends up in coastal waters from nitrogen pollution from fertilizers, pet wastes, stormwater runoff, and sewage discharges. This nitrogen overdose stimulates a population explosion of tiny phytoplankton. When these plants die and decay in bays and coves, bacteria consume oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This creates even more acidic conditions for coastal critters.  This is called coastal acidification. Dr. Mark Green of St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, is a leading researcher on the impact of coastal acidification on clams. He has been testing how baby clams respond to mud from clam flats along our coast, including Casco Bay.  He calls clams the “canaries in the coal mine.” Nitrogen runoff, he asserts, is hampering the ability of clams and oysters to build and maintain their shells.  Dr. Green found that clam spat and baby clams simply dissolve at levels of acidity found in some parts of Casco Bay today. He calls this unfortunate condition “death by dissolution.” Dr. Green’s experiments in the lab inspired us to investigate conditions in Casco Bay. In 2011, we sampled the pH (acidity) of the mud on about 30 clam flats around Casco Bay. In 2012 and 3013, we returned to one of those clam flats to monitor conditions every two weeks across three seasons and varied tide cycles to get a better understanding of how natural fluctuations impacted pH. We also put baby clams (spat) into “clam condos” into a clam flat in Freeport, protected from green clams by screens. After one week and two weeks in the mud, we found significant pitting in their shells, indicating that the shells were dissolving. Coastal Acidification is one more stressor for shellfish species that already are challenged by other climate change impacts, such as predation by gluttonous milky ribbon worms and green crabs which flourish in warming waters. Red tides or other harmful algal blooms may close clam flats to shellfish harvesting for weeks or months each year. The density and duration of these harmful bloom events may be exacerbated by nitrogen runoff, which provides the nutrients to nourish the red tide organisms.   What are we doing about coastal acidification?   The good news is that we can do something to fight back against coastal acidification caused by nitrogen pollution. Says Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, “It’s wonderful to work with so many scientists, harvesters, and policy makers who understand this issue and are working on it before coastal acidification becomes insurmountable.”    One way is to find out what we know and what we need to know about coastal and ocean acidification. Friends of Casco Bay and others realized we need a concerted effort to fight the effects of ocean and coastal acidification. In 2014, we participated in the Maine Ocean Acidification Study Commission, which issued a report to the Legislature in January 2015, recommending many actions to confront this threat to our fisheries and marine ecology in general, including establishing an...

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A bill with flair makes its way through the Maine Legislature

A bill with flair makes its way through the Maine Legislature

Last summer, Representative Jay McCreight* received a question from a local lobsterman about what to do with a barn full of expired marine flares or “Visual Distress Signals.” She called Friends of Casco Bay to ask about the potential environmental impacts from flares. Citizen Stewards Coordinator Peter Milholland and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca began looking into the issue, with the help of University of New England student interns Iliana Flefel and Grayson Szczepaniak. The United States Coast Guard requires marine vessels greater than 16 feet in length to carry at least three flares to use in the event of an emergency. These emergency flares expire within 42 months from date of manufacture and must be replaced. This has led mariners to stockpile expired flares, often for years, trying to figure out how to get rid of them. Right now, there are no good options for Maine boaters to dispose of expired flares, which can still be explosive. Boaters have tried soaking expired flares in a bucket of water, shooting off flares at sea (especially on the Fourth of July), or throwing them in the trash. None of these practices are acceptable because pyrotechnic flares are classified as “hazardous wastes.” Flares contain toxic chemicals that may harm human and marine life. Potassium perchlorate interferes with thyroid function, which regulates a person’s metabolism, including heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Strontium may create toxic gases when burned. Sulfur has been shown to contribute to more acidic conditions in the ocean. We learned that the only safe way to dispose of expired flares is by incineration at high temperature. Fortunately, the State Fire Marshall’s office has an EPA-approved mobile incinerator that can be used for this purpose, which was originally purchased to incinerate fireworks. To authorize the State Fire Marshall’s office to design a program to collect and incinerate expired flares, Representative McCreight has introduced a bill to the 128th Maine Legislature: LD 252 An Act To Improve Safety in the Disposal of Expired Flares. On March 13, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca testified before the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety in support of the bill. Should LD 252 continue to move through the legislative process, we may suggest you contact your legislators to support the bill.   * The State Representative for District 51, which includes Harpswell, West Bath, and part of...

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Did we Nab Nitrogen? We sure did!

Did we Nab Nitrogen? We sure did!

On a rainy July 10 last year, at precisely 10:10 a.m., 97 volunteers for Friends of Casco Bay hung out over docks or trudged through mud to collect jars of seawater. See the results…

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Fireside Gardening: Winter BayScaping Tips

Fireside Gardening: Winter BayScaping Tips

OK, there’s snow on the ground where you really want to be digging in the garden. What is one to do?

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2016 Citizen Steward Milestones

2016 Citizen Steward Milestones

25 Year Award Recipient Andrew Bertocci Water Quality Site: Yankee Marina ~ Yarmouth In 1992, the pilot year of our volunteer water quality monitoring program, Andy began duties as a Citizen Steward at Princes Point in Yarmouth. Later, Andy helped to cover the site at Yankee Marina. In 1995, Andy was hired by Friends of Casco Bay to expand the water quality program to northeastern Casco Bay. For several years, Andy ran training for new monitors and supervised Quality Assurance sessions. In the second year of our Vessel Pumpout program, Andy was hired as Pumpout Coordinator, a job he held for several seasons. He operated the pumpout boat Baykeeper II, provided public education, and worked with many marinas to establish their own pumpout facilities. For 10 years, Andy managed a rockweed harvesting and processing operation in Brunswick and producing the raw materials for equine, human, and canine micronutrient supplementation. He subsequently became an independent seaweed consultant, working with companies worldwide in their investigation of viable uses for seaweed resources, including seaweed paper. His interests and skills have taken him in diverse directions since that time. Andy wants to recognize his wife Jeanie, who has facilitated his involvement with Friends of Casco Bay, and his daughter Maggie, who at age 7, trained as a water quality monitor and assisted us for five seasons, earning her 5-year Award hat!   15 Year Award Recipient Rick Meisenbach Water Quality Site: Lookout Point ~ Harpswell Rick has traveled and lived all over the world, from Europe to Asia to Hawaii, only to find Harpswell, Maine, was the ideal place to settle down and raise a family. Growing up, Rick summered on the shores of Casco Bay and has been an enthusiastic sailor all his life. By living on the ocean, Rick has come to appreciate all of its benefits. It has been a joy giving back by being a Citizen Steward and collecting data on water quality in Casco Bay for the past 15 years. Rick has been also been one of Harpswell’s top producing real estate brokers. He currently works with his wife Jane at The Maine Real Estate Network, specializing in waterfront properties.   10 Year Award Recipients Jan and Tom Brudzinski Water Quality Site: Orr’s Bailey Yacht Club ~ Orr’s Island Jan and Tom are residents of Orr’s Island, with some cold-weather time in Portland. Their monitoring site on Harpswell Sound is visible from their home. After moving to Maine fulltime, they found that volunteering for Friends of Casco Bay was a way to protect the Maine environment they love. Jan is a retired teacher and is now an avid reader. Tom retired from a fulltime career in design. Now in his encore career, Tom still does design consulting and applying his artistic and marketing skills to “telling the stories of Maine lobsters.”   5 Year Award Recipients Deb Debiegun Water Quality Site: Cousin’s River, Muddy Rudder ~ Yarmouth Deb loves volunteering with Friends of Casco Bay. Dissolved Oxygen (DO) titrations on her kitchen counter while the kids are eating breakfast and she’s drinking her coffee just makes her smile. Deb currently samples on the Cousins River, a short skip from her home in Yarmouth. As a marine scientist and a science teacher, one of her favorite aspects of her water quality sampling is when someone asks, “What are you doing?” Deb sought out Friends of Casco Bay soon after relocating to Maine from Rhode Island, and she has been roping in her family and students to assist ever since.   Carol Nale Water Quality Site: Cousin’s River, Muddy Rudder...

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Keeping an eye on the Bay 24/7

Keeping an eye on the Bay 24/7

Imagine working 8,760 hours a year. Friends of Casco Bay has two water quality monitors that do just that.

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Volunteer Appreciation Celebration & 2017 Annual Members Meeting

Volunteer Appreciation Celebration & 2017 Annual Members Meeting

We look forward to seeing you tonight at the Hilton Garden Inn, Freeport. We know the weather includes quite a wintry mix today. We are proceeding with our event tonight as the snow and ice are turning to rain.

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Water quality monitoring season may be over, but the work continues

Water quality monitoring season may be over, but the work continues

Volunteers finished their data collection on October 18, marking the end of the 2016 season. But, both for Andy and the organization, this also marks 25 years of data collection by Friends of Casco Bay!

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Making our List and Checking It Twice: it’s not what you think!

Making our List and Checking It Twice: it’s not what you think!

At this time of year, many people are anxiously awaiting presents from Santa. Our people are eagerly awaiting the treats wrapped inside our Citizen Stewards’ water quality data. Volunteers, such as Andy Bertocci, finished their data collection on October 18, marking the end of the 2016 season. But, both for Andy and the organization, this also marks 25 years of data collection by Friends of Casco Bay! Over 7 months, from April through October, our water quality monitors record their measurements of water temperature, salinity, water clarity, dissolved oxygen, and pH (the level of acidity of the water). They also make notes on weather conditions, air temperature, and any unusual or intriguing sightings, such as jumping fish, invasions of jellies, and the occasional oil spill. Although our Citizens Stewards have turned in their data sheets and put their water quality kits to bed until next spring, the work continues back at the office, where staff members are as busy as Santa’s elves. We are organizing, reviewing, and analyzing the data from 37 volunteer monitoring sites around Casco Bay. Database Assistant Sara Biron reviews the online data entries and enters additional data from spreadsheets entered by hand. She is the first to make sure the data makes sense; Citizen Stewards Coordinator Peter Milholland is responsible for checking it twice. Peter explains the importance of this review, “Our volunteers are trained according to a comprehensive Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) approved by EPA, which makes their data, after quality assurance checks by staff, scientifically defensible.” Peter then passes the data along to Research Associate Mike Doan. Mike averages the data collected over the past five years for dissolved oxygen, pH, and water clarity (Secchi depth) to update the Casco Bay Health Index, an overview of the health of the waters around Casco Bay. Says Mike, “The Health Index enables us to assess: What is the relative condition of sites across a region? How does the health of regions of the Bay differ from each other? Which sites, based on the selected criteria, require a closer look? Are these conditions improving or degrading over time?” Development and Communications Associate Sarah Lyman then turns Mike’s analysis into an easy-to understand graphic, where each sampling site is assigned a color—red, yellow, or green—onto a map of the Bay. That chart lets everyone see the health of Casco Bay at a glance. On January 24, Friends of Casco Bay will unveil the updated Casco Bay Health Index and show how different regions of Casco Bay are faring. Join us on January 24 at our 2017 Volunteer Appreciation Celebration and Annual Meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn, Freeport (snow date 1/25). Come spring, our volunteers will take up their kits once again, come in for their individual Quality Assurance review, and devote ten Saturdays in 2017, to helping us improve and protect the environmental health of Casco...

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Keeping Casco Bay Blue by the Numbers

Keeping Casco Bay Blue by the Numbers

Baykeeping Friends of Casco Bay is first and foremost an environmental organization using advocacy based on science. We work to defend the health of the Bay on many fronts: stormwater and sewage overflow remediation, nitrogen pollution and coastal acidification, oil spill preparedness, discharge permits, snow dumping, dredging, restricting plastic bags, polystyrene, microbeads, and pesticides, and dealing with unexpected issues that come in “over the transom.” Our Pumpout Service removed 13,640 gallons of raw sewage from 535 recreational boats in 2015. Where does all that wastewater go? For the past ten years, Maine Yacht Center generously accepted sewage from our pumpout boat, to pass along to process at the Portland wastewater treatment plant. This past year, in our advocacy for BayScaping, we partnered with 628 citizens, lawn care professionals, and town officials at 16 workshops and presentations, explaining why communities should limit or ban pesticides and fertilizers.   Research Our Baykeeper boat, Research Vessel Joseph E. Payne, is on the water 365 days a year. You may see us patrolling the Bay to investigate pollution incidents, highlight threats to our waters, and conduct scientific studies and data collection. Our staff assesses the environmental health of Casco Bay, collecting water quality data year-round. We also collaborate with other researchers studying eelgrass distribution, clam survival, nitrogen levels, and pesticides. Our citizen scientists collect data at 37 sites along Casco Bay’s coast and islands. 92 Citizen Stewards monitor water quality between Cape Elizabeth and Cape Small, on 10 Saturdays from April through October, contributing over 2,000 hours of volunteer time each year.   Education & Outreach Friends of Casco Bay participated in 44 community events. We reached over 3,200 people directly through our presentations and exhibits at public events, meeting with Mainers to explain how we all can be good stewards of our coastal waters. Our work was mentioned in at least 55 media outlets, featuring stories about our report A Changing Casco Bay, Portland’s plastic bag and polystyrene ordinances, banning pesticides, and our search for the new Casco Baykeeper. 54 volunteers stenciled more than 187 storm drains through our Storm Drain Stenciling Program. 49 volunteers picked up nearly 800 pounds of trash on Coastal Cleanups with Friends of Casco Bay. Filmgoers consumed 520 bags of popcorn at our 8th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival, where inspiring films motivated audience members to take...

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Harraseeket Inn Event Photos

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Friends of Casco Bay, working with you to keep Casco Bay blue.

Friends of Casco Bay, working with you to keep Casco Bay blue.

How can you keep Casco Bay blue?

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Tackling Pesticide Use, One Town at a Time

Tackling Pesticide Use, One Town at a Time

Eddie Woodin has a backyard that should be on Home & Garden TV. This bird lover has planted acres of bee-friendly flowers, nurtured trees, shrubs, and green spaces, and installed nesting boxes and bird baths all around his property. He has maintained this two-acre refuge without pesticides for 18 years. One afternoon nearly 10 years ago, Eddie was sitting on a bench in his yard at dusk. He noticed that there were none of the brown bats that normally dive bombed clouds of mosquitoes in the evening. Then he realized there were no mosquitoes either. Thus began a crusade. On September 21st, 2011, thanks to Eddie’s impetus, Scarborough passed its Pest Management Policy, which bans the use of synthetic lawn chemicals on town-owned land, including school grounds and athletic fields. Now neighboring communities are taking his advocacy to the next level. On September 7th, South Portland passed an ordinance that phases in a pesticide ban on public property after one year, on private property after two years, and requires a comprehensive review of the ordinance in year three. Education will be emphasized over enforcement. The Portland Pesticides Task Force is looking at South Portland’s ordinance as a possible model for its own ordinance. This group of twelve citizens includes our Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. Harpswell, where lobstering is a way of life, passed a pesticide ordinance on March 12th that bans neonicotinoids, chemicals blamed for bee die-offs, and insect growth regulators, used to kill browntail moths but also linked to harming lobsters. The ordinance bans using pesticides or fertilizers with 25 feet of the...

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Community Connection: Kathryn Reid

Community Connection: Kathryn Reid

“Whenever we are boating, we take advantage of the pumpout service and advise other boaters about it.”

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Community Connection: Peter Dufour

Community Connection: Peter Dufour

“We want our legacy to be getting rid of cigarette butts.”

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Community Connection: Tollef Olson

Community Connection: Tollef Olson

“Sea farming has all the benefits with none of the detriments.”

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Out & About with the Casco Baykeeper October 2016

Out & About with the Casco Baykeeper October 2016

January 4th, 2016, was Ivy Frignoca’s first day as Casco Baykeeper. Had Ivy kept a diary of the highlights of her year to date, it might have read like this — in abbreviated version, of course!

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Nabbing Nitrogen: A water sampling “flash mob”

Nabbing Nitrogen: A water sampling “flash mob”

On a rainy July 10, at precisely 10:10 a.m., 97 volunteers for Friends of Casco Bay hung out over docks or trudged through mud to collect jars of seawater.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

This photograph generated many thousands more.

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