Retiring Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne

For 23 years, Joe Payne has been fighting for the health and integrity of Casco Bay.

He's the Casco Baykeeper, and his job is to make sure that some of the busiest, most trafficked waters in Maine remain vital and flourishing. Payne has become an expert in oil spills and green crabs and a prominent environmental leader.

Here's a list of his accomplishments from Mary Cerullo, the Associate Director of the Friends of Casco Bay.

1. Built Friends of Casco Bay's advocacy on a scientific foundation.

To gather information on the state of the Bay, Joe launched a volunteer water quality monitoring program to collect baseline data on water temperature, salinity, pH, water clarity, and dissolved oxygen at multiple sites around the Bay. Joe compared sampling these parameters to "getting a check-up from your doctor. If the usual diagnostic tests, like blood pressure and pulse, show an anomaly, then you do more testing to determine the cause." More than 650 volunteer citizen scientists have been trained by Friends of Casco Bay to monitor the health of Maine's coastal waters. That data has been used to upgrade state classifications for parts of Portland Harbor and The Basin in Harpswell, providing permanent protection from pollution. Our data is part of a biennial report submitted to Congress by the state of Maine as required under the Clean Water Act.

2. Recognized as a leader in the response to Julie N oil spill in 1996

Joe Payne was among the first to reach the scene, and his dogged efforts made Friends of Casco Bay the eyes and ears of the recovery effort. After 36 hours, it was apparent that the clean-up crew was losing the battle to contain the spill against shifting wind and tides. Joe contacted the Coast Guard's Captain of the Port to alert him that more people and boats were needed immediately. The Captain of the Port, Burt Russell, brought Joe to meet with the representative of the responsible party, the shipping line that owned the Julie N. The Coast Guard Commander introduced him with, "This is the Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne. If he's not happy, we're not happy." Within hours, 14 more vessels and 140 additional workers were brought in to combat the spill. Joe Payne and the rest of Friends of Casco Bay's staff and volunteers helped recover injured birds, surveyed the Bay for environmental damage, and monitored the effects of the spill. An unprecedented 78% of the spilled oil was recovered. Maine's governor Angus King and the U.S. Coast Guard recognized the Casco Baykeeper's leading role in the recovery effort, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that a 15-20 % recovery of the spilled oil is considered a success.

3. Sampled clam flats for bacteria in order to reopen Casco Bay clam flats to harvesting

In 1992, 49% of the clam flats in Casco Bay were closed to harvesting, either from pollution or by the threat of pollution. Friends of Casco Bay staff and volunteers sampled for fecal coliform at clam flats in order to identify and eliminate pollution sources that were keeping the clam flats closed. Some of the flats had been closed since the Eisenhower Administration simply because the State lacked the manpower to conduct water quality sampling.

Friends of Casco Bay's Clam Flat Restoration Project also conducted research on the productivity and predation of clam flats, seeding selected flats with thousands of clam spat. FOCB's model was emulated along the entire coast of Maine, aided by an instruction manual that the staff wrote on "How to Open a Clam Flat."

4. Instigated the relocation of 35,000 lobsters in Portland Harbor

Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne helped protect our lobster fishery by catalyzing the rescue of 35,000 lobsters from Portland Harbor's shipping channel during dredging in 1998 (again in 2013). The Maine Department of Environmental Protection now routinely requires the relocation of critical marine species in its dredge permits elsewhere. Joe has been working to persuade stakeholders that the cost-effective, environmentally-sound solution to disposal of the dredge spoils from around piers can be accommodated in a CAD cell—a hole in the Bay to contain polluted dredged material.

5. Halted ship pollution

Cruise ships may no longer dump their wastewater in Casco Bay, thanks to a federal No Discharge Area designation and a state law, both championed by Joe Payne. In October 2002, Friends of Casco Bay and the Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund hosted an informational forum on Pollution Solutions to Cruise Ship Discharges, attended by nearly 100 legislators, candidates, and area residents. National speakers and Maine citizens discussed the impact of cruise ships, which could legally dump partially-treated sewage and "gray water" from galleys, sinks, and showers anywhere in Maine's coastal waters. The public forum became the catalyst for state legislation. Joe was asked to participate in stakeholder meetings, legislative hearings, and work sessions to help frame the language for a bill to ban cruise ship discharges. He was successful in defeating a last-minute proposal by the powerful cruise ship lobby to implement a non-binding "memorandum of understanding" instead of a law. Passage of a state law in 2004 marked the culmination of two years of work to educate area residents and state legislators about cruise ship pollution. EPA's designation of Casco Bay as Maine's first No Discharge Area followed two years later. Because of the efforts of the Casco Baykeeper, Maine became the first state to ban the discharge of treated black water (sewage), gray water (sink and galley wastes), and oily bilge water.

In addition, Joe started our mobile pumpout service, which has removed nearly 150,000 gallons of raw sewage from recreational boats since 1995.

6. Sounded the alarm about nitrogen pollution's impact on coastal acidification

As early as 2006, Joe was warning about the impact of nitrogen pollution on the health of the ocean. Too much nitrogen triggers excessive growth of nuisance, even harmful, phytoplankton blooms that consume oxygen as they decay. This depletes the reservoir of oxygen needed by marine animals and plants and promotes thick, noxious mats of green slime along the shoreline.

Excess nitrogen also leads to acidic conditions in the water and the sediments. Our groundbreaking clam flat studies show that several clam flats in Casco Bay have pH levels low enough to harm baby clams. Since 2011, our research on clam flats in Casco Bay has found a disturbing link between acidic mud and clam flats where it is no longer profitable for clammers to harvest shellfish. A decrease in pH (increase in acidity) can impact sea creatures, especially clams, oysters, and mussels, which build shells of calcium carbonate. As the water becomes more acidic, shell material dissolves back into the water. The effect is similar to a mason trying to build a house when someone is stealing his bricks.

Joe served on the 16-member Ocean Acidification Commission, which just released its recommendations for dealing with coastal and ocean acidification. It is the first such Commission on the East Coast.

7. Pushed to stop sewage overflows into Casco Bay

Pressure from Friends of Casco Bay has made stemming the flow of raw sewage into the Bay a priority for the City of Portland. In 1992, Joe got a tip about a meeting scheduled with the Portland Water District and its engineering consultant. The city had been directed by a Consent Decree to decrease discharges from combined sewer overflows (CSOs), pipes that carry both stormwater runoff and raw sewage into the Bay whenever it rains. The consultant was hired to examine Portland's 42 CSOs. Some would be eliminated, others redesigned to reduce polluted runoff into Casco Bay by 90%. Progress on the plan was nearly nonexistent for many years, but Joe kept pushing. Finally, in the last several years, the City has welcomed our (and the community's) involvement in its plans to improve the transport, storage, and treatment of stormwater and sewage. In 2008 Friends of Casco Bay/Casco BAYKEEPER® helped convince the Portland City Council to commit $61 million to construction projects to stem the flow of raw sewage, industrial wastes, and stormwater into Casco Bay. In 2013 the Portland City Council committed another $179 million to sewer overflow remediation construction projects.

8. Launched BayScaping, which teaches homeowners how to have a lush lawn without toxic pesticides and fertilizers

Starting in 1998, Joe teamed up with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control to teach residents how and why to use alternatives to using pesticides and fertilizers on their lawns. Our sampling found pesticides in 13 coastal communities and nitrogen (found in fertilizers) in more than 50 sites all around the Bay. Our BayScaping program became the model for a statewide YardScaping program.

9. Co-founded Waterkeeper Alliance

Joe became the seventh Waterkeeper in the world when he was hired in 1991. In 1993, those original Waterkeepers formed the Alliance of River, Sound, and BayKeepers. In 1999, they helped to found Waterkeeper Alliance, along with environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. There are now more than 240 Waterkeepers worldwide. Says Joe, "Many Waterkeepers have to rely on lawsuits and fines to force polluters to comply with conservation regulations. Because of the shared environmental values of those who live, work, and play along Casco Bay, and their centuries-long connection to the sea, Friends of Casco Bay could become the model for a one on one approach." Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne has been the model of collaborative problem solving for the other Waterkeepers around the world.

10. A leader in oil spill response nationally

Joe serves on state and regional oil spill advisory committees. Since 2006, Joe Payne has moderated an annual training seminar for oil spill responders and industry personnel in northern New England. In March 2010, the Casco Baykeeper played a lead role in a national oil spill preparedness exercise in which close to 500 participants strategized how to deal with an oil spill simulation scenario in the Gulf of Maine. Less than a month later, Joe became a key advisor to Gulf of Mexico Waterkeepers confronting the Deep Water Horizon oil rig disaster. Joe drew on his connections in the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to infuse the region's Waterkeepers into the disaster's Incident Command Structure.


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