The Perfect Time for a Waterkeeper

Peter Wellenberger

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region @ flickr. Creative Commons.

There could not be a more perfect time for a Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper. Working with CLF, I view one of my key roles as rallying citizens and communities around one purpose, cleaning up the estuary. Everyone living here has an impact on the estuary in one way or another.  It is our responsibility to limit that impact and become better stewards of our environment. Whether you live near the Squamscott River in Newfields or Stratham, or near Spinney Creek on the Maine side, we all need be more involved in the decisions that will determine the future of this wonderful natural resource.

Last Friday, I attended a meeting that was designed to foster improved communication among those who care about the future of the estuary. Convened by the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, the meeting was part of an ongoing series of discussions known as the Great Bay Dialogue.  There are many individuals, groups and town officials concerned about the future health of the estuary, but a lack of coordination has always derailed past attempts to act as a single voice.

Twenty plus people attended this meeting representing state agencies, local government, land trusts and a mix of non-profits. In a large group, there are always differences on how to move forward. As Manager of the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for twenty-two years, I have participated in countless meetings on the management and protection of New Hampshire’s most important coastal ecosystem. So why was this one any different?

Everyone there made a commitment to work towards a cleaner and healthier estuary for one simple reason – the risk is too high if we wait any longer to act. The estuary is nearing a tipping point and once crossed, we may never be able to recover the ecosystem. The goal is to come up with solutions now that, in the long run, will cost far less than if we delay and allow the estuary to crash.

Achieving this goal will not be easy, but the more stakeholders we have involved, the greater chance of success. Clean water improves our quality of life and helps to promote a sustainable economy. From big fixes to small ones, we all have a role to play.

As Reserve manager, I helped to create the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership. The group, to date, has invested over 62 million dollars in federal and private funds to protect and conserve land throughout the Great Bay region. Now is the time to protect that investment by increasing our efforts to improve water quality in the estuary.

Join the dialogue and help me in the fight to save the estuary from reaching that tipping point.  I can be reached at 603.498.3545 or

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