Volume 8, No. 1
Promoting Cooperation to Maintain and Enhance
Environmental Quality in the Gulf of Maine
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Winter 2003

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The Gulf of Maine Times

Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment

Building a bridge, one phone call at a time

Art Longard Award winner Elsa Martz is one determined steward

By Andi Rierden, Editor

Elsa Martz at home in Harpswell, Maine
Photo: Peter H. Taylor
Years ago Elsa Martz longed to find a way to restore the ebb and flow of the New Meadows River as it failed to circulate around Dingley Island, Maine. With the eyes and sensibility of a life-long naturalist, she studied the situation from her handcrafted home in Harpswell, noting how the sediment build-up around the causeway linking the town to the island had smothered the surrounding mudflats for several hundred feet. Aerial photographs only confirmed what she already knew: “that this causeway barrier was a big mistake. It just didn’t make any sense.” Imbued with the conviction—grounded firmly in her Quaker heritage—that one person can make a difference, Martz was not one to sit on the fence harping about what should be done.

With encouragement from a local wharf builder who estimated that replacing the causeway with a wooden bridge would cost a mere $40,000, Martz stepped into full throttle and became an unflagging proponent of the Dingley Island tidal flow restoration project.

Over the next seven years, underscored by a series of high hopes, setbacks and successes, her campaign grew to involve dozens of individuals, local, state and federal agencies and private corporations. Though the initial estimate proved to be well below the mark, Martz and other restoration supporters kept chipping away. Last summer, a section of the barrier between the island and Harpswell was removed, one side at a time to keep the road open. Working with a private engineering firm, U.S. Navy Seabees then constructed a small, but wide-opened bridge, re-establishing water flow.

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Skating to Sargasso
A freshwater biologist’s fascination with a sea skater

By Ethan Nedeau

Illustration of Halobates
© Ethan Nedeau
I grew up in coastal Maine, and though the ocean was always a strong presence in the community—from the lobster buoys that decorated neighbors' lawns, to roadside shrimp stands in the winter, to the briny smell of an onshore breeze—I spent most of my life looking inland toward the headwaters, mountains and lakes. John Hay wrote “All of us are drawn to the sea's edge as to a fire,” but I was never drawn to the ocean in that way. I would sometimes stand on the rocks below Pemaquid Lighthouse, looking toward Monhegan Island and beyond, and I was never inspired by the water or the sky. Its vastness was intimidating, its mysteries unsettling. I preferred streams I could leap across, vernal pools whose breadth is clearly defined and lake bottoms that I could explore with a single gulp of air. I wanted to be far from the sea breeze, standing barefoot in a spring-fed stream in the Mahoosuc Range, looking for stonefly exuviae on streamside boulders or shadows of brook trout darting through riffles.

I became a biologist because of my love for creatures—especially insects—living in freshwater streams, lakes and wetlands. Turn over some cobbles in a mountain stream in New Hampshire and you will find a rich diversity of larval insects.

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‘Smoking gun’ images allow Massachusetts to flex its enforcement muscle

By Maureen Kelly

Private landowners who think they can add a few more acres to their properties by filling in wetlands should think twice. In an innovative new approach to resource management, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is using aerial surveillance and state-of-the-art technology to watch over the state’s valuable wetlands, which play an important role in protecting groundwater, buffering against floods and storms and providing wildlife and fisheries habitat.

By comparing digital images of the land from the 1990s to those of today, DEP analysts are systematically mapping out and identifying areas where wetlands have changed over the years. The project is providing state regulators with new insight into what caused the loss of nearly 800 acres of wetlands in the eastern third of the state over the last decade.

At least 50 percent of the wetland losses are the result of illegal destruction, according to DEP Assistant Commissioner Cynthia Giles.

These findings prompted the state agency to shift priorities and develop a stronger presence in the field to enforce wetland protection laws and deter would-be violators, she said.

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