Great Bay | New Hampshire Public Radio

Great Bay

Great Bay National Estuarine Reserve

New runoff controls are coming to Great Bay after three adjacent cities reached an agreement with the Conservation Law Foundation to avert an appeal of a key federal water quality permit.  

The Environmental Protection Agency issued the long-awaited permit for a dozen towns around Great Bay last year.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a new permit for a dozen communities around Great Bay, capping a years-long effort to control nitrogen pollution in the protected estuary.

The five-year permit takes an unusual approach to setting limits for each municipality’s output of nitrogen – a nutrient that’s overloading the bay, causing eel grass to die and severely degrading the ecosystem.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was in New Hampshire Wednesday, touring the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Bernhardt’s visit came just before the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps New Hampshire and other states fund ecological and cultural conservation projects.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Seacoast towns are expected to raise concerns about a new federal water pollution permit for Great Bay at a public hearing tonight in Portsmouth.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it's trying a new method with this permit, which has been in the works for years.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Federal regulators are proposing a new way to limit water pollution from a dozen towns surrounding Great Bay.

The draft general permit from the Environmental Protection Agency marks a big step forward in the years-long effort to clean up the degraded estuary.

Oyster farming is growing in New Hampshire’s “hidden coast,"  the Great Bay.  It’s one of just a few foods that you can put on your plate that can actively make the environment cleaner as it grows.  We check in on the effort to use bivalves to restore the Great Bay, and on the businesses that are bringing N.H. oysters to market.  Hosted by  Sam Evans-Brown of Outside/In.

Air Date: Monday, December 2, 2019

Joanne Glode / Nature Conservancy

New Hampshire’s coastal towns are beginning to think about adapting to climate change. It’ll mean finding new ways to protect critical pieces of infrastructure from rising seas, heavier rains and stronger storms.

NHPR’s Annie Ropeik has this story of the lessons from a major road project in Newmarket that’s one of the first in the state to focus on climate resilience.


Dan Tuohy / NHPR

A busy waterfront, the shipyard, Pease, restaurants, those iconic bridges, and a rich-but-fragile environmental landscape are just some of the things that put Portsmouth so boldly on the map.

During live interviews Tuesday, All Things Considered host Peter Biello and guests discussed some of what Portsmouth has going for itself, as well as a few challenges.

The live show was at Portsmouth Book & Bar, with Mayor Jack Blalock the first of five guests. 

Eversource

Opponents of a new Eversource transmission line on the Seacoast are asking the state Supreme Court to review the project, even as construction gets underway.

The Conservation Law Foundation and residents of Durham filed appeals Monday on the Site Evaluation Committee's decision last December to let construction of the “Seacoast Reliability Project” proceed.

USACE/Eversource

Eversource plans to break ground on a new Seacoast transmission line within two weeks.

But the utility still needs a federal permit to build in the Great Bay area, and environmental advocates want a public hearing before that permit is issued.

Eversource is seeking a Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Port City Air

A major settlement signed Friday will require Pease International Tradeport to clean up water pollution from its stormwater runoff.

The Pease Development Authority was sued more than two years ago by the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation for federal Clean Water Act violations.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state Site Evaluation Committee has given Eversource the green light to build a new transmission line on the Seacoast.

They voted unanimously Monday to certify the so-called Seacoast Reliability Project, after more than two weeks of exhaustive deliberations.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

State regulators are in final talks about whether to approve a new transmission line on the Seacoast.

After two days of deliberations, the Site Evaluation Committee has agreed that the Seacoast Reliability Project meets some of the criteria required by state law.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

At least 150 Seacoast residents packed a state hearing Thursday night to urge regulators to reject a proposed transmission line.

Eversource and the region’s grid operator, ISO-New England, say the 13-mile line between Madbury and Portsmouth is vital to improve electric reliability in the region.

The project’s $84 million pricetag would be spread across all New England ratepayers.

But residents like Robert Raymond of Newington want the utility to do and spend more to reduce local impacts, or call the project off altogether.

EPA

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt was in New Hampshire Tuesday for an unpublicized private meeting with Gov. Chris Sununu.

Sununu spokesman Ben Vihstadt confirmed Sununu and Pruitt met privately in the morning, and said they had no other "stops scheduled later" in the day.

A statement from Sununu sent Tuesday afternoon says the two discussed the Coakley Landfill Superfund site, where the EPA plans to test bedrock to see if contamination is spreading in the local water supply. 

Annie Ropeik for NHPR

New Hampshire's Great Bay and the Piscataqua River estuary have been in bad shape for years – and the latest data doesn't show a lot of improvement.

But scientists say there's still hope for the watershed, and they're trying to home in on things people can control.

Great Bay National Estuarine Reserve

An estuary is where freshwater rivers meet the ocean, making up a fragile yet vital eco-system for wildlife, fish, and people.  Now a new report on the Great Bay and Hampton-Seabrook Estuaries shows continuing trouble for this region, and introduces comprehensive strategies for keeping the area healthy. 

GUESTS:

A new report on the environmental health of Great Bay and surrounding waterways says those ecosystems continue to decline.

The report comes from the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, or PREP. The group is funded by the EPA and administered by UNH. Every five years, they rate the health of the Seacoast’s estuaries using 23 indicators.

Amy Quinton, NHPR

More intense storms are making it harder for freshwater streams and rivers to act as filters for nitrogen pollution, according to a new UNH study.

The research suggests larger storms could cause more harmful runoff to reach coasts and lakes.

Nitrogen comes from lots of things people put in the land – like fertilizer and sewage. Rain and snow wash that pollution into streams and rivers.

But UNH researcher Wil Wollheim says those waterways can usually clean out the nitrogen before it reaches the coast.

The future of a proposed utility project on the Seacoast is facing new uncertainty.

The Site Evaluation Committee on Monday said all scheduled hearings on an Eversource plan to build a transmission line across the Seacoast will be postponed indefinitely. The SEC says the process can't go on without a final report from the Department of Environmental Services on the potential impacts of the project.

Jason Moon for NHPR

With Congress out on its annual August recess, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation has been enjoying more time in the state.

On Thursday, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen spent the afternoon exploring Great Bay.

Senator Shaheen’s visit to Great Bay felt a lot like a school field trip.

It began at UNH’s Jackson Laboratory on Adam’s Point, where one scientist after another showcased their research on Great Bay’s marine life.

From investigating whether the invasive green crab problem could turn into a local culinary opportunity.

www.ci.durham.nh.us

State and federal officials plan to release dye into the Oyster River this week in an effort to study how water flows from a sewage plant along the river.

Beginning Tuesday night, officials with state and federal environmental agencies will inject a reddish dye into the town of Durham’s wastewater treatment plant for about 12 hours.

The experiment is designed to shed light on how wastewater flows from the plant. It could lead to new boundaries for where shellfish harvesting is allowed.

Chris Nash is with the state Department of Environmental Services.

Jason Moon for NHPR

Disputes between utility companies and local residents over new power lines are a familiar story. But on New Hampshire's Seacoast, a version of that story is playing out with a few twists. For one, the power lines would go underwater. And two, they would go through a town that prides itself on its history of opposing energy projects.

A new study from the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy says towns in the Great Bay watershed stand to save a lot of money if they can coordinate their efforts at reducing the amount of nitrogen entering the bay.

Communities in the Great Bay watershed have been tasked with lowering the amount of nitrogen entering the bay by federal and state regulators for years now.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Earlier this week, the city of Portsmouth approved 75 million dollars in bonds to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant on Peirce Island. The vote by the city council is a milestone in the years-long effort by federal and state regulators to clean up Great Bay.

The condition of New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuary has been one of the biggest environmental priorities in New Hampshire for decades -- and NHPR has been covering the story extensively.

We were there in 2010, when the Environmental Protection Agency designated Great Bay as officially impaired – meaning it could mandate upgrades to wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the estuary.

Min Lee via Flickr CC

New Hampshire health, environment and wildlife officials are holding a public meeting on shellfish rules for 2015.

The information session set for Tuesday night in Portsmouth will be an opportunity for the public to hear about a dye tracking study that traced effluent flows from the Pierce Island wastewater treatment facility to Little Harbor and areas of Portsmouth Harbor out to Odiorne Point. Officials say that study indicates that shellfish harvesting in those areas need to be closed.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

  At 4:30 in the morning, a worker unloading number six oil from a barge at the Sprague River Terminal in Newington, smells fumes. He finds a leaking pipeline, and radios to stop the pumping, but already there are an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil in the river.

It sounds scary, but as the crackling voices over the radio in the boat supervising the cleanup make clear, there’s nothing to fear. Before every transmission, they declare, “This is a drill, this is a drill.”

Pembleton / Flickr CC

Data released Friday shows that a crucial piece of the ecosystem of the Great Bay estuary continued a seventeen-year downward trend.

Eel-grass is a big deal to the Great Bay. According to Rachel Rouillard, the executive director of the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP), “eelgrass is like our canary in the coal-mine, it’s a fundamental underpinning of the health and vitality of the whole system.”

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

There are many challenges to a good town-gown relationship in college towns, but here’s one that doesn’t get a great deal of press: urine overloads.

On certain nights of the week, partying UNH students in Durham can overwhelm the town’s wastewater treatment plant, but a group of UNH students have teamed up with the town to get some of that nitrogen-rich urine out of the water. They plan to take that pee, and put it somewhere that it could do good.

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