Water: Estuaries and Coastal Watersheds
On this Page
- Side Bar: Public Outreach and Education
- Side Bar: Protecting Water Quality
- Side Bar: Attracting Funds to Estuarine Protection
- Toxic Chemicals
- Side Bar: Citizens Volunteering
- Side Bar: Protecting and Restoring Habitat
- Fish and Wildlife
- Side Bar: Demonstration Projects
In the ten-year history of the National Estuary Program, it has become evident that estuaries across the country face many of the same environmental problems. The flexible and collaborative nature of the NEP has allowed the local Estuary Programs to develop many innovative approaches to address these problems, approaches uniquely tailored to local environmental conditions, and to the needs of local communities and constituencies. At the same time, the national structure provided by the NEP has facilitated the sharing of successful management approaches, technologies, and ideas. Effective projects and programs innovated by one of the NEPs often serve as models for similar initiatives in other NEPs and coastal areas.
Although environmental results are often slow in coming, positive signs of improving environmental conditions are already emerging from the NEPs. The 28 National Estuary Programs are also demonstrating success in finding effective institutional arrangements from which to manage their estuaries, securing and leveraging funds, and improving public education and citizen participation though outreach efforts.
The following summaries illustrate the success that National Estuary Programs have had in dealing with environmental challenges. While this is not an exhaustive compilation of accomplishments, it highlights many effective and transferrable efforts undertaken by NEPs to address the most common estuarine environmental threats. This document will be updated periodically to include new achievements and initiatives of the NEPs.
For more information about a given project or program discussed below, contact the NEP in question. Click here for a list of contact information for all 28 NEPs. For more information about innovative and successful tools, techniques, and approaches to coastal resources and watershed management, see one or more of the following:
- Innovations in Coastal Protection - Searching for Uncommon Solutions to Common Problems.
This document is also available on line under the title Cookbook of Innovations in Coastal Protection (PDF) (183 pp, 1MB, About PDF).
- Coastlines, the newsletter of the National Estuary Program
- NEP Home Pages
In this Section:
- Long Island Sound: Seeking Cost-effective Methods of Sewage Treatment
- Delaware Inland Bays: Using Constructed Wetlands to Control Storm Runoff
- Tampa Bay: Forging Partnerships to Manage Nitrogen and Restore Sea Grasses
Success in Public Outreach and Education
- The Puget Sound NEP established the Public Involvement and Education Fund program which provides environmental education and public involvement through competitively awarded contracts to nonprofit groups and local tribal governments. Over a million people have been reached and three volumes of case studies have been published.
- A Heritage Trail System was established by the Sarasota NEP to enhance recreational opportunities and increase awareness of Sarasota Bay and related cultural, historical, and natural resources. The trail provides a tapestry of recreational areas (greenways), historical places, cultural and art centers, significant natural resource location and scenic waterway systems. Brochures will identify scenic routes visitors can take to see waterfronts, preserves, and parks, and identify special hiking, biking, canoeing routes, and historic sites and museums. Logo and symbols identify the element of the system the visitor is traveling and educational and literature displays are also found along the trail.
- In 1994, the San Francisco NEP began a boater education project with a grant from the California Department of Boating and Waterways. The goal of the program is to educate San Francisco Estuary's boating community about pollution related to vessel sewage discharges. Discharges of untreated sewage are unsightly and can spread disease, contaminate shellfish beds, and decrease oxygen available for aquatic life. Educational brochures, a slide-show, and pumpout maps were developed, and presentations have been given to groups throughout the Bay-Delta to encourage the use of pumpout facilities. Working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, marina operators, marine supply shops, boating magazines, radio stations, and boaters themselves, the Estuary Project is getting out the message "Don't Dump! Use the Pump." Now in its third year, the boater education project has received $220,000, and has served as a model for similar programs in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
Long Island Sound
Seeking Cost-effective Methods of Sewage Treatment
Excessive levels of nitrogen from point and nonpoint sources have contributed to a decrease in the amount of available oxygen in Long Island Sound. In 1987, many fishermen began noticing fish and lobster kills in the Sound. Monitoring of the water column indicated a high amount of nitrogen and low dissolved oxygen levels. At one point, 40 percent of the Sound's bottom waters had unhealthy levels of oxygen. The main cause of this condition is excessive nitrogen, a nutrient that enters the Sound through point and nonpoint sources. Excess nitrogen fuels the growth of planktonic algae. When they die, they settle to the bottom and decay, using up oxygen in the process.
Studies indicated that 45 sewage treatment plants discharging directly into the Sound contribute 48 percent of the nitrogen load. Historically, these treatment plans used processes that remove only 10 to 20 percent of the total nitrogen content of their waste stream, leaving high concentrations of nitrogen in their effluent. It was clear from the studies that nutrient removal capabilities of the wastewater treatment plants must be improved.
Conventional methods for nutrient removal were investigated in an effort to reduce nitrogen inputs into the Sound. The cost of modifying all 45 treatment plants using conventional methods would cost up to $8 billion, therefore, new cost effective techniques were sought. The wastewater treatment facility in Stamford, Connecticut had experimented with a process known as Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR). BNR is a form of sewage treatment that uses biological organisms to remove nitrogen through two reactions: nitrification and denitrification. Nitrification changes ammonia into nitrates and nitrites, which can then be converted into nitrogen gas through denitrification. Nitrogen is then released through the air. Results from the Stamford facility suggested it was possible to achieve high rates of removal of total nitrogen and phosphorous using BNR technology. In addition to its potential for high nutrient removal rates, BNR could be employed with only relatively minor changes in operation at a nominal cost. A decision was made to further test BNR technology at two sewage treatment plants that discharge into the Sound: the facility in Stamford, Connecticut, and the Tallman Island wastewater treatment facility in New York City. These sites were chosen due to facility designs, past records of compliance with permit limits, plant operator shills and controls, and the fact that neither plant was at or over capacity. In addition, these plants used oxygen-supply systems typical of those in place at other Long Island Sound treatment facilities, making project results likely to be more broadly applicable.
The City of Stamford water pollution control facility is a 20 million gallon per day (MGD) secondary activitated sludge treatment plant, using mechanical aerators to supply air during treatment. Approximately 85 percent of the facility's effluent is from domestic and commercial sources, and 15 percent is from industrial sources. The Tallman Island water pollution control plant is an 80 MGD facility serving an urban drainage area of approximately 26 square miles. It is also an activated sludge treatment plant, but uses a diffused air system. The wastewater system that feeds the facility contains storm sewers, sanitary sewers, and combined sewers.
Success in Protecting Water Quality
- Using the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Plan as a guidance document, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board approved a new municipal stormwaterNational Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The permit provides a 5-year blueprint for coordinating stormwater management efforts.
- Through the efforts of citizens and the San Juan Bay NEP, the Corps of Engineers is taking remedial action on dredged material deposited in the Bay, which was limiting the circulation of Bay waters. Water circulation is one of the priority problems being addressed by San Juan Bay NEP.
- Indian River Lagoon NEP developed a unique nitrogen budget model for the use of local governments in forecasting areas and times when nitrogen from septic tanks and other sources would be detrimental to water quality. Field tests and validation exercises on this model are currently being scheduled.
- New York-New Jersey Harbor has implemented an intensive marine debris prevention program which includes educating the public about street litter in stormdrains, improving landfill waste handling practices, and setting up innovative vessel trash collection and recycling programs in marinas.
There were four main objectives in implementing the project: 1) determine how much nitrogen could be removed by utilizing different process control techniques and expending minimal capital costs, 2) establish criteria for nitrogen removal procedures that could be used by consulting engineers and plant managers and other plants, 3) study the effects of cold temperatures on biological processes, and 4) establish a local source of expertise in BNR processes in order to expand its use to other nearby sewage treatment plants, if the methods proved to be suitable.
EPA awarded funding through the Long Island Sound NEP to the Stamford facility to continue its study of BNR and to help the Tallman Island water pollution control facility to initiate a nitrogen removal demonstration project. At Stamford, adjustments to the aeration system were made, and the Tallman facility required installation of flow meters, samplers, baffles, and mixers. None of these modifications required substantial capital investments. Once the facilities were equipped for BNR, variations of the BNR were system were tested for optimum nitrogen removal. For both treatment plants, this was done by manipulating the operating process.
Both the Stamford and Tallman facilities evaluated BNR processes from 1990 to 1992. Wastewater was tested both before and after treatment for various parameters such as nutrient levels, temperature, oxygen, and pH.These tests were conducted at least twice weekly so that any process changes needed to keep nitrogen removal levels as high as possible could be implemented. The Stamford and Tallman facilities removed a significant amount of nitrogen at rates of up to 83 and 73 percent respectively. In addition, the BNR processes were instituted without additional staff, extensive training, or costly modifications. Overall the success of the project has led to the planning of wide-scale BNR implementation throughout the Sound. The demonstration project illustrated that with little or no capital investment and only minor changes to existing processes, secondary treatment plants can reduce the amount of nitrogen discharged into Long Island Sound. Although BNR was successful in reducing nitrogen in treatment plant effluent, employing BNR in regions with colder climates may not be effective as BNR is cold-weather limited. However, the BNR process can occur with short detention times. Consequently, most treatment plans, even those that have reached or are over capacity, can utilize these techniques.
Delaware Inland Bays
Using Constructed Wetlands to Control Storm Runoff
Overloading of nutrients in Delaware Inland Bays (Rehoboth, Little Assawoman, and Indian River Bays) from point and nonpoint sources has resulted in decreased water quality and loss of habitat. Although a few areas of are considered healthy, products of industry and development, mainly the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, have caused a noticeable decline in water quality and loss of habitat. Excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus have robbed the once healthy waterbodies of oxygen leading to either fish kills or movement of fish to other areas. The high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus have also inhibited the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Inland Bays, eliminating the freshwater habitat needed by wildlife such as scallops, white perch, and striped bass. Presently, no substantial SAV beds exist in the Bays, and previously existing soft clam, bay scallop, and oyster fisheries are, for the most part, extinct.
A 1988-1990 study of nutrient loads indicated that the nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the Bays come from both point and nonpoint sources; nonpoint sources, especially stormwater runoff, however, are the primary source of nutrients to the Bays. It has been estimated that nonpoint sources contribute 1,040 tons of nitrogen per year and 30 tons of phosphorus per year to Indian River and Rehoboth Bay. Loadings have increased in areas with large amounts of impermeable surfaces such as roadways or parking lots.
An industrial park was chosen as a demonstration project to test the method of using a constructed wetland for stormwater control. The Delaware Inland Bays NEP joined forces with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Soil Conservation Service, the Sussex Conservation District, and the Sussex County government to develop a plan to demonstrate the use of an artificial wetland for stormwater management and habitat creation. The objectives of the project were to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loads entering the Bays, create additional habitat for wildlife, and demonstrate the effectiveness of using an artificially constructed wetland for stormwater management. The Georgetown Industrial Park located in and owned by Sussex County, Delaware was selected as the demonstration site.It is a highly urbanized 200-acre site with an airport occupying about one-half the site, whereas the other half contains light industrial businesses. Stormwater and nutrients are transported directly into a tributary of Indian river, Perterkins Branch. The Indian River then carries the nitrogen and phosphorus-laden stormwater eastward to the Delaware Inland Bays.
Design and construction of the pond was completed in 1991 and planted with emergent wetland plants in 1992. The design and construction phases of the project involved a number of steps. First, staff wetland biologists field verified that there was no natural wetlands at the site. Second, the constructed wetland was designed as an "off line" treatment system. Flow diversions were designed for placement in the two existing drainage ditches to direct the first inch of runoff from the industrial park to the wetland. This "off line" approach would divert the first flush to the wetland, while larger flows could continue unimpeded. Third, construction was sequenced so the wetland was built from the outside-in, allowing the emerging pond to act as its own sediment basin during construction. The actual connection of the pond with the existing drainage ditches was not done until the entire excavation was completed and the site was stabilized by vegetation above the normal pond elevation. Fourth, to enhance wildlife benefits, the wetland was constructed in an irregular shape and 75 percent of the depths in the pond were less than 2 feet. An island was built in the pond to lengthen flow paths from inflow to outflow, providing a secure splash boards to control the pond elevation as needed. Finally, approximately 30 percent of the pond surface area was planted with emergent plants to accelerate the development of the wetland. Wetland planting took place a year later so the grasses and brush could have a full growing season to maximize planting success.
The Georgetown Stormwater Management Demonstration Project proved to be an innovative, successful, and attractive way to control stormwater runoff. While holding the stormwater, the wetland removes nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants through filtration by wetland plants, microbial activity, and uptake by wetland plants and algae, before gradually releasing stormwater to the Bays. It is estimated that up to 60 percent of the nitrogen and 40 percent of the phosphorus is removed from the stormwater after flowing through the wetland. In addition, the suspended sediments could be reduced by up to 80 percent and trace metals by approximately 60 percent. The wetland, maintained by the State of Delaware, has also flourished as a habitat for plants, waterfowl, mammals, insects, and fish. Vegetation as well as plant diversity is booming, and many waterfowl have been sighted at the wetland. Some species, such as duck and quail, have established nests.
Some additional lessons were learned from the project. A major cost factor for any stormwater management project is the cost associated with the removal and disposal of earth excavated from the project site. Consideration should be given to disposal locations close to the site. In the case of Georgetown Stormwater Management Demonstration Project, fill material was needed to extend a runway at the nearby airport, so the materials had to be trucked only a short distance. Plantings should be done at a time of year when the plants have a full growing season to ensure rapid and lush growth.
Forging Partnerships to Manage Nitrogen and Restore Sea Grasses
Pollution and dredging have destroyed more than half of the bay's grass beds since the turn of the century in Tampa Bay. However, aerial photographic surveys have documented recovery of more than 3,000 acres of new or expanded seagrass beds in Tampa Bay since 1988, some in areas that have been barren for decades. This remarkable recovery is strongly correlated with reductions in nitrogen loadings to the bay.
The weight of scientific evidence indicates that the dieback of seagrasses which accompanied the rapid urbanization of the Tampa Bay region (excluding beds which had been buried or physically removed by dredging or filling) was due to insufficient light reaching submerged grassbeds. The primary cause of reduced light penetration was an overabundance of phytoplankton (algae suspended in the water column) which was being fueled by excessive nitrogen input to the bay.
Controlling nitrogen the bay's nitrogen intake as a means of restoring vital underwater seagrass beds had been one of the most prominent initiatives of the Tampa Bay NEP. Seagrass beds were selected by the NEP as a yardstick by which efforts to improve the bay will be measured because of their overall importance to the bay ecosystem, and because they are an important barometer of their environment, indicating changes in long-term water quality.
An Action Plan was developed by the Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium after a year-long effort to achieve the nitrogen management goals adopted by the NEP. The Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium is comprised of local utilities, phosphate mining and fertilizer handing companies and agricultural interests, as well as the Tampa Bay NEP's six local government partners and regulatory agencies. The Action Plan combines for each bay segment all local government, agency and industry projects that will contribute to meeting the 5-year nitrogen management goal of reducing or precluding 56 tons per year of nitrogen loading which comes from atmospheric deposition, industrial point sources, fertilizer shipping and handling, and intensive agriculture.
The Tampa Bay NEP adopted a long-term goal of recovering 12,350 acres of seagrasses baywide. This number roughly represents the seagrass acreage that existed in 1950, excluding areas that have been permanently altered by dredging or filling activities.
Empirical water quality models developed through the NEP for each major segment of the bay indicate that water quality in the bay has improved sufficiently to allow the seagrass recovery goal to be achieved, over time through natural regrowth. To maintain existing water quality and sustain the seagrass recovery process, the NEP has adopted a five-year nutrient management goal to cap nitrogen levels at existing levels (1992-94 average). Nitrogen loading to Tampa Bay is expected to increase 7 percent by the year 2010 as a result of population growth and related development. This equates to an increase of slightly less than 17 tons per year of nitrogen loading each year, or an increased loading rate of 84 tons per year by the year 2000. Consequently, local governments and industries will need to reduce or preclude loadings to the bay by this amount in order to maintain the bay's current nitrogen levels.
Local government and agency partners in the NEP have accepted responsibility for reducing or precluding their future nitrogen contributions associated with stormwater runoff and point-source discharges by approximately 28 tons per year by the year 2000.
In this Section:
- Santa Monica Bay: Using Research and Management to Reduce Human Health Risks
- Buzzards Bay: Constructing Wetlands to Reduce Stormwater Pollution
- Buzzards Bay: Improving Wastewater Treatment
- Narragansett Bay: Tracking Down Sources of Pathogens and Finding Fixes
Success in Attracting Funds to Estuarine Protection
- As a result of a demonstration project conducted by Corpus Christi bay NEP to reduce NPS pollution, the King Ranch in Texas initiated their own study at a cost of $400,000 to determine the effects of runoff from their croplands, which may be a factor in causing Brown Tide.
- Narragansett Bay NEP has successfully tapped into other funding sources and influenced the spending of local dollars on implementation of their Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. From 1993-1997, the Narragansett Bay NEP has been able to access over $850,000 beyond annual funding from EPA.
- The Crystal Trust Foundation granted $25,000 to the Center for the Inland Bays (DE) to hire a part-time public outreach coordinator and pay for graduate student interns developing estuary education programs.
- A public-private partnership has been successful in raising $50 million per year for 3 years from San Francisco Bay urban water users to acquire and restore wetlands habitat.
- The New York/New Jersey Harbor NEP, in coordination with the New York City Parks Department is using funds from the Exxon Valdez account to revegetate park areas and reduce sedimentation and erosive runoff in some parks where steep slopes drain into the Hudson river. The cost of the project is $150,000.
Santa Monica Bay
Using Research and Management to Reduce Human Health Risks
In order to determine how safe it is to swim in Santa Monica Bay, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project conducted an epidemiological study in 1995 involving a wide variety of state and local agencies, the scientific community, and environmental organizations. The study demonstrated for the first time the association between health risks and swimming in urban runoff-contaminated waters. The findings could also apply to any urban area in the country with recreational areas impacted by urban runoff.
Since the release of the study results in 1996, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services has adopted the use of this new indicator in the County's beach warning and closure protocol. With the solid scientific information provided by health effects study, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project can now confidently report to the public about the relative health risks of swimming at various locations around the Bay. This indicator has also proved useful because it can easily be converted from traditionally used measures, allowing for evaluation of historical trends.
A survey team patrolled beaches in Santa Monica watching for swimmers who put their head underwater near the outlets of storm drains as well as those farther away from the drains. When the swimmers came ashore, the surveyors asked for their telephone numbers so they could be called later and asked about symptoms. Over 13,000 swimmers were contacted 9-14 days after their initial questioning and were asked about whether they had a fever, chills, ear ache, eye discharge, infected cut, skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, coughing, coughing with phlegm, sore throat, nasal congestion, a group of symptoms indicative of "highly credible gastrointestinal illness" and "significant respiratory disease". Daily water samples were also taken at and near storm drain locations and analyzed for total and fecal coliform bacteria, enterrococci, and E. Coli. Water samples were also collected at storm drain sites every weekend and analyzed for enteric viruses.
The results of the study showed that swimmers who swim in front of a flowing storm drain could experience an increased risk for fever, chills, ear discharge, vomiting, coughing with phlegm in comparison to those who swam over 400 yards away. Although in is not yet known what specific pathogens cause illness, the study confirms that the bacterial indicators that are being monitored do help to predict risk.
As a result of the study, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project developed an agenda to respond to the findings of the study. The three components of the agenda are to implement source control measures, identify and prevent pathogen sources, and educate and advise the public about the health risks of swimming near storm drain outlets. Some of the on-going or proposed actions include using Best Management Practices such as storm drain stenciling and street sweeping, investigating and correct malfunctioning septic systems, identify and eliminate illicit connections and illicit discharges to the storm drain system, and warn swimmers to stay away from storm drain outlets. Signs have been posted near storm drain outlets on beaches along Santa Monica Bay warning swimmers to stay at least 100 yards from storm drain outlets.
The study was a follow-up to an earlier investigations conducted by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project where human pathogens were detected in summer runoff. Possible sources of pathogen contamination into the storm drain include illegal sewer connections, leaking sewer lines, malfunctioning septic systems, illegal dumping from recreational vehicles, or direct human sources such as campers or transients. Other potential sources of human pathogens in near shore areas include sewage spills into storm drains, small boat waste discharges and swimmers themselves.
Constructing Wetlands to Reduce Stormwater Pollution
To address shellfish bed closures in Sippican Harbor (Spragues Cove) near the Town of Marion, Massachusetts, the Buzzards Bay NEP constructed a three-acre wetland. The wetland was created on a site of a former saltmarsh now a parking lot, treats stormwater runoff and associated non-point source pollutants from impervious areas such as roads, driveways, and rooftops, and restore coastal habitats. Spragues Cove is a three-acre area of valuable shellfish beds surrounded by single family homes to the north and west of the cove. The shellfish beds at the cove are closed to harvest because they exceed state and federal fecal coliform bacteria standards for shellfishing. A sanitary survey identified stormwater as a major contributor of fecal coliform bacteria to Spragues Cove. The area adjacent to the cove (Silvershell beach) is so the sole bathing beach area in Marion. Due to poor drainage in Marion resulting from the presence of near-hydric soils, infiltration management strategies were not a viable option. However, sufficient land areas existed at Spragues Cove to allow for the use of a constructed wetland as a treatment mechanism to remove most sediments and bacterial contamination.
The result was a series of constructed wetland basins adjacent to the Silvershell beach parking lot to capture and infiltrate the stormwater. The constructed wetland consists of a settling basin, shallow marsh, deep pool, and a stone-lined outlet. The physical and biological processes that normally occur in a wetland will treat and remove the pollutants from the water. A monitoring program has been established to gauge the effectiveness of the stormwater remediation efforts.
After just one year, aquatic vegetation has grown vigorously within the wetland system. Many seeds and plants established by town volunteers have become established in the shallow marshes and along the periphery of all basins. Intensive sampling indicated an overall reduction in fecal coliform bacteria. Sand silt, trash, and other debris have been settling in the sedimentation/settling basin rather than being discharged to the cove. Additional wetland plants were also planted in and along the channel to improve soil stability as well as discourage geese. Because large waterfowl such as geese present a potential fecal coliform problem, tall grasses and wildflowers on interior and main dikes will be encouraged to grow to discourage their residence. As vegetation continues to become established, it is expected that coliform counts will continue to decline.
Improving Wastewater Treatment
Buttermilk Bay, a small tidal embayment near the towns of Bourne and Wareham, Massachusetts, was closed to shellfishing due to high levels of fecal coliform bacteria. A water quality study by the Buzzards Bay NEP revealed that closure of shellfishing areas was often required following periods of rain due to contamination by pollutants in stormwater runoff and illustrated that storm drains were the greatest source of fecal coliform bacteria. Other sources of fecal coliform bacteria included septic systems, wildlife fecal waste, marina discharges, and freshwater inputs (streams, marsh areas).
Of the approximately 30 stormdrains that discharge into Buttermilk Bay, the storm drains in the town of Bourne and Wareham were selected for treatment. The town of Bourne installed several subsurface stormwater infiltration systems to address runoff from a parking lot and town boat ramp. The town of Wareham is currently working with the Buzzards Bay NEP to design and construct stormwater treatment units. The town of Bourne is just beginning remediation work on eight stormwater discharges to Buttermilk Bay. By correcting these stormwater inputs, the existing shellfish closures will be reduced to the smallest area possible, and the threat to existing open areas will be significantly lowered.
The oldest stormwater control system constructed in the town of Bourne achieved a 98% reduction in fecal coliform levels. In addition, through the efforts of Bourne and Wareham, the communities extended sewer lines and replaced failing septic systems, thereby reducing this important potential pollution source. Public education and outreach efforts by the community enabled citizens to become informed and provided guidance on how they could become part of the solution. As a result of these actions, Buttermilk Bay's water quality shows marked improvement. At the start of the project, all of Buttermilk was closed to shellfishing and recreational activities due to high coliform levels. Today, due to stormwater control and septic system improvements, 90% of the bay is presently open.
Tracking Down Sources of Pathogens and Finding Fixes
Greenwich Bay, a 4.9 square mile embayment of Narragansett Bay is one of the East Coasts most productive shellfish areas. It is depended upon as a winter harvest area and until 1992 provided nearly 90% of the winter shellfish take. The Bay is home to 4,000 recreational sailboats and power boats. None of the Bay's 19 marinas were equipped with pumpout facilities that remove sewage waste from recreational boat holding tanks. Boater waste is considered an important source of pollution in Greenwich Bay. Most of the shoreline neighborhoods are serviced by individual cesspools or septic systems that were designed before stringent regulations were developed. Outdated, overburdened and poorly maintained, they are thought to be an important source of bacterial and nutrient pollution. Stormwater runoff is also another major contributor to bay pollution and includes pollutants such as heavy metals, petroleum products, bacteria, sediments, and nutrients. The Bay was closed to shellfishing from 1992 to 1994 and in 1994 the Bay was conditionally reopened in dry-weather for harvesting.
The Narragansett Bay Project worked with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the City of Warwick, and Save the Bay to reduce bacterial pollution so the bay could be re-opened to recreational and commercial shellfishing. The long-term goal of this effort, the Greenwich Bay Watershed Restoration Initiative, is to improve the bay so it can support eelgrass beds, bay scallops, and other living resources.
A pollution source investigation study was undertaken and a few streams and stormdrains accounted for the majority of the fecal coliform bacterial loading. Hardig Brook watershed was identified as containing 50 to 90 percent of the bacterial loads to the bay. After taking water quality samples during two dry weather periods, preliminary results pointed to a major source coming from an urban mill complex. Further intensive sampling proved that several restrooms in the mill had direct discharges to the stream. Coordination with the Narragansett Bay Project and the City of Warwick led the mill owner to connect to an existing sewer line without the need to invoke fines or legal action.
Water quality samples were then taken during three target storm events in 1994 and early 1995. Initial results led far upstream where fecal coliform levels were so high, a broken sewer line or failed sewer pump station was suspected. More intensive sampling ruled those out and let the investigation further upstream again. Finally, a dairy farm was discovered that had its manure storage pile located in just a way that runoff from the barn roof and farmyard carried contaminants to a small tributary of Hardig Brook. As soon as the farm was identified as a source of contamination, rapid coordination ensued among the farmers, Narragansett Bay NEP, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, City of Warwick and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Through this effort, best management practices funded in part by the Narragansett Bay NEP were designed and implemented.
In addition to the agricultural BMP, the Narragansett Bay NEP developed a marina pumpout facility siting plan. The pumpout plan evaluates boat densities and pinpoints where new pumpout facilities are needed. Pumpout facilities are important to the Bay's small, poorly flushed coves. When Clean Vessel Act funds for facility construction became available, the siting plan was the basis for awarding grants. While there were no pumpout facilities, now there are eight in Greenwich Bay.
In this Section:
Citizens Volunteering to Restore and Protect Estuaries
- The Paterson Creek Pals, a volunteer stream stewardship group of the Tillamook Bay NEP has planted over 2000 trees, collected monthly baseline water quality data, monitored insect communities using light traps, sponsored creek cleanups, monitored fish populations by seasonal trapping, and provided educational brochures to the community.
- 4,000 acres of seagrass and 400 acres of wetlands have been restored in Tampa Bay through the involvement of volunteers and the Bay Conservation Corps.
Serving as a Model for Voluntary Pollution Reduction
Galveston Bay's watershed lies in one of the most heavily industrialized and most heavily populated regions in the U.S. Wastewater discharges from communities and industries in Galveston Bay account fully for half of the State's total wastewater discharges every year. A subwatershed for Galveston Bay, the Houston Ship Channel, has 550 permitted wastewater dischargers that account for 13.4% of the State's wastewater. Since some pollution entering the Ship Channel comes from industrial businesses located near the Channel, the Galveston Bay Program worked with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to decrease the amount of pollution through source reduction and waste minimization techniques.
The Galveston Bay Program and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission worked to define the pollutants of concern in the Channel, identifying the businesses located near the channel, selecting businesses to voluntarily participate in the programs, conduct training and pollution prevention audits for selected businesses, and following-up with businesses to evaluate the program's success. Industrial waste audits, waste recovery methodologies, and waste exchange programs were discussed with industrial discharges. Lessons learned from the project were implemented through the state-wide Clean Texas 2000 program of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. Industries are given the opportunity to become a part of the program by voluntarily reducing their waste production by at least 50% by the year 2000. The program today is one of the largest voluntary pollution prevention programs in the country.
In this Section:
- Sarasota Bay: Protecting Seagrasses
- Sarasota Bay: Restoring Intertidal Habitat
- Puget Sound: Restoring Creek Habitat to Reduce Sediments and Pollutantion in the Sound
- Galveston Bay: Oyster Reef Construction- Turning a Waste Product into Productive Habitat
- Galveston Bay: Taking the Lead in Protecting Coastal Habitat
- Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, and Indian River Lagoon: Enlisting the Community to Create Habitat and Enhance Water Quality
More Successes in Protecting and Restoring Habitat
- The Leffis Key Restoration project from Sarasota Bay NEP created 30 acres of productive intertidal habitat. More than 50,000 native plants and trees were installed at a cost of $315,000. The restoration project was featured in Good Housekeeping magazine and won an Environmental Excellence Award from the Florida Marine Research Institute.
- The creation of an island in the San Jose Lagoon, which is habitat to numerous birds in San Juan Bay, was made possible by the coordination between San Juan Bay NEP, the Corps of Engineers and citizens. At a cost of $120,000 the project used debris from a recently constructed bridge. The debris had been deposited into the lagoon and was causing navigation hazards.
- The Long Island Sound formed a Habitat Restoration Team to develop a restoration plan for the full range of terrestrial and estuarine aquatic habitats adjacent to and in the Sound. A partnership of federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations, and citizens groups has secured over $700,000 to fund 9 habitat restoration projects. These initiatives include restoration of salt marshes, fish passages, grasslands, and freshwater wetlands. Several additional government and non-governmental groups have expressed an interest in becoming involved with some aspect of the Long Island Sound Habitat Restoration Strategy, and the approach has served as a model for restoration planning in other parts of the country.
The Sarasota Bay NEP has found that seagrass beds have grown 6 percent, or by about 352 acres in Sarasota Bay since 1988. Three major activities that reduced wastewater-related nitrogen loads to the bay: 1) in the northern portion of the bay, a large regional wastewater treatment plant successfully resolved problems with its secondarily treated effluent through expansion of agricultural re-use programs and the development of a deep-well injection site (ca. 2600 feet) for wet weather disposal of effluent, 2) in the central portion of the bay, the wastewater treatment plant was upgraded so the concentration of total nitrogen dropped to less than 2 mg/lwith a concurrent increase in the amount of effluent made available for re-use, and 3) in the southern portion of the bay, a combination of surface water discharges and groundwater transport of nitrogen-rich effluent from a regional secondary treatment plant was halted through the use of a deep-well injection site for effluent (it appears that nitrogen loads from these treatment plants were all but eliminated). In response, seagrasses have begun to flourish again in Sarasota Bay.
Restoring Intertidal Habitat
Habitat loss and encroachment of non-native plants are major problems threatening Sarasota Bay. Rapid development has vastly changed the Bay's ecosystem by eliminating a large portion of the shallow-water habitat. Pristine shorelines have been replaced by seawalls, bulkheads, and riprap. Historically, disposal of derogate materials changed natural shoreline elevations and destroyed much of the vegetated areas that are vital to the Bay's health. These areas supply food and shelter for fish and shellfish, provide nesting places and habitat for birds and wildlife, filter pollutants, and slow erosion.
City Island, like many areas of the Bay, had lost most of its intertidal habitat and native vegetation. The property is owned by the City of Sarasota and was used as a disposal site for dredged material and construction debris. Disposal activity disturbed the shoreline and dredged material piles created unnatural elevations susceptible to encroachment by non-native plants, particularly Australian pines and brazilian pepper trees which smother much of the native ground cover.
The Sarasota Bay NEP joined forces with he City of Sarasota, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Natural Resources, Sarasota County Natural Resources Department, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Office, Mote Marine Laboratory and EPA to plan and implement the restoration project.The primary objective of the City Island project was to restore highly productive, diversified, and integrated habitats to the project site, and in the process, develop a model for restoring similar sites in the Bay. Equally important objectives were to increase public access to the Bay, and to provide opportunities for public education and participation.
Project planning and design began in 1990 and five key restoration components were identified; 1) removal of debris and non-native plant species, 2) restoration of natural land elevations, 3) excavation of six intertidal pools, 4) replanting of native vegetation, and 5) construction of a public boardwalk (BayWalk). The City Island Project was implemented in several stages. In November 1990 bulldozers and other heavy equipment rolled in to begin excavation and removal of the pines and pepper trees and other non-native vegetation. Two tons of debris were removed during this extensive site cleanup. Excavated material was stored on site and used for on-site fill to create wetland and upland habitat for native birds and animals. Once cleanup was complete, six intertidal pools were excavated. The pools were designed with variations in depth and size to attract a diversity of estuarine species such as scallops, mullet, redfish, and black drum that were once abundant in Sarasota Bays tide pools. In December 1990, more than 100 volunteers planted over 20,000 native plants (mostly marsh grasses). These plants helped create a transition from the shoreline to existing bay seagrasses about 15 feet offshore. Mangroves, gumbo limbo trees, and sea grapes were also planted around the island to create upland habitat and to help stabilize the shoreline. During the final phase of the restoration, the BayWalk was constructed, greatly expanding public access to the restored site. Throughout 1991, interpretive signs were developed and placed along the BayWalk to enhance public awareness. The Sarasota BayWalk was formally dedicated in April 1992.
The City Island project is an outstanding model for restoration projects in Sarasota Bay and for other estuaries where private land ownership makes acquisition and restoration of large areas of intertidal and subtidal habitat difficult, if not impossible. The project demonstrated that by using small, publically owned parcels of land, multi-se habitat modules can be developed quickly and cost-effectively.
Many species native to the Bay (scallops, conch, striped mullet, and sea trout) have been sighted in the tidal pools since 1991. Over 90 percent of the new vegetation, including over 200 red mangroves is thriving. Volunteers and city employees work together to maintain the area and remove non-native vegetation regularly. The BayWalk is also used extensively by the public (it is estimated that approximately 10,000 to 20,000 people visit the BayWalk each year).
Project officials learned that the shorelines were too linear and the bottoms too smooth to support enough microhabitats for fisheries. A subsequent restoration project successfully used more variations in hydrology and symmetry to correct the problem and create artificial reefs.
Restoring Creek Habitat to Reduce Sediments and Pollution in the Sound
Nonpoint source pollution has contributed to declines in Puget Sound's water quality and has resulted in numerous shellfishing area closings. Large amounts of fine sediment deposited in the sound from Shell Creek watershed located in southwest Snohomish County, Washington near the City of Edmonds. The creek, which discharges into Puget Sound receives stormwater runoff from 2 square miles of suburban neighborhoods. The neighborhoods were almost completely developed before on-site stormwater quality control was required starting in the late 1970s. Additional development added to runoff flowing into Shell Creek, causing stream bed erosion and loss of vegetation essential to filter pollutants and stabilize sediments. Without vegetation and stable stream beds to help control water flow, the water velocity and volume increased which lead to area flooding. The rapid water flow swept up the loose sediment and bottom gravel of Shell Creek and discharged the load, along with other pollutants from nonpoint sources into Puget Sound. The increased volume and velocity of water flow in the creek cut away at the stream bed until only clay remained at the bottom of the bed. As a result there was no pooling in the creek for cutthroat trout and coho and chum salmon to successfully spawn and their populations dwindled.
The City of Edmonds and Shohomish County prepared a plan for the Shell Creek basin. The plan recommended comprehensive approaches to slow the resource degradation that was occurring in Shell Creek and impacting the Sound. The plan addressed flooding, severe erosion of the stream bed, very heavy sedimentation, and increased pollutant loading. Secondary problems included reduced capacity in culverts and loss of fish habitat. Based on the plan's recommendations, the Shell Creek Stormwater Diversion Demonstration Project was initiated by the City of Edmonds with support from the Puget Sound NEP.
The primary objectives of the project were to manage stormwater flows and reduce sediment and pollutant loadings into Puget Sound. This would be achieved by stream bed restoration and construction of a stormwater diversion and sediment entrapment system in Shell Creek and its tributary Hindly Creek. Construction of a system to divert peak flows from Shell Creek and Hindly Creek to a new storm sewer system and outfall, was recommended by the Shell Creek Basin Plan. A recommended route designed to divert approximately 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Shell Creek and 50 cfs from Hindly Creek was approved.
The Shell Creek diversion structure has a vertical slot entrance (including a fish ladder to help fish migrate) that restricts flow and causes water to crest over two weirs. Screens to prevent trout and salmon fingerlings from entering the diversion lines were installed along with trash racks to stop floating debris. The diversion at Hindly Creek is a manhole which was added to the existing culvert. The manhole had a 12-inch outlet pipe which carries the stream's base flow and a 36-inch outlet pipe which carries the diversion flow.
To re-establish trout and salmon populations and to restore stream bed and bank stability, the demonstration project included a restoration component focusing on a mile of Shell Creek upstream from the diversion structure. To encourage salmon and trout populations to return to the stream channel, water flow had to be slowed down, and desirable stream bed conditions had to be created. The clay bottom was replaced with gravel, which helped pool the water, enabling fish to enter the channel. The gravel also created an adequate spawning ground for salmon by providing protective niches for the eggs. Prior to the demonstration project, Shell Creek was very poorly vegetated. Revegetation to provide stream bank and sediment stabilization was essential to the long-term success of project. With the help of a local Boy Scout Troop, the steam banks were planted with willows, snowberry, and serviceberry plants. In addition, bank log armoring and log check dams were constructed to protect the re-established vegetation and reduce erosion.
Through stream bed restoration and construction of a stormwater diversion and sediment entrapment system, sediment loading to the Puget Sound from Shell Creek was reduced by 5.7 tons in the first year and is estimated to have reduced stream bed erosion by 65%. The diversion structure can trap about half the sediment transported to the creek. Citizens now report that clear water runs through the creek where muddy water used to be prevalent. There is evidence that the stream bed and banks are stabilizing most of the sediment and that the reduced water flow now allows for the settling of loose particles. In addition, flooding and erosion have been eliminated which in turn had reduced pollutant loadings downstream. Restoration has also re-established the fish spawning habitat and trout and salmon have returned to Shell Creek. The reduction in stream bed erosion had helped the willow, snowberry and serviceberry plants to flourish on the stream banks, which has further reduced erosion and created more opportunities for trapping pollutants.
Stream bed restoration and erosion control were accomplished upstream of the diversion at a much lower cost than the diversion upstream. However, methods that worked above the diversion were not practical as a long-term solution in the lower reaches of Shell Creek because the lower portion of the creek is located in residential backyards.
Oyster Reef Construction- Turning a Waste Product into Productive Habitat
Loss of habitat and declines in living resources are priority environmental problems in Galveston Bay. Galveston Bay lacks suitable quantities of reef substrate for the attachment of oyster spat because of subsidence, disease, weather factors, dredging, and continuous removal during harvest. Resource managers were seeking a biologically acceptable and cost effective substrate material that would provide an alternative to the historical practice of dredging relic shell beds in coastal estuaries, which is costly and can produce negative environmental impacts. The Galveston Bay Program worked in partnership with Houston Lighting and Power Company, the Port of Houston Authority, and the National Marine Fisheries Service can work can work together to support the creation and management of a 5 acre oyster reef utilizing 12,100 yds3 of coal combustion byproduct pellets.
The coal ash or combustion byproducts used in the construction of artificial reefs are comprised of two basic elements, fly ash and bottom ash. Fly ash consists mainly of silicon oxide, alumina, ferric oxide and calcium oxide and is a finely divided noncombustible residue captured from exhaust gases. Bottom ash is a noncombustible granular material which falls to the bottom of a furnace during coal or lignite combustion. The rough texture of coal combustion byproducts is advantageous for the attachment of marine fouling organisms, and the surface area and interstitial space in the reef allow maximum flow or water and nutrients through the reef. More than 500,000 tons of coal combustion byproducts are produced annually at four coal fired generating units at one of Houston Lighting and Power Company power plant (70% of this coal ash is recycled as an ingredient in various construction activities, 30% must be stored or disposed of in landfills or recycled into something useful).
The coal combustion byproducts from burning western coal are an environmentally safe biologically sound and cost effective reef substrate material. The coal combustion reef has and continues to exhibit successional stages in the development of a climax o yster reef community. Optimum site selection combined with pellet deployment during peak oyster spawning activity resulted in the heaviest recorded natural oyster set on Galveston Bay substrate in at least 40 years.
Taking the Lead in Protecting Coastal Habitat
Lack of an integrated management strategy among regulatory agencies threatened the ability to protect the water quality and wildlife habitat of Christmas Bay and Armand Bayou in Galveston Bay. Christmas Bay is a near-pristine 9 square mile embayment in the far southwest portion of Galveston Bay. It is home to three of four seagrass species found virtually nowhere else in the bay, and eight endangered or threatened species including the bald eagle, brown pelican, whooping crane, and sea turtle. Emergent and submerged wetlands and seagrass meadows have suffered significant losses. Armand Bayou is 7 linear mile waterway located on the western shore of Galveston Bay. It is a hardwood and prairie bayou surrounded by undeveloped flood plain and several major urban activity centers, including the NASA Johnson Space Center, a petrochemical complex, an oilfield, and an airport. The Bayou's water quality is poor with high nutrients and many acres of wetlands have been lost to subsidence caused by groundwater and petroleum withdrawl.
In an effort to be proactive in the preservation of Christmas Bay and Armand Bayou, local, state, and federal officials with much public support, rallied together to designate these waters as Texas Coastal Preserves. This designation meant the two preserves would have permanent preserve status, and consequently, permanent protection of water quality, living resources, and human health. The designation required the development of a management plan, accepted by all relevant agencies in the region, which would provide guidance in the management of the resources. The primary objective of the demonstration project was the designation of Christmas Bay and Armand Bayou as preserves. An equally important objective was the development of a comprehensive management plan for each area to help protect and enhance the area resources. EPA, the Texas General Land Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission joined forces to develop and execute the preserves demonstration project.
First a grant proposal was developed and the Galveston Bay NEP developed a preserve nomination package for submission to a reviewing committee. After attaining preserve designation, management plans were developed after undergoing the following steps: 1) boundary designation through tide gauge operations - tide data were needed to establish the boundaries of public lands which would which would ultimately define the preserves, 2) compile environmental inventories for each preserve on endangered species, permitted point sources of wastewater discharge, dredging activity, agricultural practices and monitoring data, 3) completed regulatory surveys for existing limits of jurisdictions for agencies and the federal, state and local levels, 4) evaluated critical regulatory gaps, overlaps, and coverage and generate ideas to enhance interagency coordination, 5) draft a preliminary management plan to manage water quality, habitat, living resources, and human influences on each area, 6) implement the management plan focusing on resource use, including wastewater discharges, fisheries, petroleum releases and recreation, and 7) hold public meetings to stimulate public involvement in the creation and management of the preserves.
As a result of management plan implementation, water quality monitoring in Armand Bayou has taken place weekly by volunteers. Data are being compiled and analyzed for trends in water quality to help identify persistent problems in the Bayou's water. Implementation of the management plan has all but assured protection of Christmas Bay for future problems, and has provided local organizations with a strategy for improving Armand Bayou. The project established a precedent for interagency cooperation and illustrated that designating waterbodies as preserves can help ensure their resources are protected, conserved, and enhanced on a long-term basis.
Tampa Bay, Indian River Lagoon, and Sarasota Bay
Enlisting the Community to Create Habitat and Enhance Water Quality
The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program was developed to address the results of explosive population growth, such as stormwater runoff pollution and loss of native habitat in Florida bays and waterways. The program is a partnership of the University of Florida County Cooperative Extension Services, the National Estuary Programs of Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay, and Indian River Lagoon as well as Florida Sea Grant College, members of the landscape industry, and concerned citizens. As an educational program, it brings the latest in environmental horticulture research to landscape professionals, homeowners, business, community associations, and to other government agencies. A variety of educational programs through the NEP and Country Cooperative Extension Services explain and demonstrate best management practices for Florida landscapes. Homeowners are enlisted in the effort and are assisted in improving landscape design and maintenance to increase native habitat, reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and conserve precious water supplies.
The National Estuary Programs created partnerships of area agencies, governments, organizations and residents to analyze the problems associated with residential landscapes and to create solutions. Also, because reducing stormwater runoff pollution is an integral aspect of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans developed by the National Estuary Programs. The University of Florida County Cooperative Extension Services provided leadership and incorporated most of the information and practices needed to educate those involved in properly maintaining yards and community properties.
In Sarasota Bay, the NEP has worked with individual property owners and schools; Tampa Bay NEP has focused on neighborhood associations; and the Indian River NEP has worked with counties to assist in creating more environmentally-friendly yards through landscape design, plant selection, fertilization and pest management.
Fish and Wildlife
In this Section:
- Buzzards Bay: Restoring Fish Runs
- Massachusetts Bays: Restoring Shellfish Beds
- Massachusetts Bays: Combating Bacterial Contamination of Shellfish
Innovating Coastal Protection Through Demonstration Projects
- Corpus Christi Bay applied treated bio-solids on a 25 acre plot of aluminum mine tailings resulting in plant growth promotion, wildlife habitat and improved water quality.
- Through a demonstration project, Peconic Bay NEP created a filter strip to divert runoff from a highway on Shelter Island to a grass retention basin, which is expected to improve water quality to the extent that shellfish beds could be reopened.
- Through a demonstration project, a 2-cell wetland system was created on a dairy farm in Tillamook Bay. The wetland receives runoff from approximately 15 acres of pasture land where manure is applied and dairy cattle graze. The first season's water quality sampling had provided evidence of the benefits of constructed wetlands in reducing pollutants to surface waters.
- The Corpus Christi Bay NEP is facilitating coordination between Bay Shrimpers and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to develop by-catch reduction devices for the Bay through a demonstration project. This study is unique because of the coordination between both groups and its location (prior studies have been conducted in the Bays).
- Delaware Inland Bays has implemented a project to demonstrate a Chlorophyll Meter to regional crop growers. Since it's important not to apply more nitrogen fertilizer to the land than is needed for the crop being grown, an instrument that can tell growers what a crop's nitrogen needs are was tested. The Chlorophyll Meter provides immediate results on nitrogen needs while being nondestructive to the crop being sampled.
Restoring Fish Runs
Anadromous fish species like alewives and blueback herring have declined dramatically during the past century in Buzzards Bay. These fish are an important food species for fish, whales, and coastal birds such as the roseate tern, an endangered species whose largest colony in North America resides in Buzzards Bay. Today, many of the herring runs support a fraction of their historical annual population. Physical constraints in the form of dams, roadway construction, and other water control structures are by far the greatest impediment to herring migration in Buzzards Bay. The two drainage area river systems as top priorities for herring restoration are the Mattapoisett and Weweantic. The Buzzards Bay Project worked with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to identify where anadromous fish improvements are needed and provide the most benefit.
The existing culverts near the Mattapoisett River's headwater spawning area were small in diameter and submerged. Because herring typically migrate during daylight hours and lighted passages are required for migration, the long darkened culverts present a significant obstacle to their upstream migration. The solution to the problem was the replacement of the small culverts with a single large box culvert, which would allow for more light to reach the interior of the culvert and eliminate the existing obstacle to migration. Near the river's mouth, the fishway at the dam restricted upstream passage of alewives because it was too steep and turbulent. In addition, water elevations at the dam required better management during normal operating conditions and during herring run season. In order to accomplish these goals a denil-type fish ladder was installed at the dam.
The Weweantic River currently has no significant population of herring. The major spawning area on the river is a pond whose entrance is obstructed by a dam. This was the single most important impediment to fish migration. A denil-type fish ladder in the Weweantic is being constructed, and the pond will be stocked with 5000 herring to boost the population. An educational display will be created highlighting herring restoration efforts in the Bay watershed to be used on a rotating basis in town halls, libraries, and schools.
Restoring Shellfish Beds
Approximately 60% of shellfish beds in Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays are open to commercial and/or recreational harvesting. The remaining 40% are closed or restricted in some form. The Massachusetts Bays Program spearheaded an interagency approach to shellfish restoration that aims to restore and protect shellfish beds in 12 communities along the shorelines of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays. The Shellfish Bed Restoration Program brought the regulatory and enforcement efforts of the State Division of Marine Fisheries and local Boards of Health with the pollution source identification, remediation, fundraising, and coordination skills of various other Federal and State agencies. The Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office helped facilitate a coordinated effort while the Massachusetts Bays Program provided the seed funding, staff support, and a home for the program.
The Project is addressing cleanup of shellfish beds in the communities of Harwich, Falmouth, Plymouth, Kingston, Cohasset, Weymouth, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Gloucester, Essex and Ipswich. Projects are focusing on non-point source pollution, the major source of contamination to the shellfish beds, especially discharges from storm drains. The Shellfish Bed Restoration Program has incorporated innovative technologies which specifically target remediation of contaminants associated with stormwater. Projects at Goucester and Harwich highlight the use of a new non-point source remediation technology which consists of a sedimentation basin, a series of filter screens, and a constructed wetland to mitigate the pollution associated with stormwater runoff.
The Shellfish Bed Restoration Program has had much success. In Cohasset Harbor, the local Board of Health placed an enforcement order on a home and business whose septic systems were polluting a tributary to the harbor. The resulting remediation by the property owners allowed the opening of approximately 400 acres of shellfish beds. With the help of a grant from the Massachusetts Bays Program, the North and South Rivers Watershed Association installed a sand infiltration system along a section of the river in the Spring of 1995. Recently, 200 acres of downstream shellfish beds were opened. The Massachusetts Bays Program contributed $15,000 toward the monitoring costs of a sediment infiltration system to help reopen a shellfish area in Barnstable. Since the system was installed, bacteria counts in waters overlying the shellfish bed have dropped measurably. This project has prompted the installation of similar systems in nearby communities.
Combating Bacterial Contamination of Shellfish
Shellfish beds are threatened by bacterial contamination in the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts. Portions of the softshell clam beds at the mouth of the Bluefish River were closed in 1984 and 1991 due to high fecal coliform bacteria counts. Today, 85 acres remain closed containing an estimated $244,000 worth of shellfish. The Bluefish River is a shallow mile-long tidal river that drains into the northwest portion of Duxbury Bay. Mush of the river is surrounded by marshes that the town had set aside for wildlife conservation. The watershed also contains residential and light commercial areas, all of which are potential pollution sources.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries walked the shores and tested the waters of the Bluefish River searching for sources of bacterial contamination. The researchers found that the highest concentration of bacterial pollution were originating from three historic buildings at the mouth of the river. The houses were built on filled salt marsh which floods regularly, overburdening their septic systems and sending sewage into the river. Because the houses were built on a salt marsh, the owners could not hope to construct a septic system that would meet minimum wetlands setback or groundwater separation regulations.
A local advisory committee comprised of representatives from Duxbury, Kingston, and Plymouth received $32,000 from the Massachusetts Bays Program to review a list of preferred alternatives and to design and bid the alternative to eliminate the pollution and allow the town to reopen the shellfish beds. The town of Duxbury chose to build a "shared" sewer/septic system where effluent from the three buildings will flow down to a grinder pump. The pump sends the ground-up sewage through a 2.5 inch pressure main to a septic tank. A pressure dosing system will distribute effluent throughout the leaching field.