The Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper vessel is back on the water for its third season. Following our launch earlier this month, the weather did not cooperate until last week. Interest is keen from folks who want to climb aboard and explore Great Bay and the Piscataqua River to identify and discuss the challenges facing our local waters.
If you mention Great Bay to people in the region, more and more recognize that the estuary – right here in our collective backyard – is not what it should be. The threats are real – loss of eelgrass; loss of filter-feeding oysters; stormwater pollution; excessive nutrient levels; and more shellfishing closures than ever before.
Although much remains to be done, we’re making real progress in tackling some of the biggest pollution challenges facing Great Bay. New sewage treatment plants with nitrogen controls in Newmarket and Exeter should be completed by June, 2017, and by the end of 2018, respectively. Portsmouth is scheduled to build a new plant with a higher level of treatment and nitrogen controls by 2020. Nitrogen discharges from treatment plants in Dover and Rochester have dropped dramatically.
More towns are adopting model stormwater ordinances that promote low impact development, and the Town of Exeter adopted regulations prohibiting the use of fertilizers within certain distances of particular bodies of water.
Though the vessel is used to monitor estuary health and to identify sources of pollution and potential violations, as Waterkeeper, I continue to use the boat as a platform for elected officials, the press, planners, and others, so that they can better understand just how all the pieces fit together—identifying the regulatory and behavioral changes that must occur if Great Bay is to be a healthy, vibrant resource for the Seacoast.
Would you like to come along for a ride?