Monday, December 14, 2009

Hess LNG Update and FAQs

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has helped to support our LNG campaign by clicking on the petition. If you haven't done it yet, here it is...

Many have written to ask for more information on the Hess LNG proposal for the Mount Hope Bay platform. In this blog, I've compiled some of the most common questions along with my latest responses:

Hess/Weaver's Cove LNG FAQ's

Q: What is the Hess/Weaver's Cove LNG proposal for Mount Hope Bay?

A: Hess' Weaver's Cove Energy received Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval in 2005 to construct and operate a Liquefied Natural Gas tanker terminal and offloading facility in Fall River, Massachusetts.

That orginal proposal, which would have brought massive (950') LNG tankers up the Taunton River directly to the Fall River terminal, was effectively defeated after Congress designated the old Brightman Street Bridge as a historic landmark, preventing its demolition and physically blocking the tankers from reaching the terminal.

A second proposal would have brought custom-built mini-LNG tankers through the narrow bridges, but this was defeated in 2007 when the Coast Guard determined the waterway to be unsuitable for this purpose.

This third proposal, which has yet to be fully disclosed to the public, is to construct an offloading platform in the middle of Mount Hope Bay. LNG Tankers would berth at the platform and hook up to a 4.5 mile cryogenic pipeline to the terminal in Fall River.

Q: What's the status of the Mount Hope Bay proposal?

A: The Hess LNG proposal for Mount Hope Bay still needs a number of federal and state permits to begin construction. The proposal will be the subject of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is supposed to be released soon. The EIS is a detailed technical study of the proposed facility, conducted by the FERC in this case, that includes an alternatives analysis.

Once the Draft EIS (DEIS) is released, there will be an open public review and comment period, and there will be public hearings, all likely to happen within a couple of months of the release date. Please sign up for our e-mail list so we can be sure to reach you with the details on dates, times, who to address your comments to, etc.

After the DEIS, the agencies will review public comments and develop a Final EIS (FEIS). The FEIS will also have a public comment period, although more limited than the draft, and will probably NOT include hearings.

Once the FEIS is complete, the FERC will issue a Record of Decision (ROD). Only after the final ROD has been entered may any party challenge the decision in court.

Q: How long will the regulatory and permitting process take before construction may begin?

A: No one really knows for sure. In communications to its shareholders, Hess predicted that the DEIS would come out before the end of 2009. As I am blogging this on December 14th, I'm not sure how likely that is. Hess' website, is so outdated, it predicts that the project will be completed in 2009.

One possible time frame might look something like this:

Winter 2010: Draft EIS released, public hearings and comments follow for 60-90 days
Spring 2010: FERC reviews comments and issues
Summer 2010: Hess/Weaver's Cove gives up and leaves town! (we hope)
Summer 2010:Final EIS issued
Fall 2010: Record of Decision; Likely legal actions begin in 1st Circuit Federal Appeals Court

Q: Don't we need the gas? If so, what are the alternatives?

A: Save The Bay's position is that sufficient gas facilities presently exist in the region to meet our present and future needs. In addition to the Everett terminal near Boston, MA, there is an offshore terminal near Gloucester called Excelerate, and a new facility in St John, New Brunswick called Canaport. Another facility called Neptune or Suez, is also located offshore near Boston. This is expected to be online soon.

Given the recent projections about domestic natural gas supply and demand (see today's Wall Street Journal story), previous projections by Hess LNG appear to have badly missed the mark.

Of course, I'm environmental guy, but check out these quotes from a recent letter from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Regulation: "DOER asserts that it is unclear to what extent, if any, Weaver Cove's LNG is needed either to meet the region's gas supply needs or to reduce fossil use in the region. DOER contends that changes in the region's electricity and natural gas marketplaces have occurred since the Weaver's Cove project was first initiated and reviewed. FERC should consider the updated natural gas supply landscape, taking into account the new commercial alternatives, not only for gas supplies, bet also alternatives such as energy efficiency and renewable energy," (from a November 16th, 2009 letter from Philip Giudice, MA DOER Commissioner).

Be careful not to be tricked into the bogus arguments about how we either have to choose this alternative, or face shortages or price hikes. The whole purpose of the EIS and public process is to examine alternatives and then to select the least damaging one-even if that's a "no action" alternative. It's Hess' burden to show that it has selected the least damaging alternative and avoided or mitigated the impacts. So far, it has not even come close to meeting that burden.

Q: Why are winter flounder so important and would this project really destroy essential habitat?

Winter flounder is a classic New England and Narragansett Bay species that was once abundant, but its populations in the region declined severely in recent decades. (see page 21 in this report from RIDEM on Mount Hope Bay winter flounder here).

Winter flounder was once the most important commercially and recreationally fished species in the Bay. They are prized for their food and sport value, and for the fact that they can be caught near shore in the spring and fall.

Winter flounder are known to spawn in estuaries like Narragansett Bay and Mount Hope Bay, and to favor shallow areas of the upper estuary with muddy bottoms, such as the Providence River and Mount Hope Bay. Mount Hope Bay is designated as Essential Fish Habitat under the federal Magnusson Act. Studies show that winter flounder have high fidelity to their native spawning areas- in other words, they return to the places where they were born.

Mount Hope Bay, the specific location of the proposed LNG facility, is regarded as important fish habitat for flounder and other species by EPA and the other federal agencies, and was the battleground for a landmark case against Brayton Point Station, New England's largest power plant. The plant's use of cooling water was implicated in a crash of bay fish populations in the 1980s, including a more than 87% decline in winter flounder. The plant's owner, Dominion, recently reached a settlement with USEPA in which it committed $500 million to build cooling towers and protect fish habitat there.

Despite historic abuses from pollution and the power plant, Mount Hope Bay remains a vital winter flounder spawning habitat. Protecting and restoring it remains a regional, state, and federal priority. Hess LNG's proposal would impact 191 acres of in-Bay habitat. It would permanently remove 73 acres of winter flounder spawning habitat by making it too deep or filled in with the offloading platform.

Hess LNG's position is that the project will only damage a small percentage of the Bay overall, and that overfishing, rather than essential habitat destruction, is a bigger problem for the species. They also propose to mitigate for the loss of flounder with a whole range of dubious restoration activities-none of which will benefit winter flounder at all.

Our position is that you cannot restore nor protect a fish population by removing its spawning habitat. It cannot be mitigated and should not be permitted.

Q: How does the recent designation of the Taunton River as a national Wild and Scenic River affect the Hess LNG proposal?

A: The Wild and Scenic designation doesn't explicitly prohibit this proposed project, but it will certainly elevate the level of environmental review by the cooperating agencies, and will require consultation with the National Park Service.

Q: Don't we already have oil and gas tankers coming up the Bay and how is this different?

A: LNG tankers do not presently come to Narragansett Bay, although other types of oil and gas tank vessels do come into the Bay regularly. The most similar tankers that come the Bay into Providnece today are called LPG tankers, for Liquefied Petroleum Gas. LPG tankers come up the Bay only a handful of times each year, and are accompanied by strict security/exclusion zones.

One key difference between this and the Hess LNG proposal is the frequency of trips. Another is the scale of operations. The proposal estimates approximately 70 tankers per year, which would result in more impact to the rest of the users of the Bay-including other commercial and industrial users. These massive LNG tankers and their security zones will close down the Bay as they move through the East Passage and into Mount Hope Bay.

The existing mix of uses in the Bay, gas and oil shipping included, is part of a balance in which each user group respects each others' rights to our public and shared waterways. Hess LNG's proposal would dramatically disrupt that balance and dominate the landscape and environment of the Bay.

Q: I want to get more involved. What can I do?

A: Sign up on Save The Bay's website here for LNG e-mails. We'll send you regular action alerts, news, and information about the project. Sign the petition, and send it along to anyone who might be interested. When the time comes, we will need volunteers to write letters, attend hearings, meetings, and generally help to spread the word. Every person makes a difference!

More FAQ will follow. If you have a question or comment, please e-mail me at jtorgan@savebay.org and I'll answer it here on the Baykeeper blog. Thanks, JT

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LNG Court Decision on CRMC- Not the end for Hess

Yesterday's story in the Providence Journal by Gene Emery entitled "RI Council has no say on LNG Terminal in Mount Hope Bay" surprised many readers (read it here: http://www.projo.com/news/content/LNG_APPEALS_11-16-09_9AGFAOB_v7.38afa95.html ). The story reports on the decision of the Court Of Appeals, which affirmed that the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) lost its opportunity to object to the project .

Some people who called and wrote to Save The Bay yesterday thought that the crazy Hess Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) proposal for Mount Hope Bay was dead of its own weight, and were stunned to see it clear another hurdle. Some were angry at CRMC for losing in this case, and even angrier at company officials for characterizing the Appeals Court Decision as an effective endorsement of the project.

Let's put it into perspective: The Hess LNG/Weaver's Cove proposal for a massive gas tanker platform and pipeline in the middle of Mount Hope Bay is FAR from a done deal. While RICRMC may have been sidelined by this decision, the Massachusetts equivalent, MACZM, is still actively challenging the project along with other Mass agencies and elected officials. The project still needs about 21 different approvals from Federal, State, and local agencies, the most significant of which revolve around an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the project that has yet to be released to the public.

We don't know for sure when the EIS will come out, but we expect it sometime in the next few months. When it is released, there will be public hearings and an open public comment period. The EIS is the public's best opportunity to weigh in and stop this thing.

As readers of this blog know, Save The Bay has long opposed this project based on its direct threats to Bay life and habitat, its unreasonable and unfair interference with other uses of the Bay, its damaging impacts on the Bay's coastal communites, and its negative impacts on the Bay economy. While a few people still buy Hess' spurious claims of job creation and lower gas prices, most, including the elected officials and Congressional delgations of both states, see the project as bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and unsafe for people who live and work on and around the Bay.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will step up our opposition, and activate our membership and networks to fight it with everything we've got. For more on what you can do, check out our website at http://www.savebay.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=318 . Also, feel free to drop me an e-mail at jtorgan@savebay.org with any questions or comments. We've worked too hard for too many years to clean up Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay to allow one private company to take it over for their exclusive financial gain. Thanks for your support, and never give up! We can win this. -JT

Monday, November 02, 2009

Declining Bird Populations of Narragansett Bay

I was struck by Mary Grady's story in this month's Rhode Island Monthly on declining marine bird populations on Narragansett Bay. Read it here: http://www.rimonthly.com/Rhode-Island-Monthly/November-2009/Bye-Bye-Birdies/

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"The numbers of several maritime bird species that breed in Narragansett Bay have dropped significantly in the last five to ten years, according to annual surveys conducted by the state Department of Environmental Management. Great egrets, for example, the tall, elegant white birds often seen foraging in shallow coves fringing the Bay, peaked at 251 nesting pairs in 2003, and in 2008 were down to 148 pairs. Their smaller relatives, the snowy egrets, showed an even steeper drop, from 330 pairs in 1979 to just fifty-three pairs in 2008."

These steep declines in Bay bird populations are alarming. The story discusses the various explanations for the decline, but no one really knows for sure why this is happening.

One theory I have is that it is related to menhaden populations. The numbers of juvenile menhaden, or peanut bunker, have declined dramatically in recent years. I'll bet that those comprise a major source of forage for wading birds like egrets and herons. Cormorants, which have continued to increase in number, can probably catch many other fish species more easily and in deeper water.

This story underscores the need to invest in environmental monitoring, including keeping track of bird and fish populations. It provides critical information to resource managers, and helps us to protect the diversity and health of the Bay and its connected systems. JT

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ocean Policy Task Force

Last Thursday, President Obama's Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force held its only East Coast hearing here in Providence, RI. I was privileged to be invited to serve on an expert panel to kick off the hearings, and was asked to talk specifically about the role of the Federal Government in ecosystem-based management, marine spatial planning, and estuarine habitat restoration.

This is important stuff, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to host it in Rhode Island.

I encourage you all to check out the President's website on this and make comments on-line: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans/


A draft of my remarks to the Task Force follows:

Comments of John Torgan
Narragansett Baykeeper, Save The Bay, Rhode Island
Before the Interagency National Ocean Policy Task Force
September 24th, 2009
Providence Listening Session

Thank you, to the distinguished members of the Task Force, and to President Obama for this extraordinary opportunity to speak to you about these issues at the very heart of our Nation’s environment, economy, culture, history and identity in the world. The ocean and coast, and in particular- our estuaries, rivers, and bays sustain us, enrich our lives, and bind us together with other coastal states and countries in one vast living and dynamic ecosystem. It demands our attention, and needs our help.

I am speaking today for Save The Bay, Southeastern New England’s largest non-profit environmental group, and we are also affiliated with the international Waterkeeper Alliance, and are founding members of Restore America’s Estuaries, collectively representing more than a hundred thousand people.

The need for a clear, transparent, and efficient Federal Ocean Policy and inter-agency coordination cannot be overstated. Our present policies are grossly inadequate and under-funded. Without a major commitment to reform, we will be tragically ineffective at protecting and realizing the potential of this nation’s most valuable natural and economic resources-our coastal waters and the rivers that feed them.

Ecosystem-based and adaptive management are really just different terms for sensible, practical coordination and execution of work. Fish and birds do not respect nor adhere to political boundaries and neither does pollution. To be effective, we must provide for regional coordination and scope, while respecting and allowing for regional differences in our approach.

The interim report of the Commission reflects the right points and priorities, and we commend you for an excellent job given the short time and limited resources available. It is now incumbent on us, the stakeholders, to give you the specifics:

The funding need is significant. The stimulus request for estuary restoration projects alone was close to $3 Billion; the amount allocated for this purpose was around $160 Million- a small fraction of the need. But we have shown, again and again, that any investment in habitat restoration and environmental protection strengthens our economy, improves our quality of life, and pays direct dividends back to people by giving them clean water and healthy ecosystems for generations to enjoy.

We must invest in environmental monitoring so we can measure and understand the impacts of our activities- both good and bad.

The way we carry out federally-funded habitat restoration needs to be improved and clarified. Today, even with strong initial federal agency support, the non-profit partners need to work hard every year to raise additional federal funds and non-federal matching funds for each project, resulting in tremendous inefficiency, added expense, and long delays in seeing through vital projects to completion.

We recommend that there be a single, designated lead federal agency for each project that is given the mandate and the funding up-front to see the project through to completion. In particular, NOAA and NRCS seem well-suited to serve as the lead on estuary habitat restoration at the federal level.

Marine spatial planning is an essential tool to achieve effective ecosystem-based management and it deserves our strong support. We must plan not only for conservation of the ocean and coastal resources, but for responsible and sustainable uses. This means fisheries policies that truly conserve and protect species and their habitat and provide for the long-term survival of marine life, fishermen, and fishing communities. Similarly we must plan carefully and comprehensively for sustainable aquaculture, for energy facilities siting, and for safe and secure marine transportation. Rhode Island’s Ocean SAMP is a good template for the nation on this.

To date, we have failed utterly to coordinate these priorities on a regional and national basis. Let me give you an example: Mount Hope Bay and the Taunton River form the northeastern arm of the Narragansett Bay Estuary and have been on the national stage in recent years for the right and the wrong reasons.

First the good news: thanks to the efforts of dedicated residents and good public servants in state and federal agencies over two decades, we were able to secure National Wild and Scenic status for the Taunton, and achieved a landmark settlement with the region’s largest power plant, Brayton Point, whose owners have committed $500 million to install cooling towers to protect Mount Hope Bay winter flounder populations.

Here’s the bad news: This same Bay and river are now severely threatened by a massive Liquefied Natural Gas proposal- Hess’ Weaver’s Cove- which got preliminary approvals from the FERC and Coast Guard, and would dredge up and then dominate the Bay with completely unnecessary gas infrastructure.

There is something obviously wrong with this picture. How can two decades of hard work by thousands of dedicated citizens who have fought for the Taunton and Mount Hope Bay be so easily discounted in order to accommodate a project that appears to benefit only a private company?

Our congressional delegation asked FERC and other agencies to engage in serious regional planning for our energy and environmental future and were denied this sensible request in favor of case-by-case review. This makes no sense at all.

This administration has a golden opportunity to have a real impact on future regulation and policy. These hearings and this task force is a strong step in the right direction. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Narragansett Bay Loses A Champion: Steve Insana

Sunday morning, Stephan P. Insana of Warwick, passed away suddenly in his sleep. Steve was the founder and first President of the Buckeye Brook Coalition in Warwick. He was an old and loyal friend of mine and of Save The Bay's. We are all shocked and saddened by this tremendous loss.

Steve was a passionate and effective advocate. He had a powerful personality, was always enthusiastic, and totally committed to helping others. My greatest memory of Steve was one day in the Spring of 2002, when he called me down to Warwick to show me the phenomena of thousands of river herring at every bend of Buckeye Brook. He was whooping and hollering with joy at the sight of it!

I'm confident that the movement Steve built and the people he reached will carry on his legacy and will always keep going strong. We're committed to that. And no one will ever pass by Buckeye Brook again without thinking of him. -JT

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Low Dissolved Oxygen Alert for Narragansett Bay

Over the past couple of weeks, we have observed severe hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen) conditions throughout much of the Upper and Mid-Narragansett Bay including the Providence River, and Greenwich Bay, and extending down the West Passage to Quonset Point.

While we often see low oxygen conditions at this time of year as water temperatures peak, this year it appears to be particularly bad, possibly due in part to the record-breaking rainfall in July. So far, Save The Bay has not received any reports of fish kills, but we are on high alert.

There aren't as many juvenile menhaden, or "peanut bunker", as we've seen in past years, and these are often the first to die off when the conditions deteriorate, so that could be one reason why we're not seeing more dead fish. The following is excerpted from an e-mail broadcast by Chris Deacutis, Chief Scientist for the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just a note for folks who may be working out on the upper half of Narragansett Bay over the next 1.5 weeks- it looks like a severe hypoxic (to near anoxic) event is ongoing in Greenwich Bay and Upper Bay north to the Seekonk River , with low DO all the way down-Bay to Quonset area. We are entering a neap tide cycle next week , so tidal energies will stay weak until ~ 8/17. The volume of low DO water column seems substantial at Conimicut Pt. We saw oxygen in the 0.2-0.5 mg/L range in western Greenwich Bay on Tues below ~ 3.5 m, and continuous buoys are indicating things are worsening over wider areas.

I'd appreciate an email if anyone spots any unusual situations physically or biologically.

Chris Deacutisdeacutis@gso.uri.edu Christopher Deacutis, PhD
Chief Scientist
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Tel (401) 874-6217
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Save The Bay would also like to know if you see anything unusual. E-mail me at jtorgan@savebay.org or call 401 272-3540 x 116 to report a fish kill or other water-quality related events. Thanks, JT

Monday, July 27, 2009

State of Narragansett Bay in Summer '09

It's been a strange summer on the Bay. After a cool, wet spring that had good numbers of adult menhaden and giant striped bass up into the Providence River, it seemed like life in the Upper Bay went through a major transformation around July fourth. Here's a late June striper caught by STB board member Howard Kilguss:

Brown and green algae blooms came and then settled as massive numbers of comb jellies and other ctenophores bloomed and then died off in the past couple of weeks.

The big news is that the bacteria counts are way down in the River and Upper Bay this year, presumably because of the Narragansett Bay Commission's Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) tunnel project, completed in November of '08. See the e-mail pasted at the bottom from the Buckeye Brook folks about the major drop in bacteria at Conimicut Point this year compared to last.

We just observed the first really low dissolved oxygen levels this past Thursday, July 23rd. Our team found oxygen levels approaching zero in the Seekonk and Upper Providence Rivers, which is not too surprising given all the rain we've had. The mid and lower-Bay seem to be in good shape with regard to oxygen levels, all things considered.

July 2009 saw record rainfall, and correspondingly there were a number of swimming beach and shellfish area closures. The RI Department of health website has a lot of good information on that: http://www.ribeaches.org/.

Despite these closures, it's clear that wastewater infrastructure upgrades like the CSO tunnel are paying big dividends already. This is an important lesson for places like Aquidneck Island, South County, and Warwick among other communities facing sewering dilemmas. While there is no single solution for each community, system upgrades do make the water cleaner, and the results can be seen right away. -JT

-------------------------------------------------------------

From Bill Aldrich-

From the RIDOH sampling data, check out below a snapshot of bacteria count decrease from 2008 to 2009 at Conimicut Beach year to date, even given all the rain we have been having.

I think the CSO tunnel is to credit for this, at least in part.

For reference, 10 is the baseline reading and 104 is the reading above which they close beaches to swimming. Red means over that limit, blue means below.

5/20 through 5/31 --- 10, 10, 10, 41 (2008) versus 97, 98 (2009)



6/1 through 6/9 --- 10, 10, 20, 108, 109, 546, 663 (2008) versus 10, 10, 20, 31 (2009)



6/10 through 6/18 --- 10, 31, 145, 146 171 (2008) versus 10, 10, 20, 31, 41, 52, 62, 84 (2009)



6/18 through 6/24 --- 41, 148, 389, 404, 2613, 4884 (2008) versus 10, 10 (2009)

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Public Access Parking Bill Passes the House!

The bill to provide public parking at Rights of Way passed the RI House! Now it's off to the Senate. Thanks for all your help and support. Let's hope this good measure makes it through this year. JT

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Support Parking at Public Access Rights of Way

The RI House of Representatives will have a floor vote tomorrow on a measure that would require cities and towns to provide some public parking at designated rights of way. This is an important issue and I urge you all to support this by contacting your representatives and letting them know you want to see it pass. I'm attaching the action alert distributed by the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers' Association below. Thanks for helping support public access!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

YOUR SUPPORT IS NEEDED!

We constantly urge anglers to get off their duffs to do something important and here is a perfect opportunity.

PUBLIC ACCESS (RIGHT OF WAY) to the shore is a right of all citizens, but we all know that most of the ROW's in this state are nulled because there are "NO PARKING" signs all around them.

RISAA has supported legislation introduced by Rep. Peter Kilmartin which would mandate that all cities and towns PROVIDE PARKING at all designated Rights of Way in their towns. We collected over 1,000 signatures on a petition at the fishing show in April.

This legislation has PASSED COMMITTEE!

It now goes for a vote before the full HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES on WEDNESDAY, but we need your help to get it passed.

In part:
"(iv) In conjunction with this subdivision, every state department controlling state-owned land close to or adjacent to designated rights-of-way shall set out the land, or so much of the land as it deems necessary for public parking, and every city and town that owns land, including, but not limited to, public streets, close to or adjacent to CRMC designated rights-of-way shall set out the land, or so much of the land, as it deems necessary for public parking."

Complete bill is here:
http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText09/HouseText09/H5336A.pdf

TAKE 5 MINUTES *****
to write a quick email to your state representative.

As a resident of your district, I am asking that you vote to SUPPORT
H.5336 (sponsor: Rep. Kilmartin) when it comes up for a vote before the House of Representatives this Wednsday.
Public access to the Rhode Island shoreline continues to diminish every year. This is a chance to help ensure that citizens are able to use the shore that belongs to everyone.

(be sure to sign your name and address)

Find your state Rep here:
http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/House/

Just click on the name and it will take you to their page to easily send an email.

Thanks!

--
Steve Medeiros
President
Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association
6 Arnold Road, Coventry, RI 02816
office: 401-826-2121

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sea Star Die-off in North Kingstown

Yesterday, I responded to a call from a North Kingstown resident who reported thousands of dead and dying sea stars (or starfish) washing up on the shore of Wild Goose Point.

Save The Bay's Director of Communications John Martin and I headed down there with a video camera and shot this youtube video:



This is a natural phenomena that we see every few years at this season when the sea stars move into the shallows to feed on newly-set barnacles and other shellfish. As I explain in the video, we believe it was caused by a layer of freshwater floating down the Bay after days of heavy rain, which the saltwater-dependent stars can't tolerate.

I should have pointed out that everything else down there was in order- steamer clams were squirting, striped bass were schooling, snails were ooching, and crabs were scuttling around. There was no chemical odor or sheen and no obvious pollution of any kind.

Sea stars can be a nuisance, as they eat quahogs and other valuable shellfish, but they do play in important role in the Bay ecosystem, so it's worth investigating any time there are reports of unusual occurences like this.

There's no special call to action attached to our message here, but it does underscore the need to support environmmental monitoring in the Bay so we can keep track of events like this. As the strong media response to our video proves, people are interested in these things and they care about the health of animals of the Bay. Thanks for tuning in! JT

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Latest on Weaver's Cove LNG

As readers of this blog know, we are fighting a proposal by Hess/Weaver's Cove LNG to construct a Liquefied Natural Gas tanker offloading platform in the middle of Mount Hope Bay.

We are against this for three main reasons:

1) Environmental: The project's construction and operations will have permanent and irreversible impacts on Mount Hope Bay and the Taunton River through dredging, sediment disposal, and other impacts related to operations.

2) Public Trust/Use Conflicts: The project will become the dominant feature of Mount Hope Bay, and the security zones around the incoming tankers will preclude all other uses- commercial, recreational, and otherwise- of this extraordinarily intensively-used waterway that extends down the East Passage to the ocean. It is completely out of scale with any other port, shipping, or energy operation in the region and would effectively privatize the Bay for a sole beneficiary.

3) Safety/Suitability: The Coast Guard is presently preparing a letter of recommendation (which could be positive or negative) on the suitability of the waterway for this kind of use. It is our strong view that the waterway is unsuitable and that this use would endanger other boaters and coastal communities in the vicinity of the project. Other groups including the coastal municipalities and the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts have raised concerns regarding safety and security around the project and we share those concerns. Our focus now, however, is to urge the Coast Guard to deny the waterway suitability certificate based on the threat to navigation safety of all the others who use and enjoy the Bay.

We've been at this now for nearly a decade, and some are growing tired of the fight. See, for example, the article in today's Fall River Herald: http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x1098185818/Cost-of-LNG-fight-crosses-2-million

As I've said before- we're in this for the long haul. For as long as it takes, we will question the wisdom of this project and work to promote sustainable, safe, and appropriate alternatives to this ill-conceived project. JT

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Restoring Shellfish in The Salt Ponds- Help Needed

Want to get dirty, work hard, and make a real contribution to saving the Salt Ponds? Join us on Tuesday, May 5th, to transplant quahogs from Narragansett Bay into spawner sanctuaries in Quononchontaug (Quonny) Pond and Ninigret Pond on the South County Coast.

This project is really inspiring, as we work closely with some terrific partners and dedicated staffers including RIDEM, The Nature Conservancy, and The Salt Ponds Coalition. These people love their work and they do it with extraordinary skill and professionalism. I volunteered on this mission last year and it was a good time with some great people. Details follow:



Shellfish Restoration Project - Part 1

Tue, 5 May, 2009 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Volunteers are needed to help The Nature Conservancy, Save The Bay, the Salt Ponds Coalition, and RIDEM in a joint restoration project funded by a NOAA/TNC Community Restoration Partnership Grant in May at Ninigret and Quonochontaug Ponds. The project entails loading
50lb bags of clams onto a boat and then unloading them into the pond at
designated spots. So we need strong people who want to be out in the sun and the
water! Volunteers will be needed to help in two areas each day: East Greenwich
(for an hour to an hour and a half) and then at the restoration sites (either
Quonnie or Ninigret).

Volunteers in East Greenwich will be meeting DEM staff at the RI
Clam Co. and will be loading 50 lb. bags of clams. Volunteers with
wheelbarrows, hand trucks, and planks might help, but strong backs (the ability
to lift 50 pound bags of muddy quahogs) would be a higher priority. You’ll be
loading the quahogs in to a flatbed trailer. The clams will then be transported
to the restoration site.

Volunteers who work in East Greenwich are not required to also volunteer at the
restoration site. Separate groups of volunteers can be used for each part of
the project.


WHAT TO BRING: Participants should be able to lift a 50lb bag,
wear movable and flexible clothing that they can get dirty including closed toed
shoes or waders, bring sun and bug protection and drinking water and
rain gear if necessary.

REQUIREMENTS:
Strong backs, able to do heavy lifting and bending. Don’t mind getting wet,
dirty and working in possible rainy weather. Able to be on your feet the whole
time of the volunteer project. Must work the entire length of the volunteer
project. Volunteers under the age of 16 must volunteer with a parent or
guardian. All volunteers will be required to sign and turn in waivers so we can
track your hours of service for the grant funding.

Location: 7 Water Street, East Greenwich, 02818 (RI Clam Co.) (Map)
Fees: Free and Open to the Public
Contact: Stephany Hessler, shessler@savebay.org or 401-272-3540 ext. 130

Shellfish Restoration Project - Part II

Tue, 5 May, 2009 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM


WHAT:
Volunteers are needed to help The Nature Conservancy, Save The Bay, RIDEM, and the Salt Ponds Coalition in a joint restoration project funded by a NOAA/TNC Community
Restoration Partnership Grant in May at Ninigret and Quonochontaug Ponds. The
project entails loading 50lb bags of clams onto a boat and then unloading them
into the pond at designated spots. So we need strong people who want to be out
in the sun and the water! Volunteers will be needed to help in two areas each
day: East Greenwich (for an hour to an hour and a half) and then at the
restoration sites (either Quonnie or Ninigret).

Volunteers in East
Greenwich will be meeting at the RI Clam Co. and will be loading 50 lb. bags of clams. Volunteers with wheelbarrows, hand trucks, and planks might help, but strong backs (the ability
to lift 50 pound bags of muddy quahogs) would be a higher priority. You’ll be
loading the quahogs in to a flatbed trailer. The clams will then be transported
to the restoration site.

Volunteers who work in East Greenwich are not required to also volunteer at the
restoration site. Separate groups of volunteers can be used for each part of
the project.

WHAT TO BRING: Participants should be able to
lift a 50lb bag, wear movable and flexible clothing that they can get dirty
including closed toed shoes or waders, bring sun and bug protection and drinking
water and rain gear if necessary.

REQUIREMENTS: Strong backs, able to do heavy lifting and
bending. Don’t mind getting wet, dirty and working in possible rainy weather.
Able to be on your feet the whole time of the volunteer project. Must work the
entire length of the volunteer project. Volunteers under the age of 16 must
volunteer with a parent or guardian. All volunteers will be required to sign
and turn in waivers so we can track your hours of service for the grant
funding.

Location: Quonochontaug Breachway, End of West Beach Road, Charlestown, RI (Map)
Fees: Free and Open to the Public
Contact: Stephany Hessler, shessler@savebay.org or 401-272-3540 ext. 130

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Honoring Tony The Barber


This week, Narragansett Bay lost a legend and a hero. At 95 years old, Tony Giardino, "Tony The Barber" passed away. Tony gave me my first haircut, and also cut my father's hair, my grandfather's hair, and my son's hair. This picture is of me, Tony, and William Torgan just before his first haircut in 2007.

Tony was my father's friend and one of his first patients when he began his medical practice in Providence in the early 1960's. An avid fisherman, he introduced my dad to fishing on Narragansett Bay, and they fished together for many years. In many ways, for passing his great knowledge and enthusiasm to dad, I credit Tony for my life's passion and career in the environment and working for Narragansett Bay.

Tony was an environmentalist and conservationist long before those things became fashionable. He had an elegant manner and a great sense of humor right up until the end of his storied life. He fished the Bay religiously every Wednesday and Sunday after church. At every haircut, we'd talk about the Bay and share fish stories.

Tony had a million great one-liners, some funny, some wise, and I find myself quoting him often.

On dressing for the boat, it was "If you don't take it with you, you can't put it on."

On my receding hairline, it was "May it be the worst problem you ever face in your life."

On the birth of my son, the first Torgan boy since me, it was "John, you have only now begun to live."

Farewell, Tony. Your spirit lives on through Narragansett Bay and all of us you've touched forever.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Baykeeper Back on Blogger

Hey, folks-

After using Save The Bay's website for the past year to host this blog, I'm back on Blogger. I'll be posting more frequently here, so check back often. I hope you like the new format! -JT

Thoughts on Offshore Wind and The Ocean SAMP

Save The Bay strongly supports renewable energy when it is properly sited and appropriately scaled to the surrounding community. Our position is not categorical- not every renewable project is a good one- and the details are always important.

We are actively engaged in the state’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) process, which was formed by the Coastal Resources Management Council to study and eventually zone and regulate the potential future uses of Rhode Island’s coastal waters for different uses-including wind generators.

While no governmental process is a panacea, we believe the SAMP represents a sound approach that gathers valuable scientific data and considers the input of a wide range of stakeholders to develop a comprehensive plan for the future.

Save The Bay will not end-run the SAMP process and take a position for or against any hypothetical project within its study area. First we need the hard facts, then we can undertake a meaningful analysis of environmental risks, potential benefits, and any trade-offs on existing or future uses.

The SAMP process does not and cannot take the place of applicable state and federal regulation and permitting. Our main goal at this point is to ensure that the process is transparent, open, considers and works to obtain the best possible scientific information.

We also want to be sure that existing users, including the commercial and recreational fishing communities as well as waterfront municipalities, are explicitly included in the decision making process and never marginalized.

We are committed to bringing our best talent- legal, scientific, advocacy, and educational resources, to the table. And we’re in it for as long as it takes to get good information and make good policy that benefits the Bay and its people. JT