Program-Wide Notes

MBP Partners with EPA Climate Ready Estuaries Initiative
Partnering with the National Estuaries Program (NEP), of which the MBP is a participant, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched its Climate Ready Estuaries initiative (CRE). The purpose of CRE is to help prepare coastal communities prepare for the impacts that climate variability and change may have on them.

The MBP was selected as one of six NEPs to pilot various CRE activities. MBP will work with EPA’s Global Change Research Program to design and complete a climate change vulnerability assessment for the coastal zone of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays. In addition, adaptation strategies will embrace existing efforts, such as the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management’s (CZM) StormSmart Coasts initiative, which helps people working in coastal communities address the challenges arising from storms, floods, sea level rise, and climate change, and provides a menu of tools for successful coastal floodplain management. Findings of the vulnerability assessment will be used to inform revisions to the Massachusetts Bays Comprehensive Conservation and Monitoring Plan (CCMP), incorporating adaptations needed to address the challenges of climate change.

Climate Ready Estuaries Logo

Research and information gathering is currently underway and the final vulnerability assessment will be completed by June 2009. Once the assessment has been completed and analyzed, it is anticipated that MBP and its partners, with support from EPA, will be enabled to work directly with communities to assist them in making adaptations in preparation for climate change through the implementation of appropriate strategies.

MBP Guidance Documents to Be Updated
Staff and partners of the MBP are working to complete an updated Strategic Plan for 2008-2011, which should be completed by the end of the year. The current plan contains these seven strategic priorities, which reflect those of the CCMP:

1.Protect and Enhance Shellfish Resources
2.Protect and Enhance Coastal Habitat
3.Reduce and Prevent Stormwater Pollution
4.Manage Municipal Wastewater
5.Manage Local Land Use and Growth
6.Prevent Marine Invasive Species
7.Monitor Marine Waters
In addition to strategic planning, MBP staff, partners, and interested individuals will convene early in 2009 to review and revise the CCMP. This process, which takes place every five years, provides a unique opportunity to reflect on and reconsider priorities for planning and action in the conservation and management of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays.

Finally, a new State of the Bays report will be produced in 2009. Efforts are just beginning on content, structure, and the most effective and appropriate means of dissemination.

MBP Welcomes New Staff Member
The MBP’s new Outreach and Policy Coordinator, Carole McCauley, joined the program staff in early September. A native of Massachusetts, Carole began her environmental career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Antigua more than 10 years ago. Much of her experience has been in working with non-profit organizations on environmental education, protected area planning, biodiversity conservation, and watershed-related projects. She also worked with the Indian River Lagoon NEP on Florida’s east coast while pursuing a graduate degree in Environmental Education at Florida Institute of Technology. Carole will be involved in coordinating the revision of various policy and management documents, tracking and reporting program achievements, coordinating MBP’s involvement in the Climate Ready Estuaries initiative, and conducting outreach/communications activities.

Updates from the Regions

Upper North Shore

Thissell Marsh, Beverly

Current Status of Phragmites Monitoring in the Great Marsh
The Eight Towns and the Bay Committee (the Upper North Shore regional partner of MBP) has been coordinating an effort to document and control the invasive common reed (Phragmites australis) from the Great Marsh in the vicinity of Little Pine Island in Newbury. 

While the marsh is currently fairly degraded, there is evidence throughout area that it was once hayed, which requires a dominance of Spartina patens, a healthy marsh plant. Over 300 stands of Phragmites (over half of which have emerged recently) have been recorded. In addition, there is far less of the typical Spartina grass and a dominance of upland and non salt marsh species than would be expected in a natural system, suggesting that Phragmites may be modifying the habitat.

Invasive Phragmites Stands Burned in the Great Marsh Burning dense stands of Phragmites at the Great Marsh to facilitate subsequent chemical treatment of the invasive reed

In terms of control, the Eight Towns & the Bay Committee is collaborating with the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Ducks Unlimited on chemical treatment and burning methods. Chemical treatment can be done on a plant-by-plant basis (which is more labor intensive but appears to be highly effective) or by broadcast spray using a backpack system and/or a tracked vehicle. Another method tested this spring has been burning stands directly. This does not rid the area of the plant, but allows for much easier access for the application of chemical treatments. Data are also being collected (summer/fall 2008) on the pore water salinity of the area to identify spatial patterns in Phragmites growth. While these data have not yet been analyzed, Phragmites may prefer areas with consistent salinity levels. Other efforts include seeking funding to determine the causes of proliferation and to develop management strategies. Consideration will be given to the impact of stormwater runoff, tidal restrictions, and groundwater discharge into the marsh.

Salem Sound

Thissell Marsh, Beverly

Thissell Marsh Restoration   Salem Sound Coastwatch (the Salem Sound regional partner of MBP) has been coordinating a tidal marsh restoration effort in Beverly. Currently, Centerville Brook empties onto Patch Beach via an undersized concrete culvert after flowing through a stone box culvert along the edge of the Thissell Marsh. Despite the fact that the area is not highly developed, the presence of fecal coliform and enterococcus at the outfall raised some question about the source of contaminants. A nearby duck pond may be contributing to impaired water quality. Additionally, after reviewing old maps of the area, it is clear that the system was altered significantly by the imposition of the culvert as well as stone-edged stream channels put in place a century ago.

SSCW received the support of the CZM Wetlands Restoration Program , and a project has been developed to restore four acres of the Thissell Marsh. Stakeholders were brought together, including persons from the city, residential abutters, and Endicott College, which owns most of the marsh. There has been significant support to date and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act process has been completed. In addition to providing some funds, the college has agreed to relocate their tennis courts that were built on filled tidelands in the late 1940s. Restoration will involve excavation down to hydric soils and removal of invasive reeds and the stone/concrete culverts. The brook will be naturalized to meander through the salt marsh and exit to the beach through a new larger culvert. It is anticipated that the marsh will eventually benefit from greater tidal exchange. It is estimated that the total cost of the project will be around $1.25 million, not including Endicott’s new tennis courts.

Monitoring Marine Invasive
SSCW continues to monitor the presence of Didemnum vexillum on the North Shore. This invasive tunicate (a.k.a. sea squirt) is a marine species that reproduces rapidly, fouls marine habitats (including shellfish aquaculture and fishing grounds), ships’ hulls, and maritime structures. Despite not being sighted during the marine invasive rapid assessments conducted in Gloucester and Salem in 2003 and 2007, SSCW and their volunteer monitors found it at numerous dock sites in Beverly and Salem in August 2007. SSCW and Adrienne Pappal from CZM’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program have studied the Didemnum once a month since the discovery. The Didemnum had retreated almost completely by the end of winter but has once again proliferated in the warmer months of 2008. It is suspected that one primary vector could be fishermen returning from sea and rinsing their gear directly on the docks (N.B. Didemnum is known to occur at Georges Bank). Next steps will be to further investigate possible vectors, conduct preventative measures at the marina, and conduct outreach.

South Shore

NSRWA’s summer intern, Hannah Bruce

Pathogen Source Tracking and Monitoring in the South River
The North and South Rivers Watershed Association (the South Shore regional partner of MBP) worked this summer with EPA intern Hannah Bruce on a water quality monitoring project. The South River has a history of water quality issues, particularly high levels of bacteria. Area communities have a strong interest in reopening shellfish beds. 

Parameters measured included fecal coliform (the Division of Marine Fisheries determinant for shellfish bed health), detergents, suspended solids, and conductivity. Monitoring of the 18 sites in five sampling areas occurred on four days, including one wet event. The sampling sites represent both developed (commercial, residential) and relatively undeveloped areas.

Sampling on the South River

The results indicate varying levels of contaminants in different areas, but at levels high enough to suggest that further investigation is warranted. Sources included both potential wastewater from septic and general stormwater runoff. The results of the study will be useful to the Marshfield stormwater program and other area water quality interests. The data are already providing support for the town’s interest in sewering at least one area in particular.

Cape Cod

No Discharge Area Designated for Cape Cod Bay
The Association to protect Cape Cod (APCC, the Cape Cod regional partner of MBP), reports that that Cape Cod Bay was declared a No Discharge Area (NDA) after a 15-month effort to secure this designation. A brochure pdf format of Boater's Guide to Cape Cod Bay No Discharge Area
file size 1MB that the regional NDA working group had put together to educate boaters was developed.

Herring Monitoring in the Stonybrook River
Over the summer, APCC has been coordinating a herring monitoring project at three locations. Planning for the restoration of Brewster’s Stony Brook is underway, and will take into consideration the spawning needs of the two species of herring in the area. Two other sites being monitored are Upper Shawme Pond in Sandwich and Pilgrim Lake in Orleans. Volunteers monitor the sites at the entrance to the pond with visual counts during the herring run (April to June). Water temperature, believed to be correlated to the timing of the run, is also measured. Data will be used to help in brook restoration planning, and may eventually be used to assess potential effects of climate change, i.e., with regard to the seasonality of herring runs. Next steps include developing a Quality Assurance Project Plan for the monitoring, expanding the program to other towns, soliciting additional funding, sharing data more widely, and improving monitoring techniques.

Marine Monitoring

Jacqueline Chase, team leader at the Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research, holding monitoring gear

Water Quality Findings from Cohasset Little Harbor
MBP’s Marine Monitoring Scientist, Christian Krahforst, and CZM’s South Shore Regional Coordinator, Jason Burtner, have been involved in water quality monitoring efforts at the 18-acre Inner Little Harbor in Cohasset. For the past 150 years, Cat Dam on Nichols Road has been restricting tidal flow into the area. The original intent of the dam was to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the area by maintaining a pond-like quality to this tidal basin. Along the dam, a gate allows the tide to come in, but then pinches shut, thus restricting the outflow to whatever is above the spill level. In the Inner Little Harbor, an expansive algal mat has formed, which is unsightly and is causing serious ecological problems within the system. Tidal gates provide an ideal environment for eutrophication. Tidal flushing is greatly reduced, with data suggesting that only 42% of water is being exchanged, versus 99% between the outer Little Harbor and the sea. The town’s Department of Public Works currently opens the gate for a few days each month in an effort to try and “clean” the system out.

Preliminary data suggest that the system is highly responsive to this increased tidal flushing, yet it reverts back to an anoxic state very quickly after the gate is closed again. Community perspectives differ on what should be done – maintain the static pond or restore the system to its natural ecology. Some feel that previous studies on water quality are dated, and that new data are needed to reflect the current state of the system. Recently, the town’s Conservation Commission stepped in, affirming that water control and discharge needs to be in compliance with relevant water quality and other relevant environmental regulations. The focus of current monitoring is on dissolved oxygen levels (often unnaturally high, probably because of presence of excessive algae), water temperature (greater than in the outer harbor, as would be expected for shallow system), and chlorophyll. The next steps will be to open up more of a public dialogue and discussion of preliminary findings to inform the development of tide gate management plan. Water quality monitoring will continue and results will be used to inform future decisions about managing the system.

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Produced in October 2008
Updated 06/12/09

Related Offices

The Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program is a cooperative venture of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts - Charlie Baker, Governor; Karyn E. Polito, Lieutenant Governor
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs - Matthew A. Beaton, Secretary
Office of Coastal Zone Management - Bruce K. Carlisle, Director
Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program - Pamela A. DiBona, Executive Director