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!