Thursday, September 27, 2007

Salt Pond Kayak Safari this Saturday, September 27th

Salt Ponds Coalition, our partners in conservation for Rhode Island's South County Coast, are hosting this great paddle on Point Judith Pond (where I spent summers as a kid and still do). I'll be there to give some perspective and provide support for the Coalition. -JT



For Immediate Release
Contact: Mark Bullinger

Salt Ponds Coalition Executive Director
401-322-3068

Salt Ponds Coalition to Host Guided Kayak Outing on Point Judith Pond
Fun and Informative with Expert Interpretation


CHARLESTOWN—The Salt Ponds Coalition (SPC) will sponsor an interpretive kayak trip on Point Judith Pond on Saturday September 29th, starting at the Marina Park boat launch (just off of Route 1 at the South County Hospital exit) in South Kingstown. The group will meet at the launch ramp at 8:30am and the plan is to get underway by 9:00am.

During the paddle, noted historian, naturalist, and author Prentice Stout, will point out places of interest and discuss the history of the pond. Art Ganz, a retired marine biologist, will talk about the pond environment with a focus on shellfish. John Torgan, Narragansett BayKeeper and seasonal resident of Point Judith Pond, will discuss conservation issues and describe the fishing fleet in the Harbor of Refuge. Pond Watcher Steve Endres will describe the process by which SPC monitors water quality in the pond. And, an expert on birding will offer insight on the pond and salt marsh habitat and point out interesting subjects encountered along the way.

"These trips are great fun," said Art Ganz, President of Salt Ponds Coalition and founder of the SPC kayak trips. "We will enjoy a leisurely paddle on a beautiful stretch of water and hear from people who know a lot of interesting facts about the ponds." Paddlers of all abilities are welcome, as are canoes, as long as they are able to safely navigate the local conditions. The trip will cover the upper section of the pond and will avoid areas of high boat traffic. The trip should be over around noon. For more information, please visit saltpondscoalition.org, or call 401-322-3068. SPC recommends participants bring sun block, drinking water, appropriate safety gear, and, of course, the boat and paddle of their choice.

Rain/high-wind/fog date is October 6th.

# # #

The Salt Ponds Coalition (SPC) was incorporated in 1986 with the objective of protecting and preserving the nine coastal ponds along Rhode Island's south coast. The mission of the Coalition is to educate the residents of the salt-ponds watershed area on issues relating to the health of the ponds; act as a conduit between citizens of our coastal communities and state and federal governments; implement programs to enhance the environment of the salt ponds; and make the Coalition's ecosystem experience available to other organizations. SPC welcomes new members to join in the effort to protect the salt ponds.
For more information on joining the SPC, please visit
www.saltpondscoalition.org or call 401-322-3068

Salt Ponds Coalition
PO Box 875, Charlestown, RI 02813
Saltpondnews@saltpondscoalition.org

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Weaver's Cove LNG is Dead



The recent letter from US Coast Guard Captain Roy A. Nash, Captain of the Port of Providence and Southeastern New England, denies a critical certificate and effectively seals the fate of Weaver's Cove LNG. (Read the letter at http://savebay.org/USCGDeniesWeaversLNG.pdf) Despite Weaver's Coves' spokes-flac's comments that they plan to press on, it now seems impossible that Hess' vision of a massive LNG facility in Fall River will come to be.

While we are not opposed to LNG in general, the Taunton River is too fragile, ecologically important, and crowded a waterway to support a facility of this scale. The dredging alone would have severe and permanent impacts on the river bed and marine life. We urge Hess and Weaver's Cove to try again and propose a different location for and LNG port that is not as sensitive or as densely populated.

More importantly, it is now time to press forward with plans to designate the Taunton River as a National Wild and Scenic River. Legislation has once again been introduced in this year's Congress to do this, and Save The Bay is profoundly grateful to Representatives McGovern, Frank, and Senator Kerry for doing it. We also commend Rhode Island's delegation, particularly Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressman Kennedy for their work on behalf of the Taunton River. This is not a NIMBY game as some like to say. It's about having a vision for what we DO want our rivers and coastline to be. We want the Taunton to be beautiful and ecolgically-sound forever and we want to keep it as a regional and national treasure. Now that Weaver's Cove LNG is in the recycle bin of bad ideas, it's time to move to secure Wild and Scenic for the Taunton. -JT

Friday, May 04, 2007

Deval Patrick Opposes Weaver's Cove LNG


Wednesday night I went to the Fall River Town Meeting hosted by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. To the delight of the Fall River audience, the Governor re-asserted his opposition to the Weaver's Cove LNG project.

Governor Patrick did ask the audience to help identify an appropriate site for an LNG terminal to meet the region's energy needs, and stated that he is not opposed to LNG as a fuel source.

I thought his comments were spot-on, and we appreciate his leadership on this critical issue. JT

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Most Important Fish In The Sea"


Tomorrow evening (Friday April 20th), Save The Bay will host a discussion and booksigning by author H. Bruce Franklin about his latest book The Most Important Fish in the Sea about the history of the Atlantic menhaden fishery in the United States.

Menhaden management is a controversial topic and I'm sure Professor Franklin's talk will stimulate a lively discussion.

The event is at Save The Bay at 6:30 PM. It is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Please e-mail me at jtorgan@savebay.org if you would like to come. JT

Friday, March 23, 2007

New LNG Website



Hi-

It's been a busy winter, and I'm ready for spring! Lately, I've been spending a lot of time working on the menhaden issue and on Save The Bay's work with our partner groups along Rhode Island's South County Coast.

The latest on menhaden is that we're still working hard to facilitate a compromise between the recreational anglers who are pushing for a full commercial closure in the Bay and the Lobstermen who are extremely concerned that the proposed closure would jeopardize their bait supply and hurt their industry. We think there's some middle ground here that will achieve greater protection for the fish while still allowing a sustainable fishery and getting much better data.

On The South County Coast, we've been working to promote marine conservation, better coastal management, and improved water quality. I've had the privilege of working with the Nature Conservancy recently on a broader ecosystem-based management plan for the region. We're hoping to ramp that work up in the coming months

Today I want to direct your attention to a new website www.stopweaverscove.com. We helped design this site to serve as a resource to everyone involved in the fight for responsible LNG siting. There's breaking news there, so check it out! -JT

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Update on Over-Winter Striped Bass


I've heard from lots of readers asking for an update on over-winter striped bass in Rhode Island. Yesterday, Captain Al Anderson, charter boat captain and the king of winter bass fishing on the Thames River in CT, contacted me to share an article he wrote on this subject for the Underwater Naturalist, a publication of the American Littoral Society. Rather than try to summarize, I reprinted the text of Captain Anderson's fascinating article below. Thanks Captain!


I have been fishing a few times in the Providence River this winter. November, December and early January were exceptionally mild, and so fish seemed to be spread out throughout the river and were difficult to catch. On New Year's Eve Day (Dec 31st), I observed a large school of adult menhaden in the Seekonk River with bass pushing them (but failed to catch any).


More recently, fiercely cold weather has concentrated schools of bass in the Upper Providence River and Water Place in the vicinity of the Manchester Street Power Station. When not iced over, I have had good success there.


I'd say about 30% of the fish I caught had the sores, lesions, and fin-rot I described last January. I still don't know what that disease is, but the few biologists I have spoken to say they do not think it's mycobacteriosis which has infected fish in the Chesapeake. The common explanation is that these winter fish get beaten up and undernourished in winter, and are susceptible to infection. For what it's worth, I saw no diseased fish between March and November '06. I'm still very concerned about it, though, since no one knows for sure what it is.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to contact me at jtorgan@savebay.org.

See some recent pics below:











Tag Recapture of Thames River Over-Winter Stripers
by CAPT. AL ANDERSON
Vol. 27, No. 1 15

Several years ago I learned the Thames
River in Norwich, CT, hosted tremendous
numbers of over-wintering striped bass.
This raised a slew of questions, to which I
could find no answers.


Recognizing a unique situation, I embarked on a project
of tagging these fish in the hopes of learning
more about their biology. Since then
I've confirmed some of what we know, as
well as creating questions only others will
be able to answer.

Over a period of seven years, beginning
in 1997, 111 trips were made to the
Thames to catch, tag and release overwintering
striped bass from November
through April. During this period 6,569
stripers, mostly juveniles, were tagged for
the American Littoral Society (ALS). The
bulk of the fish were caught in the river
channel north of the Pequot Bridge to the
basin area at Chelsea Landing below
downtown Norwich.

Unseasonably warm weather in the Fall
of 2001 allowed increased effort to nearly
double the numbers marked that season.
In 2002, charter trips to the river nearly
tripled, undoubtedly due to increased
awareness by the angling public. When
asked if I've ever recaptured one of these
6,569 fish, the answer is no! This hasn't
happened yet, but many have been recaptured
in the Thames and elsewhere by
other anglers.

Thames River


Three major Connecticut rivers carry
freshwater into Long Island Sound. The
largest, the Connecticut, with a drainage
basin of 11,200 sq. miles, is followed by
the Housatonic River (1,930 sq. miles),
and the Thames (1,400 sq. miles). Both
the Shetucket and Yantic Rivers feed the
Thames River (formerly called the
Pequot), which collectively drain 510 sq.
miles. Only the Thames River reportedly
hosts significant numbers of over-wintering
striped bass, and there is no evidence
of a striper spawning population there.

Over-Wintering

It appears that 30 or 40 thousand or more
striped bass have congregated here each
winter in recent times. In 1999 Bob
Sampson, Jr. and I used an underwater
video camera to survey an area in the basin
at Chelsea Landing. In it was a school of
fish 250 yds. long by 15 yds. wide by 10
yds. deep. Sampson calculated that approximately
30,000 fish made up this school,
which he profiled in a story for a N.E.
Edition of The FISHERMAN magazine.
Furthermore, my research uncovered a
Boston newspaper article reporting that
following a warm, wet Southeaster that
broke up river ice, 20,000 stripers were
haul-seined at Chelsea Landing over several
days in February, 1729. Tremendous
numbers of fish undoubtedly over-wintered
here long before colonial times.

Several features may facilitate overwintering
here, including water depths
approaching 48 ft., significant daily tidal
flushing (2.7' rise), proximity (14 miles)
to the deeper waters of Long Island
Sound, flow of freshwater from the
Shetucket and Yantic Rivers, and high
late-season forage abundance (vertebrate
and invertebrate) due to connection with
several large tidal coves and creeks.

Captain Anderson runs a charter fishing
boat out of Snug Harbor, RI. He concentrates
on striped bass but also goes offshore
for tuna, cod, and other prey. He can be reached at ahatuna@aol.com


Underwater Naturalist
Catch, Tag & Release

Fishing occurred by means of rod and
reel from several outboard powered boats
trailered to various river launching ramps.
Tackle was either conventional, spin or fly
rod. Single hook lures such as bucktail
and plastic tail jigs, small tubes and flies
were used to minimize tissue damage or
injury, as initial attempts ('97) using
multi-hook plugs were found to be highly
unsatisfactory.

The bulk of the fish were caught along
river channel edges with conventional
tackle trolling mini-umbrella frames
sporting several single hook lures on relatively
short lines, which resulted in short
fight times. Fish boated were placed on a
tagging board and eyes quickly covered
with a wet towel to minimize any stress
due to thrashing. "Lock-on" loop tags
were placed in the back between the anterior
and posterior dorsal fins.

Time out of water for unhooking, tagging,
measuring, and releasing was kept to
a minimum. Weights were not taken, but
estimated from a published striped bass
length to weight chart.

Seasonal surface water temperatures
ranged from the low 50's F to low 30's F.
Upper river areas demonstrated a constant
seaward flow of fresh water over a deeper
wedge of tidal salt water, in which most
fish were located. Trip catch, tag and
release averaged 59 stripers; however
ideal conditions allowed for as many as
150 fish to be marked in a single trip.
Juvenile fish, less than age 3 (<11">
Recapture Rates

Most ALS tagged stripers are recaptured
within three years of tagging. Thus,
near maximum possible returns have now
occurred for fish marked in '97-'00 . For
these four years, 2,298 tags have yielded
133 returns, for a 5.8% recapture rate
(Table 1), somewhat higher than the mean
of 4.5% for ALS taggers.

By the end of 2003, 252 (3.8%) of the
6,621 ALS tagged bass had been reported
recaptured. The potential to recapture any
of these tagged fish is, of course, an ongoing
situation. For example, a fish
tagged in '01 may be recaptured in 2004,
adding to the total number. Checking
Table 1, there were slightly more recaps
for fish tagged in '02, due to much larger
numbers marked that year. Conversely,
those T/R in 2003 have been out the least
amount of time, hence less chance for
recapture despite marking significant
numbers. If our recapture rate of the first
Ned Kittredge in his just-launched skill in downtown Norwich, CT, on a cold January
morning.

Next stop: striped bass.
Vol. 27, No. 1 17
three years of approx. 6% holds, we can
expect many more returns for 2001, 2002,
and 2003 tagged fish.

Recaptured fish in '97 averaged 16"
(Total Length) at tagging, and ranged
from 13" to 22". In '98, recaptured fish
averaged 18" TL at tagging, and ranged
from 13" to 29", and in '99 averaged 20"
TL at tagging, ranging from 13" to 30".
In 2,000, recaptured fish averaged 21" TL
at tagging, ranging from 13" to 30". In
2001 fish averaged 17" TL at tagging, and
ranged from 14" to 27". In 2002 fish
averaged 17" TL at tagging, and ranged in
size from 12" to 44". In 2003 fish averaged
19" TL at release and ranged in size
from 12" to 38". ( Table 2.) The progressive
increase in size of fish marked in '97-
'99 may have been due to several factors:
return of a year class for several years,
modification of fishing techniques, and
chance recapture reporting of larger fish.

Unfortunately, failure to provide valuable
recapture information by some fishermen
prevents valid reporting on length
and weight increases during at-liberty
times.

Would it surprise you to learn 48 of the
98 recaptures (49%) for the years '97-'99
came from the Thames River itself? Of
these, 11 were at liberty for over a year,
suggesting some fish return several years
in a row. At the present time, 85 fish
(34%) of all Thames stripers tagged
through 2003 have been recaptured therein,
the majority between November and
April.

Of the remaining 167 fish, 141 came
from 21 other New England rivers (See
Appendix), along with one each from the
Hudson and East River, NY. Studies published
in 1987 by Fabrizio estimated that
Hudson River origin bass make up 90% of
the Long Island Sound fishery.

Not all recaptures report the body of
water involved. If an inland municipality
was named, it was assumed the recapture
occurred in a river flowing through it, i.e.,
Derby, CT, is on the Housatonic River.
For that reason, several rivers named were
assumed to be the site of recapture though
not actually mentioned in recapture
reports.

Catch & Release Mortality

A striped bass hooking mortality study
published by Diodoti and Richards (MA
DMF) in l996 concluded that angler experience,
which was significantly correlated
to handling time, was a major factor
affecting survival of released fish. They
reported that experienced anglers helped
reduce fight times, substantially lowering
the mortality of catch and release.

Our results reflect a minimal fight time
due to small fish size and the use of short
lines, single hook lures, followed by brief
handling time, all complemented by seasonally
low water temperatures that
enhance survival rates. No doubt intense
seasonal fishing pressure along the river
significantly contributed to the elevated
recapture rate as well.

Habitat Preference

Does it surprise you to learn the bulk of
the recaptures came from New England
rivers? Juvenile fish prefer these habitats,
as estuarine environments offer tremendous
feeding opportunities. However, as
fish age and mature, habitat preferences
change, which undoubtedly contributes to
diminishing tag recaptures. Increased
swimming strength creates improved foraging
ability enabling them to make use of
deeper and stronger current waters of bays
and sounds. This habitat change reduces
the chance of recapture by shore-based
fishermen, who far outnumber those in
boats.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to
assume this may be the primary reason
why most ALS tagged fish, which are
school size (juveniles), are recaptured
within 3 years of their tagging.

Maturation leads to increased swimming
ability which changes habitat preferences.
Consequently, they become less susceptible
to recapture by shore based anglers.

Time at Liberty

Time at liberty for '97 to '99 tagged fish
ranged from as little as 4 days to 906 days.
For fish tagged in '97, the average time at
liberty was 327 days. However, the average
time at liberty was only 217 days for
fish tagged in '98, and 214 days for '99
fish. Several '97 tagged fish with near 3
year at-liberty periods contributed to this
disparity. A total of 28 trips occurred during
'97-'99, 12 during a winter-spring period
and 16 during an autumn-winter period.
Although it appears a disproportion
exists between the recapture percentage
for '98 tagged fish as compared to '97 and
'99, given the small sample number
involved, 5 additional recaptures (<1%)>
Hudson River Stocks

Various publications have reported that,
based on tagging information, Hudson
River-origin fish migrate annually in an
easterly direction. Assuming the bulk of
Thames over-winter fish have a Hudson
origin, tag-recaptures from ME, NH MA,
RI, and CT continue to confirm this
behavior.

Recaptures have come from 22 other
New England River systems including the
Merrimack River, MA, and adjacent estuarine
environs, which ranks as the primary
recapture zone. I'm reminded this estuarine
environment play a tremendously
important role in the maturation of these
stocks.

Also, to a lesser degree, other southern
New England rivers, along with coastal
ponds, are presently being utilized by
over-wintering populations, possibly the
result of competition in the Hudson
(resources in the Hudson may no longer
be able to support any more fish).

Stock Origin

Our recapture of tagged fish would help
answer the question of whether
Chesapeake or Delaware origin stocks utilize
the Thames for over-wintering.
During '97-'03, friends, clients, or myself
recaptured a total of 22 tagged stripers
from the Thames marked elsewhere.
These fish bore either U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service (USFWS), American
Littoral Society (ALS), or Hudson River
Foundation (HRF) tags.

Two of the 6 USFWS stripers were
marked south of the New York Bight area,
one from Delaware Bay, the other from
Newport News, VA. This suggests that
few fish with a mid-Atlantic origin join
those from the Hudson to winter-over in
the Thames. In support of that premise,
we have yet to recapture any other
Thames stripers tagged in the Chesapeake
or Delaware areas.

The other 4 juvenile stripers were
tagged for the USFWS by either the New
York Department of Environmental
Conservation (NYDEC) or the
Connecticut Department of
Environmental Protection (CTDEP) in
either New York or Connecticut waters.
All ALS recaptured fish were initially
tagged north and east of New Jersey, suggesting
a Hudson-origin for these fish.

Schooling Fidelity

Our HRF tagged fish recaptures
occurred in '00, '01 and '03, all initially
tagged one or more years prior in the
lower Hudson or New York Harbor. In
December of 2001, three of the 7 HRF
tagged stripers were recaptured on three
consecutive trips to the Thames. All
recaps occurred in same area, and all were
initially marked within weeks of one
another off lower Manhattan.

Assuming these fish came from the same massive
school in the Hudson, their recapture supports
the establishment of schooling
fidelity at a young age. At the present
time HRF tag-recaptured fish outnumber
those of other tagging agencies, further
evidence suggesting most Thames overwintering
fish have a Hudson origin. Few
juvenile Hudson-origin fish are believed
to migrate south to mid-Atlantic areas,
with little evidence, if any, for their overwintering
in that region of the seaboard.

Hudson River Foundation

The Hudson River Foundation began a
Tag Recovery Program in 1984, and since
that time more than 250,000 striped bass
have been tagged. Tagging occurs chiefly
between November and April, targeting
age-1 to age-3 fish in the lower Hudson
off Manhattan. Fish are caught with use
of trawl nets by professional biologists,
and internal anchor (belly) tags are
attached prior to release. In the winter of
'01, approximately 14,000 stripers were
tagged. Annual recaptures from all tagging
years range from about 700 to 1400,
with recapture sites occurring from the
Bay of Fundy to Cape Hatteras.

Juvenile fish make treks that boggle the
mind. In fact, school-size stripers may
travel greater distances than adult fish. I
was introduced to the marvels of striper
movements decades ago ('68) when a
small striper I tagged in the Annapolis
Basin, Nova Scotia, was recaptured the
following spring in the Choptank River, a
tributary of Chesapeake Bay. I believe
this was the first record of an internationally
traveled tag-recaptured striped bass
for the ALS.

Brokenstripedness

Contrary to angler opinion, the origin of
a fish cannot be recognized by a visibly
pronounced broken stripe pattern called
"brokenstripedness". Although this morphological
aberration occurs in both wild
and hatchery reared fish, brokenstripedness
is significantly more pronounced in
hatchery reared fish. Millions of hatchery
reared fish released into both the Hudson
and Chesapeake tributaries demonstrate a
high percentage of this morphological
deformity. Studies suggest it is not genetically
based, but relates to a hatchery environment.

Recapture data indicate that stripers are
able to find their way back to favored
areas two or more years running. For
example, I've tagged bass at Block Island's
North Rip and recaptured them in the
same area a year or two later not once, but
on seven different occasions. All 12 of
my personal striper recaptures occurred in
areas in which they were initially tagged
weeks, months, or years prior.

After wintering in the Thames, the onset
of sexual maturity may drive a striped
bass to return to its birthplace in the
Hudson to spawn. Both juvenile and adult
bass winter-over in the Hudson; however
some young fish may return to the Thames
in the fall to spend another winter.

Stock Contingent

At the present time, evidence suggests
the bulk of these O-W fish are Hudson
River stock origin, and are a probable long
term contingent. How does a one year old
striper know to search out the Thames for
over-wintering? My guess is those fish
are programmed to do so (it's in the
DNA). This probably came about eons
ago due to intense competition in the
Hudson resulting from high stock abundance.

Could it be those fish that wintered
in the Thames ages ago, which provided a
sanctuary due to its deep water, close
proximity to L.I. Sound, a diurnal tidal
saltwater wedge, and high forage abundance
were so successful they passed the
"instinct" on to future generations? My
guess is yes.

Thames river over-wintering striped
bass are doing what countless generations
have done before them. No doubt the rich
forage abundance of New England rivers
centuries ago, coupled with a species biomass
greater than could be supported in
the Hudson, led to the development of this
behavior. The Thames has long suited this
behavior, serving now as a window back
into history. I feel privileged every winter-
time I visit it.

These fish are creatures of habit. They
are programmed that way because it has
contributed to success of the species.
However, we can't help but wonder about
their future. In the meantime, there will
be days spent tagging when air and water
temperatures will have me questioning my
sanity. The more we learn about striper
behavior, the more questions arise, confirming
much remains to be learned.
Rivers of Recapture
NEW YORK
East River, Hudson River
CONNECTICUT
Connecticut, Housatonic, Mystic, Niantic, Thames
RHODE ISLAND
Barrington, Pawcatuck, Pettaquamscutt, Providence,
MASSACHUSETTS
Annisquam, Bass, North, Seekonk, Westport,
Weweeantic
NEW HAMPSHIRE
Merrimack, Piscataqua
MAINE
Saco, Mousam, Scarborough, Kennebeck, Penobscot
TAGGING ACTIVITY
Year Fish Number of Trip Catch Number
T&R TRIPS AVER. RECAPTURED %
1997 377 9 42 26 6.9%
1998 560 11 51 33 5.9%
1999 582 8 73 43 7.2%
2000 779 12 65 31 4.0%
2001 1,340 22 61 45 3.0%
2002 1,855 31 60 56 3.0%
2003 1,076 18 66 18 <>

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dredging Trash Fouls RI South Coast

From today's Providence Journal:


Beachgoers find one man’s trash is not another man’s treasure


01:00 AM EST on Friday, January 26, 2007


By Katie Mulvaney Journal Staff Writer




John Torgan, Narragansett Baykeeper with Save the Bay and Peter Manning, a Matunuck surfer, observe trash just east of the Ocean Mist, such as the beer can, below, that has washed ashore during the beach replenishment project.
The Providence Journal / Frieda Squires


SOUTH KINGSTOWN — The beach replenishment project is surely bringing sand to Matunuck’s shores, but along with it is coming reams of rope, rubber gloves and pop-top beer cans galore.


Lobster bands littered the beach like confetti yesterday as concerned citizens and environmental officials inspected the coastline near Deep Hole, a prime fishing and surfing spot. It appears that the dredging project under way at the Harbor of Refuge is digging up three decades of trash that has fallen or been thrown off boats. Now that waste is landing on the beaches as a result of a plan to dump the dredged material just offshore to restore Matunuck’s storm-stripped beaches.


“This was supposed to be clean sand and gravel from Point Judith Pond. … We were under the understanding there was no garbage,” said John Torgan, Baykeeper with Save the Bay.
Save the Bay, which was contacted by the Rhode Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, is asking that work be suspended until it is determined to be safe to proceed.


“We may need to stop this dredging project until this is all sorted out,” Torgan said.


Laura Ricketson, spokeswoman for the state Coastal Resources Management Council, said the refuse was not hazardous.


“None of it’s contaminated. This is all stuff that has been either lost overboard or tossed overboard,” she said.


A tour of the beach in the vicinity of Deep Hole and the Ocean Mist found fishing nets, rubber gloves and boots, hoses, a leather belt and hundreds of pop-top beer cans, some apparently dating to when the harbor was last dredged 30 years ago.


Ricketson said there were no plans to stop the dredging. The CRMC is the state sponsor of the dredging operation, which is being overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


“If we pull out now, the channel will not be navigable,” she said. “We have to weigh having non-hazardous material wash up on the beach and having the channel not be safe.”


Work began last month to remove 90,000 cubic yards of sand and sediment from about 20 acres encompassing the harbor channels and anchorage areas. A natural buildup of silt and sand in the port’s channel was making navigation hazardous, according to the Army Corps.


Under local pressure to help replenish the area’s eroding beaches, the Army Corps agreed to dispose the dredged material at two locations in the intertidal zone off Matunuck. On average, a dump scow has been releasing two loads a day.


By contract, Newborn Construction Inc., the contractor, must separate the trash from the fill, said Michael Walsh, project manager for the Army Corps. While workers are detecting larger items, smaller debris, such as beer cans, is getting through.


Walsh said he had heard only one other complaint about debris which followed a coastal storm about a month ago.


“Our hope is what’s washed up is a pocket,” Walsh said. “In the harbor, some people throw stuff away. I think we hit a spot where people were being irresponsible and dumping offshore.”
The debris is believed to have been pulled from the dock area, Ricketson said.


Newborn has agreed to clean the beaches in the coming days, weather permitting, Walsh said. The project must be completed by March 15, in time for winter flounder to spawn.


“At this point we’re going to have it cleaned up, as necessary,” she said, describing the work as “manageable.”


The debris has proved upsetting to those who frequent the beach.


A friend told Peter Manning, a local surfer, about old beer cans washing up earlier this week. A collector, he was shocked by what he found.


“I wanted to vomit,” he said. Waste that he and others spotted included radiator hoses, fan belts and an oil filter.


“They need to stop dumping so close to shore. This is toxic stuff,” he said.


Manning spent yesterday morning alerting state and environmental officials, along with members of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. The foundation raised concerns in the planning phases of the project about the makeup of the dredged material. The Army Corps has said it tested clean.


“We understood that this area had to be dredged. We just wanted to make sure pollution wasn’t added to the water column,” said David Prescott, chairman of the state chapter. “Our biggest concern is that this is done in the right way and that this isn’t going to affect our beach in the wintertime.”


“This was supposed to be clean sand and gravel from Point Judith Pond. … We were under the understanding there was no garbage.” John Torgan, Baykeeper with Save the Bay

Friday, January 19, 2007

Weaver's Cove Secret LNG Meetings Avoid the Main Issues


Today's story in the East Bay section of the Providence Journal (below) demonstrates that Weaver's Cove LNG is still alive and kicking, despite numerous recent setbacks for the proposed facility in Fall River. It is ridiculous and outrageous that Weaver's Cove is meeting with local and municipal officials to discuss security issues without the host community's participation. This is another blatant attempt by Hess LNG to buy community support by promising to finance the onerous security entourage this proposal would require to protect LNG tankers throughout Narragansett Bay.

More to the point, whatever happened with last year's "Mini-tanker" proposal Weaver's Cove was pushing? Is it possible that whole modification was just a bluff to keep the project's dubious viability alive after Congress preserved the old Brightman Street Bridge by law? Maybe so, but the Coast Guard and other security experts still want to see more information on how these mini-tankers would navigate that narrow gauntlet between the old and new bridges of the Taunton River. Until detailed, professional pilot assessments and security analyses are submitted, the permit process for Weaver's Cove is stalled.

The Army Corps will not process the dredging application without a favorable navigation safety recommendation from the Coast Guard, and none of the other federal, state, or local permits really matter if Weaver's Cove cannot dredge. My advice to Hess? Let's talk about offshore LNG and dump Fall River. JT


Local officials attend closed-door LNG meeting

01:00 AM EST on Friday, January 19, 2007

By Michael P. McKinney Journal Staff Writer

FALL RIVER — With a security guard watching the stairs, the company proposing a liquefied-natural-gas terminal barred reporters and the public from an invitation-only meeting yesterday that began getting safety and security input from several Massachusetts police and fire officials for the Weaver’s Cove Energy project’s eventual emergency management plan.

For many residents in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s East Bay, a major question at hearings has been how, in more detail, safety and security would be handled at a Fall River site and with LNG-carrying tankers traversing water in two states. But at the private Quequechan Club, the 2 p.m. meeting — up the stairs in the second-floor Mount Hope Room — was off-limits to three reporters as well as a man who opposes the location of the project about a half-mile from his home.

A similar closed meeting for invited Rhode Island police, fire and other first-response officials is expected to be held at the club today.

But James A. Grasso, a company spokesman who took questions at length inside the club’s lobby where the reporters gathered, said there was important reason for several such expected meetings being tailored to first responders whose specialties are emergency preparation.
“It’s a security-preparedness meeting,” Grasso said, “and if we open it to the public, some of the things they are going to be talking about would not be very secure for very long.”
He said: “We are in the process of formulating a plan and we believe we need local officials, state officials and federal officials” from whom to solicit input. And he added that just like the city’s hospitals, as well as other city facilities that already involve chemicals such as chlorine or propane, the LNG facility must come up with the emergency preparation and response plan as part of the permitting process.

Grasso said he thought that at some point, some of what is part of these meetings could be disseminated, but that it was premature at this point to say. He reiterated that the LNG industry has a strong safety record for 40 years.

But officials of the very city that would host the facility boycotted yesterday’s meeting, after Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr., the police chief and fire chief consulted on the matter. One city volunteer emergency-management official showed up, but later left, Lambert said, after learning that Fall River was not taking part. Lambert said invitations from the company to individual departments’ officials, such as the police chief, had not included notification to the mayor’s office.

“We have long agreed that there was no way to put together a viable security plan for that facility, and we communicated that many times to Weaver’s Cove,” said Lambert, who has staunchly opposed the project and made clear that city officials did not want to be, or appear, “co-opted” by the company.

And Lambert asserted the meeting was little more than a “charade” put on for shareholders of the company proposing the project. He argued that with two other LNG sites getting approvals during former Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration, the Fall River proposal “is dying a slow death.”

Grasso denied the meeting was put on for shareholders, saying it had been long planned and involved acquiring data in recent years to present to attendees. He also said, “Why would [city emergency officials] boycott the meeting? It’s in their best interest to attend.”
And he asserted that not having Fall River’s emergency officials’ involvement does not stop the company from moving forward to get its emergency-management plan approved.
Topics discussed yesterday were not clear, but some who left at the conclusion would say only that it was a general introductory session.

A precise count of attendees was difficult. Grasso estimated 25 to 30. After reporters had asked several arriving attendees for names and departments, Marcia MacClary, a spokeswoman for Weaver’s Cove Energy, told the security guard to tell people walking in that they did not have to give names or whom they represented.

Among those who attended were Lt. Robert Perry, representing the office of Bristol County District Sheriff Thomas Hodgson; Barry Wante, a homeland security officials with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency; as well as uniformed representatives of the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Latest on Weaver's Cove LNG


Yesterday, the international trade journal World Gas Intelligence reported that the two offshore LNG projects proposed near Gloucester, MA, are seen as leading the Weaver's Cove LNG project for Fall River. While officials from Hess LNG are spinning it to say that the State's support for the offshore projects means they recognize the need for LNG in general, Hess is missing the point everyone else finally seems to get: No one supports the Weaver's Cove project because the environmental and public safety risks are far too great.

While we certainly don't wish an LNG terminal on our neighboring waters, any offshore LNG option makes more sense than putting a terminal in a densely populated city at the top of a congested waterway. Offshore terminals may appear to cost more up front, but it's much easier to permit, safer for the general population, easier to secure, and minimizes any use conflict. Inshore terminals may appear cheaper up front, but when we calculate the costs of dredging and disposal, site remediation and construction, environmental damage and mitigation, and consider the lack of political support and indefinite uncertainty of a number of key permits, who would invest in Weaver's Cove at this point?

If they have any clue, Hess, Poten and Partners, and the other backers of Weaver's Cove will come up with a competing offshore strategy rather than continue to beat this dead horse. -JT