Our History

Save The Bay was founded in 1970 on the community’s desire to protect Narragansett Bay.

To do that, Save The Bay has focused on the development of a committed constituency for the Bay. Children and adults throughout this region have learned the tremendous value the Bay brings to our economy, our environment, and our quality of life.

Former Executive Director speaks about the history and importance of Save The Bay.

1970s Highlights

  • 1970: Defeated proposal for Tiverton Oil Refinery
  • 1972: Defeated proposal for Rome Point nuclear facility
  • 1975: Defeated proposal for Prudence Island LNG plant


  • Save The Bay is incorporated in October 1970. Operating out of a small office in East Greenwich, RI, our first executive director, John Scanlon, and two part-time staff focus on the proposed development of energy facilities along Narragansett Bay.
  • Championed the creation of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council in 1972.
  • Launches the first open water swim across the Bay, from Jamestown to Newport in 1977. Some 100 people take part and the Save The Bay Swim is born.
  • Sounds the alarm on urban water pollution issues that literally make the upper Bay an open sewer. Our first target is the Providence sewage treatment facility, which was rated New England’s worst pollution problem by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for dumping millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Bay each year.


  • Wins passage of $87 million in clean water bond to fund the upgrade and repair of Providence’s sewage treatment facility. As a direct result, thousands of acres of shellfish beds are reopened in the next few years.
  • Sounds the alarm on toxic industrial waste with “Down the Drain.”
  • Preserves public access at Black Point in Narragansett.
  • As a U.S. Coast Guard-sanctioned organization, mobilizes hundreds of volunteers to help clean up Brenton Reef oil spill. For its role in mitigating this disaster, Save The Bay was named the 76th of a “Thousand Points of Light” by the President of the United States.
  • Launches shipboard education program to introduce K-12 students to Narragansett Bay.
  • Published “A Raw Deal” detailing the effects of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) in Narragansett Bay and initiate a campaign to end CSO pollution

1980s Highlights

STB issues a call to action to clean up wastewater treatment plans with our report “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” building public and political pressure on plants to correct their problems.

Water quality in the upper Bay and the Providence, Seekonk and Pawtucket rivers improves.


  • Calls for restoration of polluted waters of the Blackstone and Pawtuxet rivers and Mount Hope Bay.
  • Wins passage of $141 in clean water bonds for Greenwich and Mount Hope bays and the Pawtuxet River.
  • Coordinates massive volunteer cleanup of North Cape oil spill.
  • Prevents a proposal to fill in one square mile of Bay at Quonset Point.
  • Launches habitat restoration program with focus on salt marshes, underwater eelgrass beds and fish runs.

1990s Highlights

  • Sues the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Blackstone Valley District Commission to end raw sewage overflows in the Seekonk River.
  • Launches Baykeeper Program, the eighth in the world.


  • Champions dramatic reductions in thermal pollution of Mount Hope Bay by Brayton Point Power Plant.
  • Wins passage of nitrogen reduction law in response to Greenwich Bay fish kill.
  • Launches a campaign to stop the HESS LNG proposal.
  • Mobilizes thousands of volunteers to monitor key marine species and clean up shoreline trash.
  • Restores the brownfield at Fields Point to open the Bay Center, a publicly-accessible, green-designed headquarters and education center.
  • Completes numerous eelgrass and salt marsh restoration projects.
  • Enriches education program with marine science curriculum in schools.


  • Preserves public access at Rocky Point in Warwick.
  • Takes over leadership of the International Coastal Cleanup in Rhode Island.
  • Celebrates complete of the Ten Mile River fish run project.
  • Ends blatant pollution of Providence River by local scrapyard.
  • Leads Baywide effort to protect salt marshes from climate change impacts.
  • Sounds alarm and stops proposal to fill 31 acres of the Providence River.

2010s Highlights

  • Wins passage of Cesspool Phase-Out and Wetlands Protection laws.
  • Organized community-wide rally to protect New England waters from a federal plan to open most U.S. waters to offshore oil drilling.

Help us continue to protect and improve Narragansett Bay!

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