BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $630,000 grant to the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, which is housed at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. The funds will go towards efforts to reduce nutrient pollution; protect and restore key habitats and improve resilience and community education around the Casco Bay Watershed.
“A healthy Casco Bay is vital to the environmental and economic health of Maine,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Promoting and protecting a healthy fishery in Casco Bay is an essential economic foundation for many coastal communities. EPA’s National Estuary Program is a place-based program that is helping to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance.”
Casco Bay is part of EPA’s National Estuary Program (NEP) to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance. Casco Bay borders Maine’s largest metropolitan area. Its watershed represents just three percent of the state’s total land mass, but holds roughly 18 percent of its population and includes portions of 48 municipalities. It has 575 miles of shoreline and 785 islands and ledges. Casco Bay is one of 28 NEPs in the United States and Puerto Rico that are designated as estuaries of national significance. Each NEP focuses within a study area that includes the estuary and surrounding watershed.
“The health of the Casco Bay estuary is so vitally important to the health of our communities, the regional and state economic climate, and the resilience of the watershed. Thanks to continued support by the EPA, the Casco Bay Estuary Program and its partners can continue collaborating to support and protect the health of Casco Bay,” remarked Dr. Curtis Bohlen, Executive Director of the Casco Bay Estuary Program.
In 2016 the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, with its partners, finalized a revised “Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan,” a five-year plan containing actions to address water quality and living resource challenges and priorities. The Casco Bay Plan is focused on four goals:
• Protect, restore and enhance key habitats such as salt marshes, eelgrass beds and fish passage • Reduce nutrient pollution and its impacts, such as coastal acidification • Increase public engagement with the bay and foster resilient communities as they adapt to climate change • Mobilize collective knowledge and resources, including convening groups to address problems, such as nutrient pollution.
To that end, this grant will help fund the recently convened Nutrient Council, a high level group that will evaluate options to reduce nutrient loads to the bay. By national standards, Casco Bay is relatively healthy. Yet the Bay is far from pristine. Roadways, lawns, wastewater treatment plants and air pollution contribute excess nutrients and toxics to marine ecosystems. In the last few years, scientists and CBEP partners have observed possible signs of increased nutrient enrichment, such as algal blooms on mudflats and negative impacts to eelgrass beds.
More information on EPA’s National Estuary Program https://www.epa.gov/nep
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