Water Closet for January 27, 2017

[pullquote]”Bob Steneck, a professor in the school of marine sciences at the University of Maine, said the Penobscot Bay estuary is the largest ecosystem in Maine.”[/pullquote]A Stream Teamer found the following May 2016 article in The Working Waterfront about the Penobscot Watershed of interest. While some might consider this piece by Tom Groening dated as news, the subject certainly isn’t. Our Merrimack River and Ipswich River watersheds are also contributing to the warming  Gulf of Maine. Groening, editor of The Working Waterfront*, has kindly given the Middleton Stream Team permission to use his article. While the Ipswich River Watershed is much smaller than the Penobscot’s, the problems considered below are much the same.
PENOBSCOT WATERSHED CONFERENCE UNDERSCORES REGION’S     IMPACT: Environment, history and future weighed by 300 conferees
                   By Tom Groening
ON THE MAP of Maine, Penobscot Bay lies at the midpoint of the coast. It resembles the fulcrum on which the northern and southern halves pivot.

The Gulf of Maine’s water is becoming warmer, more acid, and higher. – Internet map

On the map of the Penobscot Watershed, which was used throughout the venue that hosted the Penobscot Watershed Conference on April 9, 2016, the image looms even larger. Rain falling near both the Quebec and New Brunswick borders could end up in the river and bay. Almost all of the I-95 corridor north of Bangor lies within the watershed.
Instead of a fulcrum, the water shed map looks like a tree whose spreading branches are drawing sustenance from the bay and river that share the same name.
Bob Steneck, a professor in the school of marine sciences at the University of Maine, said the Penobscot Bay estuary is the largest ecosystem in Maine.

The Penobscot River and its tributaries drain an 8610 square mile basin. Fresh water from Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick mingles and enriches seawater in the Gulf of Maine and its estuaries. – Internet map

“Our lives are affected by so much of the watershed up and down the river,” said Chellie Pingree, Maine’s 1st District Representative to Congress, speaking at the conference’s opening session.
“We know this is a critically important region to the rest of the state,” she said. “People care deeply about the health of the bay because our economies are built on tourism and fishing.”
Break-out sessions explored the watershed and bay’s marine and forest economies, the environmental health of lakes and streams, climate change and recreation.
Decisions from the past have created the current environment, speakers said, as scores of weirs along the coast reduced the fish populations. So did fishing practices.
But change is possible.
Curt Spalding, EPA administrator for New England, said the waters of Boston Harbor area were among the most toxic in the region in the 1980s, and now the cities’ beaches are among the cleanest. Environmental problems are less visible, though.
“We used to be able to do things with a court,” he said, going after one large polluter. Now there are many small discharges into the waters.

The Ipswich River watershed encompasses 155 square miles. The fresh water from it enriches the Gulf of Maine’s seawater in estuaries from Plum Island to Cape Ann. – Ipswich River Watershed Association map

A changing climate bringing higher seas and bigger storms is another pressing problem. How will communities protect low-lying infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment plants, he asked. The “pipe and treat” approach may no longer work, Spalding said.
“For most of America, climate change is a matter of fact,” he said.
Pingree, in her remarks, couched climate change in very local terms. A long time resident of North Haven Island, she said sea-level rise is “going to be devastating for the communities in Penobscot Bay.”
Seas predicted to be 3-feet higher by the end of the century could put 10 percent of North Haven’s developed community under water, she said. “That’s our ferry terminal.” J.O. Brown’s boatyard is “gone.”
The fact that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 95 percent of the world’s saltwater is perhaps the scariest number I’ve heard in a long time,” Pingree said.
UMaine’s Steneck compared the rivers and streams that empty into the Penobscot Bay to the human circulatory system. Parts of the watershed blocked by dams are unhealthy for the system, just as clogged arteries are. From 1800 to 2000, an average of one dam a year was built in the watershed, he said.
In one of the break-out sessions, Ted Ames of Penobscot East Resource Center recounted how Vinalhaven fishermen in 1919 landed 250,000 pounds of Pollack in a single day, but by 1935, fishing in the upper bay had collapsed. By the 1950s, cod and haddock were gone in the lower parts of the bay, and by the 1990s, the entire fishery was gone from the region.
Pingree issued the call to action in the face of new problems like ocean acidification and old ones like fishery collapse. “There are no big pots of federal money” to deal with these issues, she said, but leaders today must address these challenges.
“If not, our children and our grandchildren are going to be really angry at us.”
* Island Institute in Rockland, Maine, publishes The Working Waterfront, a monthly paper


Precipitation Data* for Month of: Oct Nov Dec Jan
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.40 4.55 4.12 3.40
   2016 Central Watershed Actual 6.81 2.68 4.41 3.4**as of Jan 20

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Jan 20, 2017  Normal . . . 54 CFS     Current Rate . . . 75 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Dec.
** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for Jan.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or         <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584