Blog : Conservation Law Foundation’s Waterkeeper: Building a Voice for Great Bay

By Magill | May 22, 2014 | in

 By Katie Seraikas

The Great Bay Estuary – consisting of Great Bay, Little Bay, and the Piscataqua River– is a remarkable natural resource on the New Hamsphire and Southern Maine seacoast. Since its founding in 1966, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has made New England’s land and waters a priority, as evidenced by the launching of the Great Bay- Piscataqua Waterkeeper program in 2012. The program is dedicated solely to restoring and protecting the estuary.

“Great Bay is facing a number of challenges, leading to an uncertain future,” says Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper Jeff Barnum. “Being an advocate to help solve the estuary’s problems is the best and most demanding job I have ever had. Clean water doesn’t just happen by itself. I am a catalyst for change, and will only succeed if everyone does their small part.”

The threats to Great Bay Estuary are plentiful and complex, but can be solved with education, intervention and action. The largest threat is excessive amounts of nitrogen entering the ecosystem, which has been linked to the depletion of eelgrass, an aquatic plant that provides the foundation for much of the estuary’s ecosystem. When asked about the importance of eelgrass, Barnum explained: “It’s the essential ingredient to the entire ecosystem; the fundamental basis for everything else that lives in the bay. If we didn’t have eelgrass, then we’d be missing critical habitat for a host of fish species. Eelgrass anchors sediment in place. Without it, water quality just gets worse.”

Nitrogen pollution is predominately the result of human activity, rather than a force of nature. By recognizing this fact, we have an opportunity to adapt our ways to reduce pollution and secure a healthier future for the Great Bay estuary. While some large scale
changes need to occur (i.e. reducing nitrogen from sewage treatment plants) there are ways for individuals to decrease their pollution. One of the most important actions people can take is to apply lawn fertilizers – ideally slow-release, organic fertilizers – in the right
amount at the right time (only the amount that can be absorbed by the lawn) or even to seek alternatives to nitrogen based fertilizers entirely.

“We have been sounding this horn for years now,” says Portsmouth-based Purely Organic Lawncare owner Jay Palladino. “There are so many ways to have a healthy vibrant lawn without nitrogen fertilizers; and I don’t mind saying that we know how to do just that. Especially if your lawn is near a body of water, this kind consumer awareness is essential if we hope to take care of our fragile ecosystems and the fact of the matter is that residents and businesses do have a choice that works.”

If a lawn is oversaturated with fertilizer, the excess will be swept away with storm-water, and eventually enter rivers and streams, or the water table. If your yard has noticeable areas of runoff, a rain garden, gravel wetland, rubber razor, etc. could be installed to
reduce pollution caused by stormwater runoff.

Site Structures, a green-minded landscaping company in Eliot, specializes in creating rain gardens or gravel wetlands to manage or mitigate runoff.

“At Site Structures we have always been aware of the importance of creating landscapes and hardscapes that minimize environmental impact. The exciting part is that now lots of customers are catching up with us and starting to ask for this kind of landscaping, realizing that they too play a part in protecting their local natural resources such as Great Bay,” says Site Structures owner Charlie Bourdages.

CLF’s Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper program is building upon its proven success, working to engage local citizens in protecting the estuary, and advocating policies and local decisions that will safeguard the estuary’s future. The Waterkeeper is in the midst
of a campaign to purchase and launch a boat – a tool that will help it monitor conditions in the estuary and serve as a platform to educate the public about the value of the estuary and the solutions needed to protect it. The goal is to raise $25,000 by early summer 2014
and for the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper program to be on the water this season. Those interested in donating can do so at www.clf.org/great-bay-waterkeeper/support/boat-campaign.

For more info on Conservation Law Foundation’s Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper program go to www.clf.org/great-bay-waterkeeper.

Find out more about Purely Organic Lawncare at www.purelyorganiclawncare.com.

Learn more about Site Structures Landscaping at www.sitestructrureslandscape.com.