Stormwater Fees Are OK in RI

May 29, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Stormwater pollution is bad. Avoiding stormwater pollution – in particular, by implementing green infrastructure projects – is good. In fact, stormwater mitigation provides broad economic and environmental benefits. Policymakers often recognize these truths, but before they can act they must answer a key question: How do we pay for mitigation efforts so we can all reap the benefits?

A common answer is stormwater management districts, or SMDs. SMDs are bodies created by state or local governments to address stormwater pollution. They may be congruent with municipal or county borders, or they may span multiple local governments. Most importantly, SMDs have the authority to maintain storm-sewer systems, undertake stormwater mitigation projects, and charge fees to pay for these activities. But these fees are sometimes challenged by opponents claiming that they are really disguised illegal taxes.

Courts faced with these stormwater-fee cases generally follow a simple three-part rule: when (1) there’s an enabling act for an SMD, (2) the SMD’s fees conform to the terms of that enabling act, and (3) those fees provide a benefit to the people who pay them, a court will uphold the fee and affirm that it is not an illegal tax.

Stormwater fees can pay for green infrastructure like this rain garden. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Rhode Island presently has no SMDs. But it does have a strong enabling act on the books – the “Stormwater Management and Utility District Act of 2002.” Last year, CLF released a report analyzing this act and assessing the likelihood that stormwater fees established by Rhode Island SMDs could survive legal challenge. The answer? Very likely. We have a strong enabling act, so any fee that conforms to the terms of that act and provides a benefit to fee payers should be upheld. And SMDs can easily ensure that their fees follow the act and provide benefits to fee payers, so long as they charge fees to properties that actually discharge stormwater.

A few weeks ago, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued an opinion that supports CLF’s conclusion that stormwater fees here should survive legal challenge. In Commerce Park Associates 1, LLC v. Houle, opponents challenged the Town of Coventry’s sewer assessment fee as a disguised tax. The Court applied part of the formula mentioned above to uphold the sewer assessment. The Court noted that (1) there is an enabling act, and (2) its language authorizes the sewer assessment at issue without indicating that the assessment is actually a tax. In fact, the language of the act is so straightforward in indicating that the sewer assessment is not a tax that the Court did not even reach the third question of fee-payers’ benefit. The Court simply relied on plain language in holding that the assessment is valid and is by definition not a tax.

Like the enabling act in Coventry, the state SMD enabling act does not in any way indicate that a stormwater fee is actually a tax. This means lesson for Rhode Island municipalities and SMDs is simple: follow the formula. (1) Pay attention to the enabling act, (2) craft a fee that follows the terms of the act, and (3) provide a benefit to fee payers, meaning fees should only be charged on properties whose stormwater discharges can be managed or mitigated. Do those three things, and you will finally be able to pay for green infrastructure, create jobs in your community, and stop stormwater pollution.

No Clean Up in Sight for Stormwater Pollution: EPA Region 1 Leaves Open Decision for Future Action

Mar 18, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

By the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own estimate, tens of thousands of businesses currently fly under the radar of the Clean Water Act – meaning neither EPA nor the states regulate them. Instead these tens of thousands of businesses discharge dirty stormwater that pollutes our waters. This is not only illegal, it is harmful to humans and wildlife.

In an effort to force these businesses to change their polluting ways, last summer, CLF and our partners, the Natural Resources Defense Counsel and American Rivers, filed a petition with EPA to hold these polluters accountable and address the issue of stormwater runoff at a regionwide level. In a disappointing move, on March 11, Region 1 of EPA wrote to CLF and its partners that it would neither grant nor deny the petition, instead committing to address the problem one waterbody at a time.

In essence, the petition identified polluted waters throughout Region 1 (the New England States) and presented evidence that stormwater carried pollution from existing commercial, industrial and institutional sites to those polluted waters. The Clean Water Act requires that such sources of stormwater pollution be regulated, but the truth is that these sites are not held accountable for the toxins they discharge along with stormwater runoff. We asked EPA to issue permits requiring these kinds of sites to clean up their stormwater discharges, using the agency’s “residual authority” under the Clean Water Act.

Right now, the burden of cleaning up after these thousands of polluting businesses rests with city and town governments – and, by extension, taxpayers. It is absolutely critical that these commercial, industrial and institutional pollution sources are required to bear their fair share of the clean-up responsibility. Our city and town governments can’t, and shouldn’t, do it alone. Why should taxpayers be subsidizing pollution clean up at big box stores, malls, car dealerships, and private universities? Our petition was targeted at assisting cities and towns by assuring that polluters pay for the problems they cause either directly, or by paying money to local utilities to implement clean-up measures. Unless there is a regulatory requirement to drive investment in pollution controls, these polluters have no incentive to do their part – and they haven’t been.

Finally, there is no question that EPA needs more staffing and resources to regulate these sites. There are real pollution consequences to the indiscriminate budget-cutting inflicted on EPA by politicians that support polluters over public health and safety.

So, while Region 1’s decision to not grant the petition is disappointing, we are encouraged that EPA Region 1 did not deny the petition outright. In response to the petition, EPA Region 1 has begun evaluating watersheds (the area that drains into a river or lake) throughout the region to consider further regulatory requirements. This means that instead of tackling the problem for the entire region now (as we requested), EPA is on a path to approaching the problem one polluted water body at a time. With tens of thousands of sources polluting 1,711 waters throughout New England, can we afford to take the slow path set forth by EPA? Will these waters ever be restored to places we can fish and swim, and that support wildlife?

CLF remains committed to reversing stormwater pollution and will continue to fight for clean water throughout New England. In the near term, we will work with EPA as they implement the review process announced last week—and to advocate for a responsive process that acknowledges the urgency of the region’s stormwater runoff dilemma.

This post was co-written by Chris Kilian, VP and Director, CLF Vermont and Clean Water and Healthy Forests, and Ivy Frignoca, Staff Attorney.

Green Infrastructure Projects Create Jobs for People Who Need Them

Mar 13, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Right now leaders throughout Rhode Island are taking a hard look at stormwater pollution – in fact, over the weekend, I was on a panel discussing solutions to the this critical threat to the health of our waterways. One especially exciting solution is green infrastructure.

What is green infrastructure? Green infrastructure uses natural processes to manage and filter stormwater. Rain gardens, for example, can collect stormwater runoff and allow soils and plants to absorb it gradually so it doesn’t flow rapidly to water bodies. Bioswales are similar; they are long, narrow channels landscaped with plants to collect, absorb, and filter runoff. Rain gardens and bioswales stand in contrast to so-called “gray” or traditional stormwater-management infrastructure, including large concrete pipes and basins for controlling stormwater flow. One major advantage of green infrastructure is combating the heat-island effect: Concrete absorbs and stores heat from the sun, creating heat islands and exacerbating climate-related problems in urban environments. Green infrastructure, on the other hand, brings relief on hot summer days.

photo credit: Aaron Volkening via photopin cc

Green infrastructure can include rain gardens, which are one way of managing and filtering stormwater runoff before it reaches our rivers, lakes, and ocean. Photo credit: Aaron Volkening via photopin cc

Green infrastructure has huge potential to mitigate stormwater pollution and increase our ability to withstand the effects of a changing climate. But just as important is its potential to create truly vibrant neighborhoods where they’re needed most. This means, for example, replacing vacant lots with rain gardens in neighborhoods with the highest unemployment (which are also often highly paved). This in turn means people from these neighborhoods getting paid to create and maintain the rain gardens. On top of all this, rain gardens and other green projects create prettier streets and higher property values. And, of course, prettier streets lead to more people outside enjoying their neighborhood.

But let’s take a closer look at the question of who benefits economically from green infrastructure projects – in particular, who gets the jobs necessary to create and maintain these projects (after all, we are talking about Rhode Island, the state with the nation’s worst unemployment rate). The answer is that the greatest economic benefit flows through the communities where the projects are. Here are some numbers for context: a report from the University of Maryland has shown that spending $100 million on green infrastructure in Lynchburg, Virginia would create about 1,400 jobs. And a report from the national organization Green For All (pdf) notes that Los Angeles, California has already seen an estimated increase of more than 2,000 jobs by spending $166 million on green infrastructure projects. What’s the best part of this job growth? Generally speaking, about three quarters of these jobs are local. These local jobs then create a positive feedback loop that generates considerably more local economic activity: a particularly high $3.15 for every dollar spent in Lynchburg (according to the University of Maryland), $2 for every dollar spent in L.A. (according to the L.A. Chamber of Commerce).

Some of these local benefits flow from the very nature of green infrastructure projects. A rain garden, after all, will be installed and maintained by landscapers who are unlikely to travel from far away. This means that it is important to site green infrastructure projects in communities where they can have the most impact both environmentally and economically. And one way to make sure that economic benefits go to the communities that need them most is to enact a community benefits policy.

A community benefits policy ensures that green-infrastructure decision-makers consider community need in figuring out where to site projects – and that community members have a say in the decision-making process too. For example, the utility that administers the stormwater program for San Francisco, California has two complementary policies: an Environmental Justice Policy and a Community Benefits Policy. Among other things, these policies require the utility to “recognize community need for employment through continuation and expansion of workforce development strategies, including green job opportunities.” It seems pretty straightforward to conclude that when decision makers consider community need for green jobs, projects are more likely to be sited in communities that actually need green jobs. Another method used by the San Francisco utility is obtaining commitments in professional service contracts – ensuring that a certain percentage of a contractor’s employees are local, for example.

All this is a long way of saying that there are many, many good reasons to invest in green infrastructure projects as a major part of our efforts to address stormwater pollution here in Rhode Island and throughout New England. And it is worth remembering that if we continue to approach these projects the way we’ve always done it, we’re probably missing some great opportunities to enhance our local neighborhoods and economy, not to mention local waterways.

CLF Works for Clean Water in a Changing Climate

Mar 11, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Lake-Champlain-TMDL

A deluge of rain in spring 2011 caused flooding upstream of Lake Champlain. Extreme weather and damaging floods are not the only downside of Vermont’s changing climate. Mud-brown flood waters flowing to Lake Champlain also increase the loading of nutrient pollution that can cause toxic blue-green algae blooms and noxious weed growth.

The damaging floods of spring 2011 followed by Tropical Storm Irene in late summer awakened many Vermonters to the connection between climate change and extreme precipitation. But well before the “watershed moment” that was 2011, CLF’s Vermont Advocacy Center was pushing policymakers to connect the dots between our clean water challenges and the changing climate. Thanks in part to CLF’s efforts, Vermont is now poised to play a leadership role in the national climate change conversation around strategies to secure the natural resource we literally cannot live without: clean water.

CLF has worked for years to ensure that enforceable measures are put in place to clean up Lake Champlain, which has been heavily impaired by nutrient pollution. This pollution causes toxic blue-green algae blooms and noxious weed growth that make the water unsafe or unpleasant for swimming, fishing, and boating, and has led to massive fish die-offs in some parts of the lake.

In 2002, EPA approved a framework created by Vermont officials for cleaning up nutrient pollution in the lake, but it failed to take into account the growing scientific consensus that our climate is changing. In 2008, CLF sued EPA, under the Clean Water Act, to reopen this framework and revise it to include consideration of climate change. Specifically, CLF cited government studies such as the 2008 EPA National Water Program strategy document titled “Response to Climate Change.” It concluded that the climate chaos we are causing with our greenhouse gas pollution will “alter the hydrological cycle, especially characteristics of precipitation (amount, frequency, intensity, duration, type) and extremes.” The report also made a range of predictions that ring true in Vermont’s recent experience of the changing climate:

• “[w]ater-borne diseases and degraded water quality are very likely to increase with more heavy precipitation”;

• potential increases in heavy precipitation, with expanding impervious surfaces, could increase urban flood risks and create additional design challenges and costs for stormwater management”;

• flooding can affect water quality, as large volumes of water can transport contaminants into waterbodies and also overload storm and wastewater systems.

CLF and EPA ultimately settled the case, with EPA subsequently agreeing to redo the Lake Champlain cleanup framework to account for the ways in which Vermont will have to adapt our pollution-control efforts to a world in which heavy precipitation and flooding are increasingly the norm for New England. CLF’s success in the case has since been cited as a national model (e.g., “Using Legal Tools to Protect Lakes and Rivers from Climate Impacts“) and one CLF is working to replicate as it fights for clean water solutions on Cape Cod.

Now, CLF is actively participating in the new Lake Champlain Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process to ensure that both EPA and Vermont officials succeed in finding a way to secure enough clean water in a changing climate, both because the job is imperative for Vermont’s future and because the lessons we learn here can apply elsewhere in New England and the nation. Fortunately, EPA is bringing some cutting-edge, forward-looking science to the table. For example, EPA has produced a report titled Projected Changes in Phosphorus Loads Due to Climate Change. It is helping Vermont policymakers plan for the added challenges that climate change presents to our ongoing pollution-control efforts. EPA is also working on a second report that will help regulators understand which on-the-ground pollution control measures are most likely to succeed when tested by extreme precipitation  like that we’ve seen recently and can expect more of as climate change worsens.

State officials are also recognizing the need to revisit regulatory standards applicable to developed areas that are the source of polluted runoff and increased flooding risks. CLF is an active stakeholder in the process of updating the state’s official Stormwater Management Manual. One key aim is to ensure that design standards match up with the scale of the extreme weather events we are witnessing. Moreover, CLF is advocating for pollution-control approaches that emphasize “Low Impact Design” and “Green Infrastructure.” These development techniques seek to preserve and/or mimic the natural landscape’s ability to soak up precipitation rather than concentrating its flow into destructive, heavily polluted volumes.

Since Vermont has been thrust into the forefront of states wrestling with this complicated issue, President Obama named Governor Peter Shumlin to his White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resiliency. Recognizing CLF’s leadership role in this effort, Governor Shumlin has tapped CLF advocates to join other Vermont experts in crafting climate-resilience recommendations to the White House Task Force.

The challenge of achieving clean water in a changing climate is a daunting one. First and foremost, we must do all we can to reduce climate-change pollution, thereby avoiding making the problem worse. In Vermont and throughout New England, CLF is fighting hard for clean energy solutions. At the same time, and with your continued support, CLF is helping Vermont lead the way toward water-pollution control measures that can stand up to the worst climate change has to offer.

Environmental Appeals Board Affirms Newmarket Clean Water Act Permit

Dec 6, 2013 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

clean-water-act

The effects of too much nitrogen in Great Bay: This eelgrass bed had 100% coverage in 2012.
Photo credit: Dr. Fred Short 2013

As we have reported in the past, reducing nitrogen pollution from sewage treatment plants is an essential and urgently needed step toward restoring the health of the Great Bay estuary. I’m pleased to report an important decision that will keep the estuary on the path to recovery: the Environmental Appeals Board’s affirmation of a Clean Water Act permit requiring significant nitrogen pollution reductions from Newmarket’s outdated sewage treatment plant.

The story starts a year ago, in December 2012, when the EPA issued a permit – based on multiple factors demonstrating the ravaging effects of nitrogen pollution in the estuary – that establishes a stringent limit on the amount of nitrogen pollution that can be discharged from the Newmarket sewage treatment plant into the Lamprey River (and downstream, to Great Bay). In what could be called a tale of two cities, the release of this permit prompted very different responses by municipal officials.

On the one hand, the Town of Newmarket – the town with the most at stake – set off down the responsible path of solving the nitrogen pollution problem. First, Newmarket officials made the decision not to appeal the permit. Next, Newmarket voters took the important step of voting – overwhelmingly – to support a bond to fund the upgrade of its sewage treatment plant.

On the other hand, a group of towns calling themselves the Municipal Coalition (comprised of Dover, Rochester and Portsmouth) filed an appeal on behalf of Dover and Rochester, challenging the Newmarket permit and its strict limits on pollution. The towns leveled argument after argument at EPA, calling into question the science EPA had relied upon (including a Great Bay nitrogen analysis prepared by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services) and the procedures EPA had followed. Now, nearly a year after the towns filed their appeal, the Environmental Appeals Board, has issued a decision roundly rejecting those arguments and throwing out the appeal.

According to the judges deciding the matter, “the record provides substantial support for the scientific validity of the [N.H. Department of Environmental Services’] Great Bay Nutrient Report and the [EPA’s] consideration of that report” in setting a water quality target for the permit. The judges further noted: “While the record contains comments from the [Municipal] Coalition and its consultants that are critical of the State’s conclusions, the vast majority of the expert evaluations in the record are supportive of the State’s methodology or conclusions.”

The decision affirms what scientists have been saying for years – there’s too much nitrogen pollution in the estuary. And, importantly, it creates a clear path for finally reducing that pollution to protect our waters.

Having actively engaged in the permitting process for the Newmarket sewage treatment plant, we at CLF are pleased to have participated in the Municipal Coalition’s appeal by countering many of the arguments made by the Coalition and reinforcing the need for nitrogen pollution reductions.

More importantly, we’re pleased that the Municipal Coalition’s appeal, having been rejected, will not obstruct Newmarket as it continues on its path to helping clean up the estuary. And we can only hope that after the significant dollars invested by the Municipal Coalition in fighting the requirements of the Clean Water Act, those towns will redirect and redouble their efforts where they belong – cleaning up our waters for a healthy Great Bay.

Find  more information about the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper and my work to protect the Great Bay estuary, You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

New CLF Report Is A Step Toward Solving Stormwater Pollution in RI

Oct 15, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Don't dump - protect the bay. Courtesy of Town of North Kingstown, RI.

Don’t dump! Protect the bay. Courtesy of Town of North Kingstown, RI.

Rhode Island features plenty of natural splendor – among other things, we have more than 50% forest cover, sandy Atlantic beaches in south county, and of course Narragansett Bay. But we also have a lot of concrete. Rhode Island is the country’s second-most densely populated state, with 1,016 inhabitants per square mile. A byproduct of all these people is that 12% of Rhode Island – roughly 145 square miles – is covered with so-called impervious surfaces like concrete and asphalt.

Impervious surfaces cause environmental harms. They create “urban heat islands” by absorbing and storing heat from the sun. They exacerbate flooding. And they lead to polluted stormwater runoff – when heavy rain falls on parking lots and driveways, it collects all the nasty stuff that has accumulated on the ground and carries it, unfiltered and untreated, into Narragansett Bay (along with raw sewage from overflowing sewage treatment systems). The result is unhealthy water.

For years, CLF has been exploring different ways we can use existing laws to address stormwater runoff. We’ve developed an innovative approach to expanding the scope of Clean Water Act permitting programs (read our press release or this post from the Environmental Law Prof Blog for more details). And, here in Rhode Island, we have just released a report detailing how cities and towns can use a decade-old state law to address the problems of impervious cover and stormwater runoff.

Our report focuses on the Rhode Island Stormwater Management and Utility District Act of 2002, which allows cities and towns to work independently or together to create Stormwater Management Districts. Under the Act, Stormwater Management Districts may charge fees to “each contributor of runoff” so long as any fee is proportionate to the amount of runoff from a given property.

Stormwater fees serve three major purposes. First, they allow Stormwater Management Districts to undertake pollution abatement projects, attacking the stormwater pollution problem head-on. Second, they create incentives for property owners to reduce their footprint of impervious cover –in fact, the Act even allows credits for property owners who undertake more ambitious projects like collection basins or filtration structures on their  property. And third, they stimulate local economies by encouraging property owners to tear out concrete and replace it with plants or other permeable cover. The end result is less pavement, more green space, and less pollution in Narragansett Bay – all good things.

Although Rhode Island’s Act has been on the books for over ten years now, no city or town has yet taken the leap of creating a Stormwater Management District. In producing our report, CLF worked closely with Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management and the Rhode Island Bays, Rivers, and Watersheds Coordination Team to identify questions that municipal leaders might have. Our analysis suggests that there are no significant legal obstacles standing in their way: now is the right time for cities and towns to work together to create Stormwater Management Districts and begin greening the Narragansett Bay watershed. We look forward to working with local governments and other advocacy groups in the coming days to make this happen.

Download a copy of CLF’s Rhode Island Stormwater Report.

Success for Great Bay Estuary, But More Progress is Needed in Action Against Grimmel Industries

Sep 26, 2013 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

grimmel-industries

Piles of scrap metal from Grimmel Industries’ facility have contributed to pollution in the Piscataqua River.

For quite some time now, we’ve had significant concerns about industrial stormwater pollution flowing into the Piscataqua River from the massive scrap metal facility operated by Grimmel Industries. As a result of these concerns – including toxic discharges containing PCBs and mercury – CLF successfully engaged the attention of EPA, which required Grimmel to clean up its act.  As a result, Grimmel Industries were required to reconfigure its site and install pollution controls.  (It also was required to pay civil penalties, and fund a restoration project in the Piscataqua River – more to come on that soon).

While monitoring data suggest that PCB and mercury discharges may have been reduced, unfortunately the site continues to violate EPA benchmark standards for a host of pollutants, including lead, copper and aluminum, to name a few.  So, what does this mean?  It means that while some progress has been made, the problems caused by this intense industrial operation on banks of the Piscataqua River have not been fully resolved.

That’s why we, along with some of our partners in the Rescue Great Bay coalition, have asked EPA to take further action. EPA’s enforcement action against Grimmel contemplated the possibility that the installation of further treatment technology would be necessary.  Unfortunately, the data are clear that additional pollution controls are needed, and we’re asking EPA to act quickly, without further delay, to require them.

Anyone who knows the Seacoast region knows the Piscataqua River is a treasure.  It adds enormously to what makes Seacoast communities like Portsmouth, Kittery, Newington, Eliot, New Castle, Dover, and so many others, such wonderful places.  And it’s an essential link between Great Bay and the Gulf of Maine, providing a key pathway for migratory fish like rainbow smelt, river herring, and elvers, and for the stripers that so many fishermen covet (though, regrettably, the loss of eelgrass habitat in the river and throughout the estuary have, in my experience, made it a real challenge to find stripers where we used to fish for them).

So, despite early actions to clean up this site, more progress is needed.  The Piscataqua River deserves no less.  As Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper, I’m pleased to be working to restore and protect its health.

 

Keep up to date with my work as Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper by visiting my website and subscribing to Great Bay Currents.

Long Creek Restoration Project: Making a Difference One Planting at a Time

Jul 2, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Long Creeek Restoration Project

Staff Attorney Ivy Frignoca helps plant vegetation along Long Creek

On July 20, many volunteers including CLF Attorney Ivy Frignoca helped plant vegetation along a tributary of Long Creek which winds through South Portland, Maine, and eventually empties into Casco Bay. The planting was part of the Long Creek Restoration Project, a collaborative 10 year plan to reverse the impacts of years of stormwater pollution to Long Creek. The creek runs through the Maine Mall and surrounding industrial/commercial area where it receives runoff from impervious areas like rooftops, roads and parking lots. This runoff carries heavy metals and other toxins into the creek, and has killed brook trout and other species that once lived there.

In 2008, CLF petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and asked it to issue a permit requiring area businesses to clean up the pollution. EPA issued the permit. Landowners and other stakeholders then banded together to form the Long Creek Restoration Partnership. To learn more about that effort, read this archived article from the Portland Press Herald.

The partnership is 3 years into its 10 year management plan and has put in place plantings, filters, and other items that have already reduced runoff from 30% of the land subject to the permit. Water quality testing is showing promising improvement and more projects are planned for the next several years! This year expect to see plantings in road medians and in 2015, trees added to the Maine Mall Parking lot.

 

Cleaning Up Great Bay – One Volunteer at a Time

Jun 25, 2013 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

If you look around the Seacoast, you will discover some remarkable volunteers helping to protect the Great Bay estuary. Recognizing that stormwater is a major source of nitrogen pollution, these volunteers are leading the way to cleaner water by simply lending a hand.

Durham is one Great Bay community implementing innovative solutions to reduce stormwater pollution. In collaboration with the UNH Stormwater Center and EPA, the town in 2010 installed a bioretention system (rain gardens) at the Pettee Brook Lane parking lot – the town’s largest municipal lot. The system was designed to optimize the removal of phosphorus and nitrogen.

Great Bay Volunteers

The Portsmouth Women’s Giving Circle helped do maintenance and install more plants at Durham’s rain gardens. Pictured are (counter clockwise): Meg and Tania Marino, Anne Pinciaro, Bobbie Cyrus, Mai Buker, Town Engineer Dave Cedarholm, Francie Osgood, and Rebecca Hennessy. Photo Courtesy of DPW.

The system was in dire need of maintenance in order to keep functioning properly. To meet the challenge, a large group of Oyster River Middle School students and teachers removed all the debris that had accumulated in the lot’s central rain garden. This work was followed by 7 volunteers from the Seacoast Women’s Giving Circle who spent a rainy Thursday morning cleaning out the smaller rain garden near the entrance of the lot and planting 20 additional plants in both gardens. The efforts of these volunteers will make the gardens more efficient and help to beautify the area – benefitting both local residents and merchants. To learn more about the value of rain gardens and how they function, click here.

Another volunteer, Michael Lambert of Exeter, took a different approach to help limit pollution in Great Bay. He was concerned that people in Exeter might not realize they are connected to people in Milton and Rochester through the same watershed and estuary. With the help of the Great Bay Research Reserve and town officials, he decided to install a map of the estuary near Swasey Parkway along the Squamscott River.

Michael’s efforts were recently unveiled during a public presentation. Mounted on stone, the map will help future generations understand that all the estuary’s communities are connected and must work together to protect this extraordinary natural resource.

A special thanks to these outstanding individuals for caring so deeply about the future of the Great Bay estuary and for making a difference. You can also learn more about the work of other individuals, like Bill Stewart of New Castle.

Furthermore, if you would like to join in and volunteer to help save Great Bay for future generations there are many opportunities to get involved. Email me at pwellenberger@clf.org or visit the Research Reserve’s Great Bay Discovery Center to learn more.

Ultimately, everyone can make a difference by being responsible for their communities.

For more information about the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper and my work to protect the Great Bay estuary, visit: http://www.clf.org/great-bay-waterkeeper/. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Great Bay Map

Great Bay map along the Squamscott River in downtown Exeter

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