A New Program for the Great Bay Estuary: CLF’s Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper

Peter Wellenberger

Me on a recent beautiful day on the Great Bay estuary.

I’m thrilled to be launching an important and much needed effort to restore and protect the health of our treasured Great Bay estuary: CLF’s new Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper program.

As the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper, I’ll be devoting all my time and effort to protecting this remarkable water resource – a resource that is threatened by pollution and deserves all the attention it can get. It’s a place I’ve come to know well through 20 years of managing the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and by living in nearby Newmarket. The threats to the Bay have never been clearer, the opportunity to fix them never greater.

The objective of the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper program is to work for and protect the health of the waters making up the Great Bay estuary – our major bays (Great Bay and Little Bay), our tidal rivers (the Piscataqua, Salmon Falls, Cocheco, Bellamy, Oyster, Lamprey, Squamscott and Winnicut Rivers), and our wonderful harbors and creeks (Portsmouth and Little Harbor; Spinney, Spruce and Sagamore Creeks). Each of these water bodies, on their own, is an important natural resource. Together, they comprise a remarkable and rich ecosystem that is under threat..

Population growth, sprawl, and outdated water infrastructure are all contributing to the decline of the Great Bay estuary. Pollution levels have increased, leading to the loss of critical habitat within the estuary. Reversing these trends will require a multi-pronged approach including: the need to invest in improved  infrastructure, such as sewage treatment plants; innovative approaches to reducing existing stormwater pollution; and better planning to prevent future sprawl development and the water pollution it causes.

My work as the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper will include:

  • advocating for needed policies and compliance with environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act,
  • working with scientists and the many stakeholders involved in efforts related to the Great Bay estuary, and
  • keeping a watchful eye on waters within the estuary.

Most importantly, I look forward to building a much stronger public voice for the estuary. Just as there are many people and organizations that care about the health and future of the Great Bay estuary, there are many more people who will care, and lend their voices to protecting this amazing water resource, once they learn more about the threats it’s facing. It’s my goal to grow the chorus of concerned citizens about our Great Bay.

I first learned about Great Bay 40 years ago as an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire. I quickly fell in love with its beauty and richness and worked with others to reject the proposal by Aristotle Onassis to build the world’s largest oil refinery on the shores of Great Bay. These efforts led to the creation of the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve – a Reserve I had the privilege to manage for more than 20 years, from its inception in 1990 to 2011.They were rich, wonderful years that provided me the opportunity to work with a wide diversity of dedicated individuals committed to saving this very special place.

Having worked on Great Bay matters for more than two decades, I am deeply concerned about the declining health of the estuary. Just as its threats are many, so too are multiple solutions are needed. We’re all in this together; only through greater public action can we protect the valuable ecological, recreational and cultural benefits of this remarkable resource. It’s a major challenge, but it’s one I welcome working on with you.

Please contact me with questions or concerns about the Great Bay estuary (603.498.3545, or pwellenberger@clf.org), and stay informed about my work by visiting www.clf.org/great-bay-waterkeeper.




Focus Areas

Clean Air & Water


About the CLF Blog

The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of Conservation Law Foundation, our boards, or our supporters.