Monday, November 5, 2018

Rebecca Doran: Shows the Many Ways to Save The Bay

by Jackie Carlson, membership and individual giving manager

Longtime Save The Bay member, swimmer, and supporter Rebecca Doran is, for the 12th time, taking the plunge to swim 1.7 nautical miles across Narragansett Bay as part of the 42nd Annual Save The Bay Swim in August. The water and Narragansett Bay have always been a large part of life for Rebecca, who began competitively swimming at age seven. She recalls spending countless hours as a child enjoying the Bay, swimming, of course, but also quahogging and kneeboarding with her brothers and exploring various spots around the Bay, including Prudence, Patience and Block Islands, Newport and Jamestown. To this day, Rebecca enjoys the Bay all times of the year, and has added yoga, kayaking, paddle-boarding and surfing to her Bay activity list. 

“In addition to the summer, I visit the water frequently in fall and winter; I take every opportunity I get to be outside and near the water,” Rebecca said. 

Because of her lifelong connection to Narragansett Bay, fundraising for the Save The Bay Swim has always been important to Rebecca, who completed her first Save The Bay Swim at age 16 at the recommendation of her father. After college in California, where she continued her open-water swimming, Rebecca returned to Rhode Island and participated in the 2009 Save The Bay Swim and every Swim since. When last year’s Swim was canceled due to high winds, she did her “alternative swim” in Newport from First Beach to Second Beach, once again raising important funds to support Save The Bay’s mission and work. 

Even beyond the Swim, Rebecca has been supporting Save The Bay for more than 30 years, attending other fundraising events, including Taste of The Bay, Artists for the Bay and the International Coastal Cleanup. She also recruits family and friends to come out with us for Seal Tours and visits to the Exploration Center and Aquarium. She does her part developing future stewards of the Bay by promoting our summer BayCamps among her social circles. Through her activities with us, Rebecca shows the many different, active ways to support Save The Bay. 

And while Rebecca does her part, her employer, Amica Mutual Insurance Company, increases her impact by participating in a generous Matching Gifts program for its employees. Many of Save The Bay’s members, donors, supporters, volunteers and swimmers take advantage of their own companies Matching Gifts programs as well. We are so very fortunate to count Rebecca, and all our supporters, as part of the Save The Bay family, and would like to thank her for her tremendous support of Save The Bay over the years. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Geanne Griffith: You've Got a Friend at the Aquarium

by Cindy Sabato, director of communications

When Geanne Griffith, her husband, and their two cats moved to Rhode Island three years ago, Geanne didn’t wait long to jump right into the water—the water at our Exploration Center and Aquarium, that is. 

Geanne has been a volunteer docent at the aquarium for nearly the whole three years she’s been in the Ocean State—a perfect fit since she worked in her children’s elementary school for years, first as a substitute teacher, then as a special education teaching assistant, and finally helping in third-grade science classes. “We did many units that remind me of going to the Exploration Center every day,” she said. 

At the aquarium, Geanne wears many hats—helping guests at the touch tanks, leading children on scavenger hunts, preparing craft activities, making sure guests see every animal, and always stepping in when the center is short-staffed. “She’s amazing. She has a wonderful connection with our guests, always has a warm smile, and has an extensive knowledge about our animals,” said Outreach Coordinator Celina Segala. 

In fact, Geanne says, “One of the best things about volunteering there is how much I’ve learned, certainly about the animals, but about environmental issues surrounding the Bay also. I get asked a lot of questions, and now I have answers to most of them, although I still get asked a new one now and then.” 

Her favorite part of the gig? “I love working with the kids who come in and enjoy seeing them get excited about things they are seeing and learning about. And I love having a child who is really hesitant to touch the animals at first. We take it slow, maybe starting with just holding an empty shell. Nine times out of 10, we work our way up to them being fully involved. Kids are curious and you just have to tap into that,” Geanne said. 

The Griffiths moved here from Connecticut, where they lived and raised their family for 18 years, after their youngest child headed off to college at Roger Williams University. They’ve always loved being around the water, vacationing on the Jersey Shore every summer and visiting Newport frequently. So, when it came time to make a move, the Griffiths’ decision to move here was an easy one. 

Geanne’s interest in protecting the environment came early, first as a child with a father who loved hunting and fishing and instilled in her a respect for rivers and forests and the animals that live there. Then, those summers on the Jersey Shore “was during a time when there were a lot of problems with waste in the water and coming up onto shore. Sometimes we weren’t allowed in the water because of the waste, which wasn’t fun with two young children,” Geanne said. “I have always realized it is important to take care of our natural resources so we can continue to enjoy them.” 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Why Vote Yes on Question 3?

by Topher Hamblett, director of advocacy

As a native Rhode Islander, I'm proud of our state's history of voting for major investments in the cleanup of Narragansett Bay. We have always stepped up for the Bay, as well as clean drinking water, open space and recreation, farmland protection, and the cleanup of polluted industrial sites.

Election Day on November 6 presents another opportunity for voters invest in the best of Rhode Island. Question 3 - The Green Economy & Clean Water Bond, is a $47.3M package that will build upon our past success of environmental protection. It also looks to the future with funding to help cities and downs adapt to the rising seas, coastal erosion, and flooding that come with climate change.

Save The Bay has been leading a coalition of more than 80 organizations who understand the value of our natural resources and the importance of protecting and improving them. Rhode Island's network of waterways, open spaces, farmland, bikeways and recreational places are vital to the state's economy and way of life. Every year, these resources delight millions of visitors and generate jobs and revenue that support state and local economies. At Save The Bay, we're especially excited about the bond's investments in coastal resiliency and public access to the shoreline in the face of increased flooding and major storm events and in improvements to drinking water and wastewater treatment systems that will ensure our drinking and recreational waters are clean and safe.

Imagine what Narragansett Bay would be like if we, the voters, had said "no" to investing in Bay cleanup and restoration. It's unlikely that the Providence River, once choked with raw sewage and industrial waste, would today be teeming with bluefish and striped bass chasing menhaden right into Waterplace Park. The river would be void of community boating, sailing, recreational fishing boats and families walking its shorelines to enjoy a day on the Bay.

But Rhode Islanders have consistently, emphatically said "Yes!" to ballot measures the restore the Bay.The results have been spectacular. Our progress is worth protecting and building upon.

Visions from the season's first Nature Cruise

by Eric Pfirrmann, fleet captain

The 2018-1019 seal season is underway, and our first Westerly Nature Cruise down the Pawcatuck River on October 13 was a great start. Ten nature lovers braved a little drizzle and were rewarded with all kinds of fantastic wildlife.

The Pawcatuck  River is a beautiful spot for fall foliage.
Cruising down river surrounded by the first of the fall foliage, we spotted red tailed hawks, turkey vultures and a number of ducks, and had a lively conversation about the habits of cormorants—the double-crested variety so far, as the great cormorants are still a few weeks away. Belted kingfishers, which tend to aggregate on the river during their fall migration, were easy to identify with their bright colors and "flap-flap-flap-glide" patterns. The tree lined shores of the Pawcatuck River is a perfect habitat, and we saw a dozen or more of these beauties feeding on the peanut bunker—juvenile Atlantic menhaden—still crowding into the river.

Two harbor seals rest in the Pawcatuck River.
Farther down the river, we started to keep our eyes peeled for visiting harbor seals. Dave Prescott, Save The Bay's South County CoastKeeper, had spotted a couple of seals in early September, so we were hopeful we'd be lucky on this early season trip. We were not disappointed. Just off Barn Island in Little Narragansett Bay, we spotted three to five harbor seals bottling in the calm waters.

Harbor seals are the most common marine mammal in New England and by far the species we're most likely to see on our trips. Roughly human sized, with a cute "puppy dog" face, they are always a crowd pleaser. We generally see seals either "hauled out," resting on rocks above the water line, or in the "bottling" position, floating upright in the water like a glass bottle. For the seals, both of these are resting behaviors that give the seals time to regain energy and regulate their body temperatures, so we are careful not to get too close. Binoculars, which we provide on our tours, bring them into perfect detail for our guests.

While we were checking out the seals, one of our guests spotted the highlight of the trip, a bald eagle perched in a dead tree on the Barn Island shore! The bald eagle population in our area is steadily increasing, but a sighting is still a huge thrill. Little Narragansett Bay and the Pawcatuck River in the fall seem to be favorite spots for our national bird; we have been lucky enough to see them on a number of our trips.

The sun even made a brief appearance during our first Nature Cruise of the season as we slowly made our war back upriver to Westerly. All in all, it was a great way to start the season with many more tours to come. Westerly Nature Cruises will continue every Saturday through the end of the year. Our Newport Seal Watch tours are just around the corner as well, with weekend trips beginning on November 10. Hope to see you out there!

For our full schedule and to buy tickets visit our website at

Thursday, October 18, 2018

50 Ways We've Saved The Bay: Changing the Oil Industry

by Chris Cassaday, communications intern

Fifty years ago, Save The Bay was founded by a group of Rhode Island residents who, concerned about the risks of oil spills in Narragansett Bay, fought hard to stop the proposed construction of an oil refinery in Tiverton. Sadly, that victory wasn't enough to stop a deluge of oil from making its way into our water years later. But our efforts surrounding three devastating oil spills in 1989, 1996 and 2000, led to the alteration of the oil transportation industry that diminishes the likelihood of another catastrophic oil spill. Our advocacy brought GPS technology to large ships and reinforced the hull strength of oil tankers making business in Rhode Island waters. These changes are now felt globally and have brought about a much-needed reformation to the industrial sector.

Putting GPS on Tanker Ships

The 420,000-gallon fuel oil spill by World Prodigy in 1989 was the first of the spills that caused Save The Bay to challenge federal laws and regulations. Recognizing that integrated GPS technology would help prevent ships like World Prodigy from inadvertently veering off course and causing preventable disasters, Save The Bay’s then-Executive Director Trudy Coxe led the charge. Coxe issued a proposal during a special hearing at Salve Regina University, urging the government to implement what was then an experimental state-of-the-art tracking system in ships and military satellites. This “Differential Global Positioning System” would allow the Rhode Island Coast Guard to keep track of ships within the Bay and notify their captains when a ship was running off course.

By the end of the year, Save The Bay, advocating for GPS integration in large vessels, had begun a campaign before the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. In July 1990, Congress passed a series of oil spill prevention laws and nominated Narragansett Bay to be the first testing ground of the GPS. Thanks to Save The Bay’s efforts, oil tankers and other large ships globally are now linked with Department of Defense satellites.

Strengthening Ship Construction

Still, human error can trump the best precautions. January 19, 1996, North Cape ran aground off Moonstone Beach in South County, spilling close to a million gallons of home heating oil and, as a result, killing millions of animals throughout 250 square-miles. Many Rhode Islanders still remember the stench of oil and decaying marine life that perished during this event.

After the devastating spill, Save The Bay denounced the oil industry’s tanker parameters, as most ships at the time were only outfitted with a single hull. Single-hulled ships contain their cargo just beyond the watertight hull; if the hull is breached, the contents can immediately leak into the water. Double-hulled ships, on the other hand, contain two separate watertight hulls, with the cargo located within the secondary, interior hull. If a ship suffers a collision, the chance of a spill is much smaller.

We teamed up with then-R.I. State Senator Charles Fogarty and then-U.S. Senator John Chafee. As a result of our advocacy, effective June 1, 1997, the Oil Spill Prevention and Control Act required all large vessels transporting oil or hazardous materials to have double-hulls or escort tugs. The subsequent Federal Oil Pollution Act required the phase-out of all single-hulled tank vessels by 2010—a monumental victory for Save The Bay.

Four years later in 2000, an estimated 9,700-14,600 gallons of oil spilled in the East Passage off Middletown. Penn. Maritime Inc. from Stamford, Conn. claimed responsibility. While the earlier North Cape spill pushed Save The Bay to advocate for double-hulled barges, Penn. Maritime—though small—furthered our agenda. Had both of these vessels been equipped with double hulls, these spills could have been avoided.

Presidential Recognition

Over the course of these three disasters, Save The Bay fielded over 4,000 calls and prepared an estimated 1,500 volunteers in coastal cleanup and marine bird rescue training to assist with state and federal agencies. We lost hundreds of birds to these spills, but were it not for the volunteer force, the number would have been much higher. Our role in the North Cape spill led to the Rhode Island Coast Guard nominating Save The Bay as the official oil spill volunteer coordination center. Rhode Island’s citizens stood against the threats with everything they had. After the spill of ‘89, President George H. W. Bush recognized Save The Bay’s efforts and named us as the 76th of a “Thousand Points of Light” on February 26, 1990, an immense honor, especially for a small nonprofit based in the smallest state of the country.

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the World Prodigy disaster, the 23rd of North Cape and the 19th of Penn. Maritime. We at Save The Bay strive to ensure that our waters stay clean and safe for the millions of people who live within the watershed; when disaster strikes, we are ready to take the call.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Labor

by Chris Cassaday, communications intern

With over 400-miles of accessible coastline, Rhode Island is aptly named the “Ocean State.” Sadly, many do not understand the importance of keeping our beaches clean, and leave their trash for gulls to fight over. On Saturday, Sept. 15, Save The Bay coordinated Rhode Island’s participation in the International Coastal Cleanup. Hundreds of volunteers took to Rhode Island’s beaches to remove all the trash they could find. In 2017, Save The Bay led 90 cleanups across 25 towns, collecting over 16 thousand pounds of garbage! How much will we clean this year?

I personally witnessed the cleanups at Compass Rose Beach in North Kingstown and Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett. Compass Rose is set right within the industrial park of Quonset and, as a result, can become pretty filthy very quickly. The early morning sounds of birds and the lapping of waves is lost to the trucks and heavy machinery that echo across the quiet waters.

Beach Captains Kathy Vigness-Raposa and Walter Berry made certain the volunteers knew the risks with certain types of industrial trash, such as sharp metals, glass and possibly even medical syringes. Rubber earplugs used by the industry workers are tiny and easily lost when they bounce out of pockets; they are one of the most common items to lookout for at Compass Rose. The danger they pose to wildlife is severe, as they can easily be swallowed by birds or large fish, which can be fatal.

Though my visit to Compass Rose was short, I was fortunate to meet several of the 26 local volunteers who came to the beach to help clean North Kingstown’s waters. Many families brought their children to educate them about the importance of trash cleanup and the effects pollution has on the environment.

All in all, the volunteers were able to clear roughly 45 pounds of trash from the small beach. I’ve lived in North Kingstown for 16 years and I could not be more proud of my local community members for giving their time to help keep our town in pristine condition.

The sun broke free of the morning clouds as I made my way south to the next beach on my list. Unlike Compass Rose, which is cramped between a ferry port and a shipyard, Scarborough State Park stretches across 60 acres of land. To cover so much acreage, we needed a lot of manpower. Thanks to the combined efforts of 74 volunteers, including the University of Rhode Island Girl’s Tennis Team, North Smithfield High School’s Girls Volleyball Team, volunteers from BlumShapiro Accounting Firm, and Beach Captains Julia Hallworth (left) and Lisa Pannozzo (right), we managed to clear 210 pounds of garbage.

When I first arrived at the beach, I kicked off my sandals and trekked down to the north end, speaking with volunteers and picking up whatever I could find along the way. The early afternoon rays of sunlight danced on the surface of the water. Soft sand eventually gave way to piles of red, rotting seaweed that I tried to avoid stepping in. But that didn’t deter several of North Smithfield’s high schoolers from diving in and searching for whatever they could find. Seaweed piles are havens for coastal insects and birds that feast on them. They are a unique ecosystem of their own.

Volunteers collected everything from small pieces of plastics and beer bottles to netting and abandoned lobster cages. Tons of trash was scattered across Scarborough’s parking lot, dunes, jetties and the prominent ruins at the north end of the beach. I’m amazed and saddened at how much was found.

The number of discarded beer bottles and the like within the sand dunes was heartbreaking. The dunes play an integral role for the beaches as they prevent erosion and create safe havens for shoreline animals. Trash build-up prevents plants from taking root or growing and can become harmful to the animals that make the dune plants their home. The lone exception may be the mouse that we scared out of her beer box home. Sorry, Minnie, your nest was made of our trash.

This was my first time participating in a beach cleanup, and I will no doubt be volunteering again. If you want to help, you still have time! Head over to Save The Bay's website to sign-up for more cleanups that will be taking place over the next month. If you can’t make any of the dates, grab a bag and some gloves and take a walk along a beach of your choice. Anything you can do to help our beaches stay clean year-round is greatly appreciated not only by us at Save The Bay, but for the millions of animals that inhabit our waters.

Monday, October 8, 2018

BYO... Reusable

by David Prescott, South County Coastkeeper

Plastics have dominated environmental conversations lately. They litter our beaches, pollute our oceans and Bays, contaminate our drinking water. Plastics are everywhere—from our cell phones, to our sunglasses, to our cars, to our homes. Plastics have made our lives easier. However, all plastics eventually break down into smaller and smaller pieces that get mistaken for food by wildlife, attract toxins, and contaminate our water and food supplies. Or they just fill up our landfills. While the plastic issue can be overwhelming, we can do a lot as individuals and as a community.

But sometimes, trying to make the right decision about what to do, how to help, is challenging, and sometimes, even decisions that seem right at first end up potentially being the wrong one. Like trying to unravel the differences between recyclable, compostable and biodegradable. With so many eco-friendly options out there, things can get confusing.


Most of us have been doing it for decades. We take our glass bottles, aluminum cans, plastic containers, and newspapers, magazines, and junk mail and toss them into the recycling bin. From there they are sent to a recycling facility, where they are sorted. For more info on what, exactly, we should be recycling, check out the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation’s website at


These products sound great on the surface. Biodegradable basically means that the product is capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms, and they should be placed in the garbage. However, not all landfills have the bacteria and microorganisms necessary to help break down that product within a reasonable time period.


Compostable products are becoming more and more popular. However, in order to be broken down into the organic matter that makes them so attractive, they have to be sent to an industrial composting facility, which operates at very high temperatures to help break down the compost. You cannot recycle compostable products; a landfill will not break down compostable products; and most backyard composters do not get hot enough to turn them into organic matter.

So, what’s the best option for the environment and our local waters? 

BRING YOUR OWN. Whether it is a refillable water bottle, coffee mug, stainless steel straw, canvas shopping bag, or bamboo utensils, each one of these options can be used over and over and over. No filling up trash cans and landfills. No breaking down into tiny plastic pieces. The possibilities for reusable products in place of disposable are endless. And many local businesses have stepped up and have started selling them.

You may be asking, what’s the problem with one extra plastic straw out there? Well, last year alone, Save The Bay and our volunteers collected over 4,500 straws during International Coastal Cleanup in Rhode Island (over 643,000 straws were collected worldwide during the event)—and these were just the straws littering the ground. Imagine how many are taking up space in our landfills! Refusing a straw at your local watering hole can be one small decision that can have a huge impact on the health of our local waters and the animals that live there.

Finally, stay tuned for the launch of our Bay-Friendly Businesses program. We are recognizing restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other establishments that made the important decisions to protect our environment by eliminating straws, styrofoam containers, plastics bags, and other single-use products in their establishments. Look for the Bay-Friendly Business seal on the window of your favorite spots. Together each one of us can help our local environment by making smart, informed decisions about the products that we purchase.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A view of summer BayCamp from the Captain's seat

by Meghan Kelly, Save The Bay educator

Summer out on Narragansett Bay is probably the best summer one could ask for. What is better than heading out on a boat, going to an island, dropping anchor and getting to explore and swim for the whole day? At Save The Bay’s summer BayCamps, that is exactly what we do! This summer, I got a new look at our BayCamps, from a different seat on the boat.

For the past four summers, my view of our summer camps has been from the educator’s perspective. Spring would roll around, and I would get excited to find out what camps I was on and start planning what we would do each week with the campers. The schedule for each week would be full of games, swimming, exploring habitats and learning and seeing all the different animals that call Narragansett Bay home. As an educator, I always knew it had been a good day at camp when parents told me the next morning at drop-off that their camper was so tired they couldn’t even finish their stories from the day because they had fallen asleep. Some of my favorite summer days have been when we take the campers to a salt marsh. At first, as I put peat, or salt marsh mud, all over my face and arms, the campers look at me like I have 10 heads. But within minutes, the campers are elbow deep in the peat with no signs of wanting to stop. I may smell like peat for the rest of the day, but seeing the smiles and hearing the campers’ laughter makes it all worth it.

My view of summer camp changed a little this past summer. I was fortunate enough to use my captain’s license to drive our education vessel, Swift, a 26-foot Old Port that can hold up to 15 campers. For five weeks, Swift is based out of Wickford and spends its final week of summer in Bristol. As boat captain, my mornings were a little quieter than past summers. I’d arrive at the boatyard before camp, hop into my kayak with my gear—trying not to start my day by falling in the water—and paddle out to the mooring where Swift is kept. On many of these mornings, the harbor was glass calm, and I’d have the chance to enjoy the stillness around me. On several mornings, a cormorant would pop up right next to me on its morning swim. When I got to Swift, I would do my daily checks and prep for the day, then take it over to the Wickford dock to wait for the campers to arrive from Wilson Park. I could always tell when they were getting close because I could hear them talking, and on some mornings even singing!

When the campers were all settled on Swift, we headed out of the harbor for a new adventure. We got to explore places like Cornelius, Prudence, Dyer and Rose islands. Anchoring Swift was a whole new adventure for me! Learning the water’s depth and where the rocks were around the island was a task that brought me closer to the Bay. I also developed a love-hate relationship with the wind; the best kind of wind was no wind at all. On the few occasions when I was approaching the dock and got blown off, the kids would say “where are we going?” I would reply with, “We were having so much fun, we wanted to go back out for more!”

Knowing that I had a wonderful team of educators at my back made my job a lot easier. The campers would work together to help offload all the gear, and then their exploring would begin. During my first four summers at Save The Bay, as an educator, I would offload the boat and not give it a second thought for the rest of the day. This summer was a little different. As the tides shifted, I would have to adjust the boat; sometimes we would dock at Prudence and have to raft up with one of our other education vessels. When the day was coming to its end, we would all work together to load up Swift again and head back to the dock. Many times our boat rides home were much quieter than on the way out, as many campers were so tired from their day’s adventures that they’d fall asleep. My view from where I was standing during summer camp this year may have changed, but one thing that didn’t change was the fun and excitement that Save The Bay Summer Camps offer to everyone!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Where the Rain Meets the Road

How Urbanization and Climate Change Are Affecting Our Waters

by Wenley Ferguson, David Prescott, Cindy Sabato

Within the Narragansett Bay watershed, the water in 162 miles of streams, 57 square miles of estuarine waters where freshwater and saltwater mix, and 4,800 acres of ponds and lakes is too polluted for aquatic life, according to the State of the Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed report. Location matters; the report tells us the water is more polluted in urbanized areas than rural areas and gets cleaner and safer the further south it flows. 

Why? One big factor in water pollution is how we use our land, and that is very much tied to location. More and more development within the watershed has turned forest land and open space into streets, buildings and parking lots, spurring two important changes in the way rainfall affects our waters. When rain falls onto natural areas of land, it soaks into the soil, where excess nutrients, bacteria and other pollutants are filtered out naturally. When rain falls onto parking lots, streets and roofs, it can’t soak in, and instead runs right off, picking up and carrying pollutants into our rivers and the Bay in higher-than-normal volumes and velocity. This is commonly known as “polluted runoff.” 

Water quality begins to become degraded when more than 10 percent of the land in a watershed is hardened by roadways, parking lots, driveways and roofs. According to the State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed report, 14 percent of the watershed is covered by hard surfaces, and more than one-third of its residents use septic systems and cesspools, “some of which are thought to be significant sources of nutrients and contaminants entering rivers and the Bay.” Unfortunately, more and more forested land around the watershed is being developed, particularly in the Taunton River and Pawtuxet River basins. 

Climate change also brings with it some important changes to precipitation patterns, making the effects of urbanization on water pollution even worse. According to the report, Providence has been getting nearly half an inch more rain every decade since 1895. Climate models predict that number will go up to three inches per decade in the future. What’s more, most of the increased precipitation comes during intense downpours, which have more than doubled in frequency since 1950. More intense rainfall, combined with increased volume and velocity of runoff carrying pollution over hard surfaces into our waters, is all bad news for water quality. On top of that, rain and snow are coming more often in large events with drier spells in between. When all of this rainfall runs off the hard surfaces of our cities and neighborhoods directly into our rivers and the Bay, our groundwater is not replenished, and we suffer from more frequent droughts. 

The broad, cumulative effects of increased development and precipitation changes include more pollution and more beach closures, adding to Save The Bay’s sense of urgency to address the problem of polluted runoff. We have been partnering with multiple municipalities and other organizations over the last decade to reduce the impacts of polluted runoff from the Bay’s watershed: 

Volunteers plant a buffer around Roger Williams Park Pond, to reduce
polluted runoff going into this Pawtuxet River tributary and to
discourage people from feeding geese.
In Providence’s Roger Williams Park Pond, a tributary of the Pawtuxet River, we have collaborated with the City of Providence Parks Department on planning, installing and maintaining planted areas where polluted runoff from the park and neighborhood roads is diverted and absorbed into the ground. We continue to work with the City to restore buffers along the pond to improve water quality and discourage geese feeding.

The newly installed stormwater infiltration area along Narragansett
Boulevard in Cranston filters polluted runoff before it flows down into
Stillhouse Cove.
At Stillhouse Cove in Cranston, we partnered with a local watershed organization, the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association and the City of Cranston on a stormwater management plan for the Stillhouse Cove watershed. Last fall, along the edge of Narragansett Boulevard, we installed a catchment area designed to capture and infiltrate the first flush of polluted runoff, removing bacteria and nutrients before they reach the cove. 

We are working with the City of Warwick to treat stormwater at several sites and improve the quality of local waters. At Oakland Beach, we have helped the City maintain a new infiltration area along Suburban Parkway and contributed conceptual designs for another stormwater infiltration area north of the beach. We are helping the city identify sites where low-lying pavement at the end of coastal roads can be removed and stormwater can be treated. 

Along the Seekonk River in Providence, runoff flows untreated down a steep bank, causing significant shoreline erosion. We are working with the City of Providence Planning Department on a project to address the erosion and to reduce the impacts of polluted runoff by installing infiltration areas further inland. 
At Barrington Town Beach, the parking lot was moved
back, a filtration area installed at the edge of the lot, and
beach grasses planed between the lot and the beach,
all to reduce polluted runoff going into the Bay.

At Barrington Beach, we are working with the Town and the University of New Hampshire’s Stormwater Center to address stormwater that flows from neighborhood streets down to Barrington Beach, causing beach erosion and water quality problems. We have installed infiltration areas and replaced a section of the beach parking lot with a protective dune of beach grass. We are now looking further inland to identify areas where we can reduce the volume and velocity of the runoff that flows down to the beach from neighborhood streets. 

In Bristol, we continue to work with the Town to manage stormwater that discharges into Bristol Harbor from the Silver Creek watershed. Students from Mount Hope High have installed rain gardens on the campus adjacent to Silver Creek. 

In North Kingstown, at the end of the Calf Pasture Point bike path, asphalt was removed and an infiltration area installed. We are working with the Town of North Kingstown to address the high erosion rate in this area that is threatening the lower sections of the infiltration area.

New infiltration areas along Water Street in Warren filter polluted runoff
before it flows into Warren Town Beach.
In Warren, we are helping the town restore a stream corridor to enhance its flood storage capacity and to manage and treat polluted runoff along the Warren River and Belcher Cove. We are also identifying low-lying coastal roads subject to saltwater flooding to carve back and install stormwater management practices. 

With a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Charlestown is partnering with Save The Bay, the University of Rhode Island, and the Salt Ponds Coalition on a number of strategies to reduce nutrient pollution in groundwater and surface water in Green 
Hill, Ninigret and Quonochontaug ponds. Fifteen substandard septic systems are being replaced with newer systems that utilize nitrogen-reducing technology. Save The Bay is installing six rain gardens to promote stormwater infiltration and serve as public demonstration projects. And our Bay-Friendly Living guide is being distributed to homeowners. 

In Newport, in partnership with the city, University of Rhode Island Sea Grant and University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center, we worked on conceptual designs for a stormwater infiltration area along an access path to the Cliff Walk, where erosion from stormwater was affecting accessibility and discharging to a local beach. And Rogers High School biology students worked with Save The Bay to plant rain gardens to filter runoff from the school parking lot. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Save The Bay works toward a sustainable Atlantic herring fishery

by Mike Jarbeau, Narragansett Baykeeper

You may remember that last fall, Save The Bay joined a coalition of like-minded partners to advocate for strong, ecosystem-based management measures in the Atlantic menhaden fishery (see Fall 2017 Tides article). The importance of menhaden and other forage fish to the health of Narragansett Bay cannot be denied. They perform the critical function of converting plankton and other tiny nutrients into food for larger fish to eat, and abundant menhaden support healthy levels of fish, birds and seals. While while our preferred measures were not adopted, we gained significant support and hope to see an ecosystem-based approach to managing this fishery in the next few years.

Altantic herring (Clupea harengus)
In the meantime, we have another opportunity to protect another key forage species—the Atlantic herring. Like Menhaden, Atlantic herring are a keystone species and the mainstay in the diets of striped bass, tuna, cod, and many of the birds and mammals that live in the Narragansett Bay watershed. Unfortunately, Atlantic herring aren’t doing very well. A new stock assessment this summer showed that the population is struggling, leading the New England Fisheries Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service to take an emergency measure reducing the 2018 allowable catch catch by more than 50 percent, from 110,000 metric tons to 49,900 metric tons.

The New England Fisheries Management Council has been working on an amendment to the herring management plan for many years. Like last year’s menhaden proposal, the herring plan includes a measure that would set catch limits based upon the fish’s role as a forage fish, which Save The Bay supports. Under the current structure, Atlantic herring limits are largely based on past catch totals, which can lead to wide stock variations from year to year and extreme uncertainty regarding the future health of the fishery.

We also support the Council’s consideration of an inshore “buffer zone” that will protect Atlantic herring from the localized depletion and conflicts caused by large, industrial midwater trawlers, which can quickly harvest hundreds of thousands of pound of fish from a small area. Their harvest techniques affect other species that feed on herring, as well as the recreational fishermen, charter boats and others who make a living on the water. We believe a 25-mile buffer that includes the waters off of Narragansett Bay will help protect the Bay ecosystem, including river herring that gather offshore to make their way up our rivers and streams and are often caught by midwater trawl vessels as unwanted “bycatch.”

Opponents of these changes come mostly from the commercial fishing industry. Atlantic Herring are an important bait for the lobster fishery, and some in the industry are concerned about unintended side-effects on other fisheries. This is exactly why all fisheries need to take ecosystem considerations into account; in the end, all stocks will benefit from these science-based management techniques and reduce year-to-year uncertainty about the populations of fish.

We recently met with Gov. Raimondo’s staff and R.I. Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit to share our views on Atlantic herring. Rhode Island took a strong lead in advocating for menhaden protections last year, and we encourage the state’s delegation to the New England Fisheries Management Council to do the same when they meet at the end of the month to consider these new herring management measures. A healthy, vibrant Narragansett Bay depends on forage fish like Atlantic Herring and benefits each and every one of us.