Our work is science-based
Understanding the science of stewardship is the foundation of Friends of Casco Bay’s credibility. We use scientific data — much of it collected by our professional staff and by our Continuous Monitoring Station — to help change practices, policies, and attitudes.
Your support this year will help us build on our 28-year dataset on the health of the Bay. Seasonally, our staff spot-check 22 sites around the Bay. To answer the question, “How is the Bay changing?” our Continuous Monitoring Station is collecting hourly data on acidity, oxygen, carbon dioxide, chlorophyll, water-depth, and other vital parameters.
In Casco Bay (and other estuaries around the world), it is difficult to detect trends because of the interactive influence of tides, rivers, stormwater runoff, and other natural and human-caused conditions. Our Continuous Monitoring Station’s hourly data allows us to look past seasonal, daily, and tidal influences, to detect and document how climate change and other emerging coastal stressors may or may not be affecting the Bay. We call the Station our “Cage of Science,” because of the frequent, steady stream of information it is providing. You can check out our data at cascobay.org/science/continuous-monitoring-station.
Our work-with approach to advocacy gets results
We do not collect data merely for the sake of collecting data; good science is hard to refute. Scientific data have always informed our advocacy efforts as we work with the community, policy makers, and regulators to improve the health of the Bay. When data show there is a problem, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, Staff Scientist Mike Doan, and our other staff and volunteers go to work to find effective and practical solutions. Over the past 30 years, this “work-with” approach has led to concrete improvements, including:
· Halting cruise ship pollution through winning a No Discharge Area designation for Casco Bay, the first in Maine.
· Securing better long-term protection through Clean Water Act classification upgrades for areas of the Bay, ensuring stricter, permanent pollution limits.
· Reducing nitrogen discharges by collaborating with Portland Water District; on average, in 2018, they achieved 70% reduction levels at the East End Treatment Plant in Portland.
· Successfully advocating for local ordinances to discourage the use of single-use bags and polystyrene bans, which became models for state-wide legislation last year.
Your support this year will give us the flexibility we need to work at the local, statewide, and federal levels to reduce pollution. We will always advocate for what’s best for the Bay.
At the local level, our advocacy priorities include:
· Working with South Portland, Portland, Falmouth, and other municipalities to help develop ordinances to reduce nitrogen and pesticide pollution from lawn care chemicals.
· Inspiring volunteers all over the Bay, from Harpswell and Brunswick, to the islands, to South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, to track nuisance and harmful algal blooms. These blooms are exacerbated by excess nitrogen levels and tracking them can lead to identifying sources of pollution.
· Helping address and adapt to climate change through working with the cities of Portland and South Portland’s One Climate Future initiative.
At the statewide level, our advocacy priorities are:
· Acting as the voice of Casco Bay in the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council. The governor appointed Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to the Working Group. Our goal is to ensure that the state adopts an effective action plan to address and adapt to acidification and climate change.
· Reducing stormwater pollution through more effective protections. Stormwater, which flushes toxins from our streets and lawns into our coastal waters, is one of the largest sources of pollution to the Bay. We have been working with municipalities and Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff to develop better regulations to meaningfully improve water quality.
At the national level, our advocacy priorities are:
· Engaging Maine’s congressional delegation, including Congresswoman Pingree and Senators King and Collins, to support the federal agencies working on climate change science and policy.
· Working with WATERKEEPER® Alliance, the Ocean Conservancy, and other national groups to prevent rollbacks of federal environmental laws.
Engaging and inspiring the community
It takes a community to take care of the Bay. Volunteers are essential to our mission and to our success. Over the past two years, we have dramatically increased the number of volunteers who are engaged in our work. In 2017, 300 community members volunteered with us. In 2019, that number grew to more than 470.
Water Reporter: Our Observing Network for Casco Bay
Casco Bay encompasses approximately 200 square miles and more than 578 miles of shoreland from Cape Elizabeth to Phippsburg. Friends of Casco Bay staff cannot be everywhere.
Casco Bay needs more eyes watching out for it.
We launched the Water Reporter network as a tool for local residents, mariners, and workers on the Bay to help us keep watch on the waters upon which we all depend.
Using a smartphone app designed especially for Waterkeeper organizations such as ours, we are training volunteers to be on the lookout for pollution, algal blooms, and other threats. A keen-eyed observer with a minute to spare in their day can have a significant, immediate, and positive impact for Casco Bay. As Water Reporters see problems, unusual wildlife, or changes from what they normally see, all they need to do is pull out their smartphone, snap a picture, and describe what they see.
Over the past year, Water Reporters have helped us track 18 algal blooms and helped put a stop to two pollution incidents. They have helped us chronicle King Tides, the highest tides of the year, which help us all visualize what the “new normal” high tides may look like as sea levels continue to rise. We currently have 200 volunteer Water Reporters in our network.
With your support this year, we will continue to recruit new Water Reporters to expand our network and will organize special trainings to help these volunteers better identify and track nuisance and harmful algal blooms.
In 2019, we launched our Casco Bay Matters events to share our climate change data with the community and to engage local residents in our advocacy efforts. Our first series, Ocean Acidification, Climate Change, and You, drew more than 380 attendees. More importantly, these events helped lay the foundation for building public support for the formation of the Coastal and Marine Working Group in Governor Mills’ Maine Climate Council. With your support this year, we will organize a new series of Casco Bay Matters events to keep the public up-to-date with what our water quality data are telling us.
Coastal Cleanups and Storm Drain Stenciling
Casco Bay is downstream from everything in the watershed. We depend upon volunteers to help reduce the amount of trash and pollution that ends up in our coastal waters.
Coastal cleanups are excellent, hands-on community service activities for youth groups, scout troops, and corporate service volunteer days. As we organize volunteers to pick up litter to keep trash out of the Bay, we have them record data about the trash they pick up. These data help give credibility to our advocacy efforts to reduce waste and pollution.
Our storm drain stenciling volunteers “take to the streets” and create greater awareness about the need to reduce pollution. By painting “DO NOT DUMP” messages near storm drains, people learn about the connection between our streets and Casco Bay and become local advocates for reducing stormwater pollution.
Your support this year will help us organize more than 20 coastal cleanups and storm drain stenciling events.
We are here for the long-haul
Thanks to supporters like you, Friends of Casco Bay continues to be a rock-solid organization. As we celebrate our 30th year, we look forward to keeping the health of Casco Bay a priority for decades to come. Our balance sheet remains strong, with ample working capital and no long-term debt. We are growing our budget sustainably through continually seeking new donors and by building long-term relationships with existing supporters. In addition to being a great cause to donate to and volunteer for, we are known as a great place to work. The longevity of our staff enables us to undertake deeper, more thoughtful work each year.