New Boat. Same Mission.
by Mike Jarbeau, Narragansett Baykeeper
When Save The Bay’s fleet of small boats is hauled out of the water this time of year for winterization, we try to ensure that at least one of our trailerable boats is ready to respond on the Bay if needed. And as we pulled Seaverge out of the water at bold Point Park in East Providence last month, we celebrated a successful first season with our newest boat, generously donated to us earlier this year.
Seaverge is our new Baykeeper vessel and a significant upgrade to our on-the-water advocacy, response, monitoring and patrol capabilities. Larger than its predecessor, Scout, and with a wide beam, roomy work deck, and enclosed cabin, Seaverge allows us to operate in a wider range of conditions and helps us provide a visible presence around Narragansett Bay. In just a short time with us, Seaverge has already helped us work toward our vision of a fully swimmable, fishable, healthy Narragansett Bay, accessible to all, in many ways.
Aboard Seaverge, we continued our support of Brown University’s upper Bay dissolved oxygen survey. At 30 sites beginning mid-way up the Seekonk River down through the Providence River and upper Bay, we deploy a high-tech device that takes a continuous profile of water quality from the bottom to the surface. The equipment measures dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity and depth. Other participating vessels cover Greenwich Bay, Bristol Harbor, and other sites down to the northern tip of Jamestown. This data, along with ambient weather conditions and tidal information, has provided a valuable dataset on the health and recovery of the Bay and was featured heavily in the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program’s 2017 “State of Narragansett Bay and its Watershed” report. You can learn more about the survey here: http://www.geo.brown.edu/georesearch/insomniacs/.
Seaverge also carried us into a new monitoring program, in partnership with the University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch, testing four sites in Greenwich Bay and one site just off the Bay Center at Fields Point. These sites, along with seven sites monitored by Save The Bay’s Coastkeeper in the Pawcatuck River and Little Narragansett Bay, were chosen to help fill statewide monitoring gaps and help increase our understanding of changing conditions around the Bay. Upgrades to wastewater treatment systems and other major initiatives have dramatically improved water quality Bay-wide, and we’re finding that issues are becoming more localized. Stormwater management, pet waste, failed septic systems, birds feeding on trash and discarded food, and other factors mean a beach may be swimmable in one location but have high bacteria counts just a few hundred yards away. We’re still waiting for some of the data to be processed, but hope that with ongoing monitoring we’ll be able to identify and advocate for solutions to reduce beach and shellfishing closures.
On top of these regular monitoring efforts, as Save The Bay’s Baykeeper, I routinely respond to reports of pollution and other concerns brought to our attention by members and supporters. A boat is such a critical part of protecting that Bay that it’s actually a requirement to maintain our “Baykeeper” license through the Waterkeeper Alliance. This summer, you may have seen Seaverge north of the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier monitoring power plant cooling water discharge or responding to reports of a discharge near Collier Point Park. I took Seaverge up the Taunton River as far north as Dighton and off Battleship Cove in Mount Hope Bay conducting microplastics trawls, where we continue to find tiny plastic particles in every sample. Seaverge was on scene following a fish kill in Apponaug Cove and in the Sakonnet River investigating concerns about a construction project. Wickford Cove. Newport Harbor. Hope Island. Rome Point. Bristol Harbor. Potter Cove. Taylor Point. Coggeshall Cove. Just some of the places Seaverge helped Save The Bay staff and partners further our mission to protect and improve Narragansett Bay.
While the majority of the work of our advocacy team is completed in the office, on the phone, at meetings, or along the shoreline, Save The Bay’s ability to operate on the water, year-round, has helped us establish and maintain our reputation as leading advocates and experts on Narragansett Bay and its watershed. So even when some of our fleet is on blocks or trailered for a few months each winter, our work continues. And our advocacy staff is ready and available to answer your questions or concerns.