The Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper vessel is back on the water for its second season. Interest is keen from folks who want to climb aboard and explore Great Bay and the Piscataqua River and other waters up close, and to discuss the challenges facing the estuary and the solutions for securing its health. The threats to this estuary of national significance are very real – loss of eelgrass and oysters; stormwater pollution; excessive nutrient levels; and more shellfishing closures than ever before.
While the challenges facing the estuary are significant, CLF and our Waterkeeper program have been instrumental in putting our waters on a path to recovery by addressing some of the most significant pollution problems. In Exeter and Newmarket, new sewage treatment plants with nitrogen controls should be completed by 2018. As well, nitrogen discharges from treatment plants in Dover and Rochester should drop significantly by mid-summer. These are very positive steps in the right direction, but more work must be done – controlling stormwater, reducing fertilizer run-off, and realizing the long-awaited end to pollution from Portsmouth’s antiquated Pierce Island sewage treatment plant.
Last year was our first on the water, and we found the Waterkeeper vessel to be a terrific asset – as a tool for assessing conditions in the estuary and identifying potential sources of pollution, and as a platform for elected officials, the press, planners, and others to better appreciate just how all the pieces fit together – identifying the regulatory and behavioral changes that must happen to secure a bright future for the estuary. We expect the same to be true this year. With winter behind us, it’s great to be back on the water.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the season.