Tuesday, December 21, 2010

LNG Working Group Files Anti-Hess Resolutions at FERC

There have been a number of positive developments on the fight to end Hess' bid to force its Weaver's Cove LNG terminal in Mount Hope Bay and Fall River.

A recent Boston Globe story, by ace environmental reporter Beth Daley, lists the many political and regulatory roadblocks that stand in Hess' way. Still, the company is doggedly determined to proceed in spite of all the facts and the ever-slimmer probability of necessary permits.

The opposition shows no sign of letting up either. Save The Bay remains committed to fighting this project for as long as it takes. And we are joined by many allies around the region.

Today, I'm featuring the LNG Working Group, a Jamestown-based group that is active throughout the coastal communities around Rhode Island and Southeast Massachusetts.

Recently, the LNG Working Group submitted a filing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) including a resolution signed by 15 coastal municipalities in 2 states opposing the Weaver's Cove LNG proposal.

The LNG Working Group is still looking for organizations to sign on to a petition in opposition to the project. It is presented below in full, and can be cut and pasted into e-mail and sent to Gray.LNGwg@gmail.com.

Save The Bay is proud to support the LNG Working Group!



WHEREAS: THE Weaver’s Cove Energy subsidiary of Hess LNG has proposed to build a major berthing and offloading structure for liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers in the middle of Mt. Hope Bay, and to ship LNG numerous times per year through the narrow East Passage of Narragansett Bay, and

WHEREAS: LNG tankers are vulnerable to terrorist attack, a successful attack could result in a high energy detonation or fire jeopardizing the US Naval Station Newport, the Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and major bridges and additionally result in a high energy detonation and the release of explosive gas over Newport, Jamestown, and other populous communities on Narragansett Bay, and

WHEREAS: a January 2008 report from the US Government Accountability Office warned that the US Coast Guard is, in some cases, “unable to meet its own self-imposed security standards, such as escorting ships carrying liquefied natural gas”, and

WHEREAS: the Rhode Island Bridge & Turnpike Authority has stated its intention to close the Pell and Mt. Hope Bridges when tankers pass by, and has warned that those closures “will cause safety hazards, including (critical) delays in response times of emergency vehicles” such as ambulances and police and fire vehicles, and

WHEREAS: 140 LNG tankers transits annually through Narragansett Bay will trigger unannounced and strictly enforced prohibitions against all other boat traffic two miles ahead, one mile astern, and a thousand yards to either side of the tankers, and

WHEREAS: these prohibitions will disrupt and make less competitive the local economy which is dependent on revenue from pleasure boating, regattas, cruise ship visits, harbor tours, recreational and other marine activities in the “Sailing Capital of the US”, and the revenue from millions of people visiting Narragansett Bay communities and their innumerable attractions, and

WHEREAS: the Hess assertion that its LNG facility will create hundreds of “direct and indirect” jobs must be weighed against the possibility that an equal or greater number of fishing, boating and hospitality jobs will vanish in the wake of declining tourism, and

WHEREAS: the Hess Weaver’s Cove LNG facility will require a new 4.5-mile pipeline with new and untested cryogenic technology, including dredging for the pipeline and berthing which will disturb 73 acres of winter flounder nursery/spawning habitat and will unleash pollutants entombed in dredged sediment and also along the miles of Narragansett Bay traveled during the estimated 1,000 barge transports of contaminated sediment to a deep ocean dumping site, and

WHEREAS: a cryogenic pipeline buried in the ocean sediment is an untested approach, and super-cold liquefied natural gas (LNG) coming in contact with relatively warm water causes the volume of the LNG to expand instantly from liquid to vapor gas resulting in Rapid Phase Transition, or a physical explosion, and

WHEREAS: in the event of an accident with this unproven cryogenic pipeline, the natural gas vapors surface through the explosion’s water column and begin to look for an ignition source. Hess LNG is proposing to bury this pipeline underwater within one mile of the densely populated neighborhoods of Fall River, and

WHEREAS: the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources stated in November 2009 that “it is unclear to what extent, if any, Weaver’s Cove’s LNG supply is needed either to meet the region’s gas supply needs or to reduce fossil use in the region”, and

WHEREAS: LNG storage capacity in New England has increased 400 per cent in the past 18 months, including the capacity at a newly opened and little-used terminal in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and despite the ample supply of LNG from a New Brunswick (Canada) terminal which is also reportedly operating far below capacity, and

WHEREAS: in contrast, the United States’ national energy security will be strategically enhanced by accessing large and plentiful shale gas field in our Appalachian Basin states (the Marcellus Formation), which already have pipelines in place to New York, etc., thus precluding the need for foreign LNG transits via Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bays in New England, an area with excess and underutilized existing LNG facilities.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, the municipalities, citizens and organizations, of Rhode Island, and of Massachusetts, collectively and respectfully request that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission deny the application of Hess LNG to build in Mt. Hope Bay a berthing facility for the delivery of LNG because the tanker transits will permanently degrade the character of Narragansett Bay while undermining the economy of the businesses already on its shores and posing major environmental and safety risks while failing to increase the energy security of the Unites States or New England.

Signature: CITIZEN

Street Address

Town, State, Zip Code

Name of City or Town

Town or City Council President’s signature

Clerk attests

Organization: Name

Organization: Officer’s signature

Email resolution to: Gray.LNGwg@gmail.com
Mail to: LNG WG, P.O. Box 208, Jamestown, RI, 02835-0208

This resolution is the research of LNG WG,
a working group composed of citizen-experts analyzing local LNG issues, Jamestown, RI,
with liaison to the Coalition for Responsible Siting of LNG, Fall River and Somerset, MA.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

We Saved Our Shore!

Thanks to everyone who helped to pass Question 4 in Rhode Island! This is a major victory for everyone who enjoys coming to the shores of Narragansett Bay.

Rocky Point in Warwick and the old Shooters property at India Point will now be public forever!

It was an honor and a lot of fun working on this campaign with our partners, the Rocky Point Foundation, Head of The Bay Gateway, and the Fort Adams Trust. There are too many people to recognize here, but it was a great team effort by all. We are grateful.

A rare moment of victory to savor.... Thanks! -JT

Monday, October 25, 2010

Save Our Shore Vote Yes on 4

We're almost to election time in Rhode Island. We all love Narragansett Bay and our economy depends on it. At Save The Bay, we believe having good public access to the water is as important as its ecological health.

On November 2nd we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to increase access and enjoyment of the Bay and Providence River for everyone. Question 4 will secure unique waterfront land at Rocky Point in Warwick, India Point in Providence (the site of the former Shooters nightclub), and to make repairs at Fort Adams in Newport.

We urge everyone to get out and VOTE YES ON 4!

For more on what you can do to help, see the coalition's website at:


and see our video series starting here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62M9ca4fBnw


Monday, October 04, 2010

Rhode Island Delays Scallop Season and Opens New Sanctuaries

RIDEM recently announced that the State will create three new shellfish sanctuaries and will delay the opening of the scallop season by a month. This is all good news to our collective efforts to restore scallops, oysters, and quahogs to the Bay and Rhode Island's coastal salt ponds.

The official news release follows:

News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/ (401) 222-4462 http://www.dem.ri.gov/

For Release: September 27, 2010

Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402


The Department of Environmental Management announces the creation of three new shellfish spawner sanctuaries and the adoption of new harvest regulations to support oyster and bay scallop restoration efforts in RI marine waters.

Oyster Restoration
In what is believed to be the first, large-scale oyster restoration program in the US that principally involves oyster farmers, DEM and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have been partnering with 13 Rhode Island oyster famers in a program aimed at re-establishing a self-sustaining population of oysters in state waters.

The participating oyster farmers are skilled at growing market-ready oysters at their aquaculture sites, and they are applying that expertise to the public resource restoration project. With federal funds provided through NRCS, the farmers are responsible for obtaining certified seed on shell oyster larvae, growing out juvenile oysters for five months on their farms, and then transplanting the oysters to approved open water sites.

DEM is responsible for designating the sites, ensuring that they are protected, and authorizing and overseeing the placement of the stocked oysters at the sites, which now stretch throughout Narragansett Bay and the coastal ponds. Since 2008, over 11 million oysters have been seeded. Another nine million oysters are about ready to be stocked this fall.

To date, there have only been three shellfish spawner sanctuaries in RI marine waters with habitat suitable for seeding oysters -- designated portions of Winnapaug and Ninigret Ponds in South County, and in Jenny’s Creek on Prudence Island. These are the areas that have been stocked to date. Shellfishing is prohibited in the sanctuaries (except for the taking of bay scallops by dip net, which is allowed in the Winnapaug and Ninigret santuaries). The sanctuaries provide the necessary protection for the oyster seed, enabling the animals to grow and serve as brood stock.

Due to the large numbers of oysters now available for planting and in the interest of distributing them broadly, DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan last month authorized the designation of three new shellfish sanctuaries in Quonochontaug Pond and Potter Pond/Sycamore Cove in South County, and in the Bissel Cove/Fox Island Shellfish Management Area in Narragansett Bay along the North Kingstown shoreline. The metes and bounds of the sites are set forth in Part 4 of the DEM Marine Fisheries Regulations; they are also graphically depicted below.

The new Quonochontaug Pond sanctuary is a 14-acre area along the eastern shoreline of the pond. All shellfishing is now prohibited in the sanctuary (except for the taking of bay scallops by dip net). A moratorium on the talking of oysters from anywhere in Quonochontaug Pond has also been established. The sanctuary and moratorium will remain in effect for three years.

The Potter Pond/Sycamore Cove sanctuary is a 10.5 acre area that encompasses the northern half of Sycamore Cove. All shellfishing is now prohibited in the sanctuary (except for the taking of bay scallops by dip net). The sanctuary will remain in effect for three years.

The Bisssel Cove/Fox Island site is an existing shellfish management area that includes all of Bissel Cove and the waters between the mouth of the cove and Fox Island. The taking of oysters from the management area is now prohibited, but all other shellfish – e.g., quahogs and soft-shell clams – may continue to be harvested from the area in accordance with applicable regulations. The oyster moratorium will remain in effect for five years.

Bay Scallop Protection and Restoration

In support of the ongoing bay scallop restoration efforts being undertaken by DEM, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Save The Bay, DEM is delaying the opening season for bay scallop harvest by one month, to the first Saturday of November. This will provide more of an opportunity for the brood stock to spawn before harvest. Several studies have demonstrated that scallops are spawning later in the season and producing multiple spawns, including one in late season.

Also, because stock densities remain low, DEM has reduced the commercial daily possession limit to 3 bushels (from 5 bushels). Finally, the use of dredges to harvest bay scallops from shellfish spawner sanctuaries has been prohibited to protect new recruits and reduce impact on eel grass.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Portsmouth Wastewater Woes

Last week, RIDEM issued a notice of violation including a $186,019 fine for discharge of sewage from storm water pipes, mostly in the Island Park and Portsmouth Park neighborhoods at the north end.

Save The Bay has been advocating for practical solutions to the wastewater problems on Aquidneck Island for years, and progress has been frustratingly slow, mostly due to financial constraints (Rhode Island has very little money allocated for this, and there is ever-increasing competition for federal funds).

There has also been a strong anti-sewering movement in Portsmouth. Opponents of sewers argue that the costs would be prohibitive and that the environmental benefits can't be demonstrated nor justified.

The state's position is that the pollution is illegal, represents a public and environmental health hazard, and that sewers represent the only practical approach to compliance.

We agree with RIDEM and USEPA that taking real action to clean up the sewage in these beautiful shoreside communties is long-overdue.

This enforcement action should serve as a catalyst. The fines themselves do not represent solutions- the solutions have to address and eliminate the pollution at its source.

We are committed to helping the town of Portsmouth meet these challenges and will work to identify funding and to nail down a strategy that will be fair and effective. We believe this is an opportunity to break the political and regulatory stalemate that has blocked progress on these issues and to engage in constructive actions to treat wastewater and stormwater there.

Jonathan Stone's statement on this follows, as well as the official press release from RIDEM. Stay tuned for more on this developing story...

Save The Bay statement regarding DEM's Portsmouth pollution fine Department of Environmental Protection fines Portsmouth $190,000 for water pollution


"Save The Bay appreciates and recognizes the efforts of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to address these long-standing and well-documented wastewater pollution problems in Portsmouth."

"We have long advocated for strong action to protect the Bay and public health in this area.This notice of violation underscores the seriousness of the problems in Portsmouth, but it alone does not represent the solution."

"We urge Portsmouth to act quickly to adopt the recommendations of the Town's engineering consultants, Woodard and Curran, in addition to the steps required by this enforcement action."

"Save The Bay, along with its members and supporters on Aquidneck Island and region-wide, are committed to helping Portsmouth by working to identify the funding and resources necessary to protect our waters. We will work with the town as well as state and federal agencies to ensure prompt action and accountability.”

News ReleaseRI Department of Environmental Management

235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release:
September 16, 2010
Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402


The Department of Environmental Management has issued a Notice of Violation to the Town of Portsmouth for its long-standing failure to prevent or mitigate the discharge of sewage from storm water drainage pipes in the Island Park and Portsmouth Park neighborhoods into The Cove and Sakonnet River.

The Notice orders the Town to complete a facilities plan and initiate construction of a wastewater treatment system, and assesses a penalty of $186,019.

Decades-long problems with inadequate on-site sewage treatment throughout these neighborhoods have resulted in numerous overflows of sewage into the Town-owned storm drain system and subsequently into The Cove and Sakonnet River. As a result, these waters have been closed to shellfish harvesting and subject to a swimming advisory.

These waters are considered class SA surface water bodies and their designated uses include shellfish harvesting for direct human consumption and primary contact recreation.

DEM has provided over $300,000 in grant funds to Portsmouth and has invested significant staff resources to assist the Town in identifying appropriate solutions. As a condition of the most recent grant, the Town was required to submit a final wastewater facilities plan to DEM.

In December 2009 the Town's consultant, Woodard & Curran submitted the wastewater facilities plan to the Town which documented that certain areas of Town, including Portsmouth Park and Island Park, require sewer service.

The Plan said that a "no-build" alternative, under which cesspools would be removed and replaced with upgraded on-site systems and a Wastewater Management District would be implemented, will likely result in continued fecal coliform contamination in the Sakonnet River and The Cove. However, the Portsmouth Town Council has decided to not submit the wastewater facilities plan to DEM and instead continue with the use of onsite wastewater systems and develop a wastewater management district ordinance.

"DEM has been working diligently with the Town to resolve this problem for many years, but unfortunately the Town has decided to disregard the recommendations of numerous engineering studies which point to sewers as the only viable solution for appropriate wastewater disposal in the Portsmouth Park and Island Park neighborhoods," said DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan, PhD.

Following many years of coordination with the Town, in May 2005 the Town was informed of the US Environmental Protection Agency's approval of the DEM completed water quality restoration plan for the Sakonnet River at Portsmouth Park and the Cove at Island Park to address the impacts to shellfish harvesting and swimming from improperly treated sewage.

The restoration plan recommended that the Town complete a comprehensive town-wide wastewater facilities plan and storm water management strategy and eliminate illicit connections to its storm drain system.

"EPA supports the work being done by DEM to require construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Portsmouth. Protecting our water from such basic pollutants as raw sewage is obviously in the best interests of the Town, the health of Rhode Island citizens and the health and vitality of our environment. All across New England, it's a priority to take sensible actions to ensure a clean and healthy environment that is the foundation of a strong economy," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England office.

History of Water Pollution in the Sakonnet River and The Cove

The inadequate sewage disposal problems were first documented by DEM or the US FDA in 1965 during a shoreline survey of Island Park and Portsmouth Park. In Island Park - a high-density residential neighborhood in a flat seaside area - 13 storm water drainage pipes convey storm water from throughout the neighborhood to The Cove and the Sakonnet River.

In Portsmouth Park - a medium/high density residential area on a hillside - five storm water drainage pipes convey storm water from throughout the neighborhood to the Sakonnet River. The pipes, known as the Island Park/Portsmouth Park storm water drainage system, are owned by the Town.Surveys conducted from 1965 to the present continue to document water pollution violations. Due to evidence of inadequate sewage disposal and actual and potential pollutant sources discovered during shoreline surveys, DEM determined that waters in the vicinity of Portsmouth Park and Island Park did not meet applicable National Shellfish Sanitation Program requirements and closed these waters to shellfish harvesting.

Beginning in 1973 the Sakonnet River along the shorelines of Island Park was closed to shellfish harvesting, and the area was expanded to include additional waters off Portsmouth Park in 1988; both areas have remained closed since that time. In 1980 shellfish grounds in the southern portion of The Cove were and still remain closed.

The evidence of sewage in the drainage pipes and groundwater seeps along the shorelines of Island Park and Portsmouth Park have also resulted in the issuance of a swimming advisory in the area by the Department of Health. The shellfish harvesting prohibitions affected 109 acres in The Cove and 180 acres in the Sakonnet River.

The most recent evidence of this ongoing water pollution was documented by DEM last month. On August 26, DEM inspected a property at Aquidneck Avenue in Portsmouth and found that sewage from the property's onsite wastewater treatment system was discharging onto the ground and into one of the Portsmouth Park pipes.

The DEM inspector observed that sewage was directly entering into the Sakonnet River.Within 30 days of receipt of the Notice of Violation, the Town is ordered to submit a report of the final findings of the Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) program, revise and submit the Onsite Wastewater Management Plan to be consistent with the Wastewater Facilities Plan, and submit a Wastewater Facilities Plan and response to comments.

The Town is also ordered to submit an Order of Approval Application for a wastewater treatment facility serving Island Park and Portsmouth Park within two years of DEM's approval of the Wastewater Facilities Plan, and to complete construction within three years of issuance of an Order of Approval.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blue Crabs


Enjoy this youtube video of me catching and talking about blue crabs in the Bay.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Greenwich Bay, other Coves Ripe for a Fish Kill

I got a troubling call from a member in the Chepiwanoxet neighborhood of Greenwich Bay today reporting foul odors, pea-green water, blue crabs crawling out at the water's edge, and lots of silverside minnows a few feet off the shore- still alive but massed just below the surface.

These same conditions- Rainy weather followed by a heat wave and weak winds and tides- conspired to create the massive fish kill of 2003 in the same area of the Bay. In that event, more than a million fish died- mostly juvenile menhaden.

We are still at a relatively early point in the season to be seeing this kind of algae bloom, water temps above 80, and low dissolved oxygen in the shallows as well as the dredged channels. The lack of menhaden this summer may be the reason we have not seen fish kills yet- silversides are hardier and may withstand these kinds of events.

We also are responding to numerous calls and complaints of algae and hydrogen sulfide odors in the Gaspee, Conimicut, Narragansett Terrace, and Edgewood neighborhoods.

The stinky, green water is nutrient polluted, but is not a hazard to swimmers or a problem for shellfish. Since the 2003 fish kill, Save The Bay has advocated successfully for upgrades at wastewater treatment plants to limit nitrogen- a major culprit in algae blooms. However, as the present conditions in Greenwich Bay illustrate, we have a long way to go to make it clean and healthy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Setback for Weaver's Cove LNG

This week, the Department of Interior/National Park Service sent what we refer to as a "black cloud" letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), indicating that the proposed Hess LNG terminal in Mount Hope Bay will most likely not be consistent with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act through which it was designated last year.

We fully expect Hess/Weaver Cove and their damage control team to dismiss this latest gut punch to their project as just another minor flare-up they can make go away by throwing around bogus economic and job figures. We doubt it.

Still, Hess shows no sign at all of letting up and continues to pour seemingly endless resources into the fight. As long as they are serious about it, so must we be. And as they step it up, look for ever stronger advocacy from Save The Bay and our partners. They can outspend us, but they can never outlast us, because we're in this one for as long as it takes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Save Our Gulf

I want to direct you to a new Blog/Website set up by the Waterkeeper Alliance dedicated to the folks on the front lines of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Check out : http://saveourgulf.org/.

Our brother and sister Waterkeepers are our best defense against this catastrophic spill, and they really need our help. This new blog is updated frequently and has info you can't find in any other media.

Of course, we will keep you all up to date on what we're doing about the spill and what you can do moving forward. -JT

Friday, May 07, 2010

Waterkeepers respond to Deepwater Horizon Spill

See this e-mail from my old friend, mentor, and colleague Andy Willner on the Waterkeepers' response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

FYI- From Andy Willner:

This Waterkeeper Alliance Committee has been operating since Sunday getting information to the Gulf of Mexico Waterkeepers and to Marc Yaggi who is in the Gulf and acting as a liaison between the Committee and the Gulf Waterkeepers. Marc has also been feeding us information to process directly from the Gulf Waterkeepers. We are taking advantage of the (unfortunately significant) collective oil spill experience of both present and former Waterkeepers.

As of today, Waterkeepers are now represented in all of the Incident Command Centers in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, not without some bumps in the road that I am sure you will hear about over the next several weeks and at the Conference. And NOAA, EPA, and the Coast Guard are consulting with the Waterkeepers regularly.

This disaster has just begun and with unknown but massive and deadly consequences. We should all be proud of our sisters and brothers in the Gulf who did what motivates us all. They saw an insurmountable problem affecting the people and natural resources of their waterbody and region and immediately, while continuing to do everything else, mobilized significant capacity to respond the this unprecedented catastrophe.

The most significant, and detailed, and professional news stories are coming directlyfrom the Gulf Waterkeepers. We have reason to be proud of our movement, and collectively have to look beyond the deadly consequences of BP's negligence -- and give what support we can to the Waterkeepers in the Gulf.

Let your followers know through every available media, what an heroic effort is happenning in the Gulf in the face of this unprecedented man made disaster. Please use this announcement as a press release, a facebook post, or an email to supporters or in anyway that you think useful.

Also send people to http://saveourgulf.org/ Thanks. Andy

Waterkeeper Alliance forms advisory committee…

In response to the ever-growing national implications of the April 20th BP Gulf oil disaster, Waterkeeper Alliance has convened a new committee comprised of veteran Waterkeepers all of whom have direct experience with catastrophic oil spills. The goals of this ad-hoc committee are primarily to support the Gulf Coast Waterkeepers in their immediate response to this event, and also to provide information, guidance, and communications support to the affected Waterkeepers and their communities.

The Committee is chaired by
NY/NJ Baykeeper Emeritus Andy Willner, and includes Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne, Cook Inletkeeper Bob Shavelson, Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum, Narragansett Baykeeper John Torgan, Prince William Soundkeeper Jennifer Gibbons, San Francisco Baykeeper Deb Self, and San Francisco Baykeeper Emeritus Mike Herz. Combined, these Waterkeepers have more than a century of oil spill experience.

"We're all affected by this spill – responding to it must be a national priority," said Chair Andy Willner. "We're pulling together some of the most knowledgeable people in the world on oil spills to make sure we give this our very best effort."

Among the issues the committee is tackling are public access to Incident Command and information, volunteer management, training, and getting legal and technical guidance and support to the people who need it. The group has been conferencing daily, and will continue to meet as needed throughout the crisis.

-- Andrew Willner
WATERKEEPER® Alliance North Atlantic Regional Representative

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Spill Update to STB Members

Dear members and friends of Save The Bay,

I’m writing to update you on our efforts related to the April 20 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. With the damaged well continuing to gush an estimated 200,000 gallons a day, this spill is shaping up to be an unprecedented environmental disaster for the nation. We want to let you know what we are doing about it, and what you can do to help.

Save The Bay has been in close touch with the regional command of the Coast Guard and our affiliated environmental organizations in the Gulf to offer our support and assistance with volunteer management, response and damage assessment. Yesterday, the Waterkeeper Alliance formed a special national committee including veterans of major oil spills to provide support for the affected areas on which we will serve.

Among the lessons we learned in the North Cape Oil Spill in 1996 and in the Penn 460 Oil Spill in 2000 are that strong volunteer management and active public participation is essential to ensure that the response and natural resource damage restoration processes following the spill are transparent, fair and effective.

We know that people all over the country are extremely concerned about this precious coastline, and we stand ready to do anything we can to help. Volunteers are presently being recruited and trained by our partner organizations in the Gulf. As the oil comes ashore in the next few days and weeks, they will play a critical role in reconnaissance, shoreline surveys, and finding and reporting dead and injured birds, wildlife and fish.

Over the weeks and months to come, we will develop a better picture of what we need to do to clean up and restore the damage from this catastrophic event. Just as importantly, we will need to take all necessary steps to prevent this kind of disaster in the future. It will be a long process, and it will affect all of us. We will keep you apprised of any developments.

In the meantime, please consider a gift to our partners at:

American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/

Mobile Baykeeper http://www.mobilebaykeeper.org/ or any Gulf Coast Waterkeepers at www.waterkeeper.org

Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana http://www.crcl.org/

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Flooding Follow-Up

The waters have now receded from the Great Flood of 2010, and as predicted, we are seeing the Bay clear up and bacteria counts drop. Shellfish areas are reopening, and the spring fish runs of herring, striped bass, and menhaden are already well underway.

The lingering impacts of the flood are mostly on people and property, in the form of wrecked homes, ruined water and wastewater infrastructure, and dealing with the costs of repairs and rebuilding.

Shortly after the waters began to recede, Save The Bay called on the Army Corps of Engineers, The US Environmental Protection Agency, and our Congressional Delegation to act- not only on behalf of those people and businesses affected by the flood, but also for the environment.

We urge comprehensive flood management, large-scale ecological restoration, and a fundamental re-thinking of our riverbank and floodplain development practices. Some places probably should not be rebuilt. Other areas would benefit from dam removal or modification, wetlands and riverbank restoration, flood storage, and other techniques to minimize the damage from these kinds of events.

It is still possible to file claims for disaster relief. We encourage all of those municipalities and waterfront land owners to get your claims in ASAP. It is our hope that a significant portion of the Federal flood disaster dollars may be directed to planning and management so that we can make lasting improvements while the lessons are still fresh in our minds. -JT

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Environmental Impacts of the Flood WJAR Interview

Here's an interview I did with WJAR's Patrice Wood on the news this evening on the flood impacts to the Bay:http://www2.turnto10.com/jar/news/historic_flooding/article/nbc_10_interview_john_torgan/34329/

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Storm Update

I just heard from Save The Bay's Chief Captain, Eric Pfirrmann, who is at Save The Bay's Exploration Center at the Easton's Beach Pavilion in Newport. He reports that the road is closed and conditions are "pretty nasty", but no catastrophic failures so far. High tide was at 8:55PM, so it is now dropping, but it is still raining here in Providence. We'll keep you posted if anything happens overnight. JT

Impacts of Flooding on the Bay

Already today, we have seen the storm of the century on Narragansett Bay. Storm estimates approach 8 inches of rain, smashing records eveywhere in Rhode Island.

While the immediate priorities are to keep people safe and to protect homes and businesses, what kind of impacts does this have on the Bay?

For one thing, millions and millions of gallons of untreated sewage are pouring into the rivers as I write this. That means that the flood waters in the street may be contaminated by sewage. Wastewater treatment plants around the Bay and rivers are overwhelmed. I just heard that the Warwick treatment plant is closed and may be underwater before it's over.

Also, we are watching the developing situation around Easton's Beach in Newport carefully. The earthen dam that forms the 'moat' is under serious strain and it's possible that it may fail in the next few hours.

The sewer overflows and bacteria contamination will certainly close much of the Bay and coast to shellfishing and swimming temporarily. We would expect those effects to last a couple of weeks, more or less, depending on the weather. Within a few weeks, we do expect the water to be clean and safe again.

Lots of trash will wind up on the shores. Come join one of Save The Bay's many cleanups to help with that.

Erosion on South County's coast will be severe. Habitat restoration in the ponds, on the dunes, and forested or marshy buffers are our best natural defense. Nothing can defend against a storm like this, though, so we'll just have to wait and see.

In many ways, a big rain and flood is good for the Bay. It flushes out the river systems, pushing out debris, making new channels, beaches, and sandbars as it demolishes the old ones. In the end, the Bay will be better for it.

In the meantime, stay dry, and stay tuned. -JT

Friday, March 12, 2010

See Through The LNG Spin

I was glad to see that no one, other than those with a vested interest, believed Gordon Shearer, CEO of Hess LNG in his gratuitous rant before the RI Senate LNG Commission Tuesday.

Even the Providence Journal, which does its best to cheerlead the project from the editorial page, couldn't help but note that Hess stood alone there in support of it.

Shearer says his project will lower gas prices. Bogus. He has absolutely no control over that and can't back it up. His projections are all totally self-serving and skewed.

He says the standard Coast Guard security exclusion zones used in Narragansett Bay for LPG vessels won't necessarily apply to Hess. Again, who cares what Hess figureheads have to say about this?! They have nothing to do with that decision. We'll listen to the Coast Guard, thank you.

Go ahead, attack this on LNG fact check. No one believes you. -JT

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Projo Op-ed On LNG

The following commentary piece ran in today's Providence Journal:

John Torgan: Deconstructing LNG project

01:00 AM EST on Thursday, March 4, 2010


It’s not surprising that Ted Gehrig of Weaver’s Cove Energy attacked Rhode Island legislators in his Feb. 18 Commentary piece, “LNG worrywarts ignore facts, kill jobs.” Consider the source: Gehrig and the folks at Hess are in this for private gain at the public’s expense. Naturally, they dismiss opponents as hysterical, and say anything to solicit support for their latest scheme to take over the East Bay with their mega-liquefied-natural-gas operations. It’s obvious to me that the proposed Hess project would damage the environment, hurt the local economy and effectively privatize what is now a public waterway.

We are fortunate that our elected officials see through Hess’s nonsense and put the public’s interest over that of the gas and oil industry. We’re proud that so many of our leaders recognize that there are safer and more environmentally sustainable ways to get our natural gas and other energy at a fair price.

In fact, there are now four LNG terminals in the Northeast equipped to serve the same market. This, coupled with recent domestic natural-gas discoveries, fundamentally challenges the need for the Hess project to go forward. Even Massachusetts’s Department of Energy Resources questioned the public benefit claims of Weaver’s Cove, asserting in a November letter that “it is unclear to what extent, if any, Weaver Cove’s LNG supply is needed either to meet the region’s gas supply needs or to reduce fossil use.”

Gehrig brushes off concerns about the environment, asserting that the Providence River dredging project’s successful completion assures the same happy ending for Hess. He mischaracterizes the position of Save the Bay and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed to make his point. That’s wrong. The Providence River project maintained an existing channel for public benefit. The Hess project requires massive new dredging and construction of a platform in a previously untouched area of the Bay bottom for private and exclusive benefit. Gehrig asserts that the dredge spoils are clean enough to dump off Rhode Island’s coast, and asserts the right to do that. We’d like to see the data before they start dumping.

Gehrig asserts that the Hess project “will not contribute to a decline of winter flounder nor will it slow their recovery.” He says overfishing is to blame. But, according to its own documents, the Hess LNG project would affect 191 acres of flounder habitat, permanently eliminating 73 acres of essential spawning habitat. With the flounder fishery now closed, and the owners of Brayton Point Power Plant now investing $620 million to comply with regulations designed to protect the fish populations, Gehrig’s claims defy logic. The fish of Mount Hope Bay will never have a chance to recover if Hess gets its way.

On the bridge closures and other safety issues, Gehrig complains that required safety and security measures are unjustified. Then, out the other side of his mouth, he says Weaver’s Cove will pay for and provide all safety and security resources above what the state and federal governments can offer. How can we be confident that Hess will provide for the public’s safety when its people deny any risk?

Hess asserts that the disruption to the other users will be minimal and compares LNG tankers to other ships coming into the Bay. But LNG ships do not now come into Narragansett Bay. Smaller liquefied petroleum gas tankers do come to Providence a handful of times a year. Under the Hess proposal, we could expect 70 LNG tanker round-trips a year. Given the miles-long security exclusion zone that accompanies these tankers, it is easy to see how LNG might quickly become the dominant user of the waterway, and drive away other water-dependent businesses.

Note that the international LNG industry organization, SIGGTO, has established recommended minimum siting standards and criteria for LNG facilities. SIGGTO recommends that LNG terminals be sited to avoid densely populated areas, located so as not to conflict with other waterway uses, and to avoid long, narrow, inland waterways. By its own industry’s standards, Hess’s proposal fails on all counts.

Finally, Gehrig asks us to trust the federal government’s permitting process to answer all our questions and to address our concerns. So far, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other federal agencies have done absolutely nothing to respond to the public’s environmental and safety concerns regarding this project. It’s not too late for them to do the right thing. As they are subjected to pressure from the oil and gas industry these agencies need to listen harder to the public they serve.

We remember that FERC ignored environmental and safety concerns in granting a 2005 license for an earlier version of the Hess plan. Thankfully, Massachusetts state lawmakers stopped that LNG proposal by declaring the old Brightman Street Bridge a historic landmark, preventing the tankers from passing through. So, we thank our legislators for acting to protect us where the federal agencies let us down. And we strengthen our resolve to choose the right future for the Bay that we own and share together.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Check Out Save Bristol Harbor

This week, I want to draw your attention to the great work of our friends at Save Bristol Harbor (SBH), the Bristol, Rhode Island based group that has become a real powerhouse for the East Bay. Originally formed out of concern for the future of Bristol Harbor, SBH's work has grown to issues that affect the whole region, such as the Hess LNG proposal for Mount Hope Bay.

Check out www.savebristolharbor.com , and view the new LNG Simulation presentation, as well as info on harbor management, public access, energy, and lots more. Save The Bay is proud to support and partner with Save Bristol Harbor. JT

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Briefing on Water Quality

This past Monday night, Save The Bay hosted Rhode Island legislators and policy makers for an informal briefing on "The Bay Agenda"- priorities for Save The Bay for 2010. We presented on five main topics: Water Quality, Habitat/Open Space (including a push to save Rocky Point), Bay Governance and Management, Environmental Education, and Hess LNG.

We'll get all the briefing materials up on our website soon. Here's the text of my remarks on water quality:

Bay Agenda Briefing, February 8th, 2010

Remarks of John Torgan

It is our extraordinary privilege to host this event here today where we can literally show you what we’re working to achieve. Thanks to your efforts and the work of too many to name today, we are experiencing a remarkable recovery in the Providence River and areas of Upper Narragansett Bay.

Because we invested in the Narragansett Bay Commission’s Combined Sewer Overflow tunnel, which went online in November of ’08, we already are enjoying clearer, cleaner water with less garbage and less harmful bacteria than at any time in recent memory. You may see seals, bald eagles, striped bass, and an amazing range of wildlife right here in the heart of our City. In the summer, it is inspiring to see how people have rediscovered this long-neglected River as a premier recreational resource.

After the 2003 Greenwich Bay fish kill, the scientific and regulatory communities identified nutrients from wastewater and polluted runoff as the culprit in algae blooms, low dissolved oxygen, and growing hypoxic (oxygen-starved) zones along the bottom. The legislature passed laws to require nutrient pollution reductions, DEM wrote the permits, and many treatment plants are now building or operating at advanced treatment standards.

While we’ve made great progress on these fronts, we’ve lost ground in other areas. Swimming beach and shellfish closures now regularly plague the Bay, ponds, and oceanfront in places where we rarely saw problems in the past- Aquidneck Island, South County, the Lower West Passage all have bacteria-related closures and algae/low-oxygen problems in certain areas. And the Upper Bay is still far from out of the woods as you can see from these monitoring results in the river last summer.

Just like in the cities, these are clean water infrastructure issues, and to fix them, we must invest in the fix. For those of you who have septic and cesspools in your districts, helping these communities achieve compliance in a fair and reasonable way is a top priority for Save The Bay. There is no single solution to the septic crisis, but we will work with you to find funds to offset the impacts on affected homeowners and to advocate for flexibility and a sensible timeline from the regulatory agencies.

However, we urge you not to backslide from existing laws and regulations on this. It’s important for us to support the environmental agencies and their ability to enforce the law where there is egregious non-compliance that threatens the Bay and public health.

But rather than focus on the negative, let’s work together to find resources and solutions to solve water quality problems.

What can we do to help? Let the voters have a chance to approve a clean water bond.

Save The Bay is obviously disappointed that the Governor’s budget failed, once again, to include anything for clean water or open space. If there is one message I can convey to you today, it is that investment in clean water is an investment in Rhode Island’s economy. Water infrastructure projects create jobs today, and the benefits to the environment and communities start tomorrow. In a challenging economy, it’s more important than ever to invest in clean water infrastructure.

Finally, in order to measure the effectiveness of environmental management and efforts to restore the Bay, we need to continue monitoring. Funding for environmental monitoring in RI has taken a severe beating, and a number of long-term data sets may come to an end if we do not make a concerted effort to continue them. A relatively small investment in monitoring makes a big difference in terms of our ability to be effective with pollution control, fisheries, and coastal resource management.

Monitoring will not only show problems, but progress. Imagine being able to reclaim for the public areas of the shoreline presently closed to swimming and primary contact recreation. Where we’ve cleaned up the water enough to allow these uses, we should own and manage for that progress. Think of the positive effect on property values and on peoples’ attitudes about the water. With good information, we can do it!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Surf Clam Washup

This is a photo of Roger Wheeler State Beach (Sand Hill Cove to us old timers...) taken yesterday by South County Coastkeeper Dave Prescott. Save The Bay got several calls yesterday from concerned residents about massive numbers (100s to thousands) of surf clams washing up alive and dead on Rhode Island's beaches.

Washups like this are not uncommon after strong winter storms. Monday's storm featured intense rains and wind, and was almost certainly the culprit in the clam kill this time.

I have read accounts of people catching codfish from the beaches in winter using clams after similar events. I don't know if anyone has tried that recently, as cod populations have declined and moved further offshore.

Unlike the massive washups that followed the 1996 North Cape Oil Spill, we do not suspect pollution in this case. Still, it is interesting to note. -JT