The 2017–18 Massachusetts legislative session resulted in some significant achievements for the environment. But, in the legislature, where multiple efforts are many times required to pass legislation, there were also some disappointments.
After several years of advocacy by APCC and a coalition of organizations, provisions from a climate change adaption planning bill were included in an environmental bond signed into law. This success establishes a statewide plan to address climate change impacts, provides financial assistance to develop local adaptation plans, factors the state’s natural, built and economic characteristics, most vulnerable areas and human populations in climate planning, and provides for a voluntary coastal buyback program to acquire properties repeatedly damaged by severe weather to serve as buffers against wind and storm surge.
Language for the Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund, which creates a funding source and mechanism for towns to pay for water quality improvements, was adopted by the House and Senate—a great achievement in our regional goal to address the Cape’s wastewater problem, and an effort strong advocated by APCC in 2018. However, the so-called Airbnb room tax bill, to which the water protection fund was attached, stalled in the final moments of the legislative session. APCC is planning for a relaunch of our efforts in 2019.
A joint legislative committee released our zoning reform bill containing essential reforms to state land use law and sent it to the House Ways and Means committee, where it remained for the rest of the session. This was a disappointing end to one of APCC’s priority legislative initiatives, but we are working with coalition partners on strategies for moving a version of the bill forward in the upcoming session.
Things were looking hopeful that the legislature would adopt some version of a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags, but the Senate and House failed to agree on compromise language. Support behind a plastic bag ban has not died, however, and APCC is ready to advocate for a renewed effort in 2019.
The Senate passed an energy bill with comprehensive improvements in state energy policies, but the House chose a more conservative route, resulting in a bill that only achieved limited advancements toward clean energy. In the upcoming legislative session, APCC will continue to advocate for better energy policies to address climate change.
APCC worked with our Cape legislators on the inclusion of environmental funding initiatives in the state budget, including efforts to increase the budgets for some of the state’s environmental agencies. However, funds devoted to environmental protection still account for only 0.57 percent of the state budget. APCC will advocate for increased funding in 2019.
Other bills championed by APCC and the Massachusetts environmental community failed to pass the legislature this session despite popular support and strong advocacy efforts. These included a bill to increase funding for the Community Preservation Act, the Public Lands Preservation Act and a bill to protect pollinator habitat.
APCC looks forward to working with Cape legislators and legislative leadership in the upcoming 2019–20 legislative session on efforts to advance these and other bills that will help preserve, protect and restore Cape Cod’s environment.
Gutting the Endangered Species Act. Repealing the Clean Water Rule. Shelving the Clean Power Plan. Allowing oil drilling off the Atlantic coastline. Suppressing climate science and reversing climate change policies.
These and other assaults on the environment coming from the federal government in recent months are unprecedented and have significant and long-term implications that will be felt here on Cape Cod.
APCC has reacted to these current environmental threats, speaking out strongly for clean water, clean air and healthy habitats and against harmful policies. To learn more information about APCC’s response to these attacks on our environment, visit APCC.org/positionstatements.
A proposal to scale back protections in the Endangered Species Act for vulnerable species is one example of threats to the environment caused by recent federal policy changes.
Construction commenced this November for the Three Bays stormwater project, an initiative managed by APCC. Two new stormwater treatment systems will be completed by next spring, capturing rain and other runoff to remove pollution before it washes into the bays. Ground has been broken at Cordwood Landing for a bioretention system, to be followed by installation of a sand filter at Prince Cove Marina. The Cordwood Landing system design, in particular, accounts for current and projected future coastal flooding resulting from climate change to ensure the new system will continue to function for its full life expectancy.
These green infrastructure stormwater treatment systems go a step beyond traditional storm drains by using plants and soil to remove pollutants and improve water quality. Once installed, the systems will eliminate 70 to 85 percent of bacteria and 55 percent of nitrogen from runoff at these sites as well as reduce impervious surface, remove invasive plant species and provide improved public access
While construction is in progress, APCC and our partners, the town of Barnstable, Horsley Witten Group and Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, are planning for further assessment and design to install more of these green systems around the watershed. This planning effort is part of Phase II of the project, which is supported by a $350,000 grant awarded to APCC by the EPA Southeast New England Program Watershed Grants program and close to $60,000 awarded to the town of Barnstable by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management Coastal Pollutant Remediation grants.
A highlight of the year was APCC’s 50th anniversary annual meeting in September, which began with a reception at the Cape Cod Museum of Art and continued next door at Cape Cinema. While the theme of the evening was commemorating APCC’s many accomplishments over the past five decades, Andrew Gottlieb, APCC’s executive director, outlined APCC’s vision for the future, including the introduction of APCC’s new State of the Waters program to raise public awareness about Cape Cod’s water quality.
Steve Curwood, host of public radio’s “Living on Earth,” was the guest speaker for the evening and an APCC award honoree. Also honored for their contributions to protecting Cape Cod’s environment were APCC’s team of volunteers, former APCC president Alan McClennen Jr., Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary director Robert Prescott and former state senator Dan Wolf.
The 2018 herring run size estimates for Cape Cod were a mixed bag of upturns and downturns compared to last year. Most runs did better than last year, and some saw their highest run size estimates ever. On the other hand, several runs fared lower than last year.
The numbers tell the story. Despite the encouraging increases in some runs, most run sizes were within the range seen in previous years. This does not bode well for regional recovery of herring stocks.
In August 2017, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission issued a press release stating that river herring remain depleted and at near historic lows throughout the mid-Atlantic and New England region. At the recent 2018 River Herring Network meeting hosted by the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries staff said that herring continue to be depleted.
A recent decision by the New England Fisheries Management Council proposes a 20-mile buffer zone east of Cape Cod and a 12-mile buffer zone from Connecticut to Canada prohibiting large industrial trawlers. These buffers should help to protect Atlantic herring and the river herring, which frequently school together at sea. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service still has to approve the proposed buffer zones. For more information, contact Dr. Jo Ann Muramoto at email@example.com.
APCC staff worked with partners from the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service this October to collect soil samples and ground surface elevations in the Sesuit Creek salt marsh in Dennis. The collections are part of monitoring being conducted to help identify what may be causing slow regrowth of native vegetation in this salt marsh following the 2008 tidal restoration.
Natural tidal flow to the marsh was restored by replacing a series of small culvert pipes with significantly larger concrete box culverts. The goal was to restore the salt marsh area by killing back invasive vegetation and reintroducing natural tidal flow. Since the restoration, invasive species have died back significantly, natural tidal flow and salinity has returned, and areas of salt marsh grasses have expanded.
Some areas of the marsh, though, have been slow to revegetate. This current research project aims to identify factors that may limit regrowth of native plants and will serve to inform future adaptive management strategies to help restore the marsh to healthy conditions as completely and quickly as possible.
At a recent conference on the Massachusetts Bay Outfall, APCC voiced support for updates to the outfall monitoring plan to study new areas of environmental concern. APCC serves on the Public Interest Advisory Committee for the Massachusetts Bay Outfall, which discharges Boston area’s treated effluent from the Deer Island wastewater treatment facility into Massachusetts Bay, 9.5 miles offshore.
Attendees provided input on whether there is a need to streamline and update the ongoing outfall monitoring program. The federal permit for the discharge requires monitoring Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay to study whether fish and shellfish are safe to eat, natural/living resources are protected, and waters are safe for swimming. So far, monitoring has shown the answer is yes, with only minor impacts.
However, in the 18 years since the outfall began discharging, new science indicates other potential concerns from emerging contaminants such as microplastics, endocrine-disruptors, pharmaceuticals and others due to climate change, and long-term effects of discharging nutrients and other pollutants on water quality, harmful algal blooms, fish, wildlife and ecosystems.
Conference participants agreed there are new major issues to consider. The results will be discussed by the OMSAP and PIAC at their next meeting and will be used to design the future monitoring plan. For more information, contact Dr. Jo Ann Muramoto at 508– 619–3185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
APCC is participating in Dennis-Yarmouth High School’s Work-Based Learning program. Brooke Withers is a senior at DY with a keen interest in pursuing undergraduate studies next year in marine biology. She is assisting with APCC’s ponds program and is also helping with development of a single-use plastics workshop.
AmeriCorps member Jenna La Fontaine is serving with APCC on Tuesdays through July 2019, working with APCC’s volunteers on numerous projects. Jenna has a degree in political science and is interested in social justice work pertaining to the environment and food insecurity.
BlueFlax Design, LLC
New England Stoneworks
Birdwatcher’s General Store
Cape Cinema Group, Inc.
Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance
Cape Cod Healthcare
Chatham Orpheum Theater
Horsley Witten Group, LLC
Peter McIntire & Sons Excavating
Utility Contractor’s Association of New England, Inc.
A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay
A3 Architects, Inc.
Agway of Cape Cod
Beach Club at New Seabury
Blossoms of Cape Cod
Books By The Sea
Bookstore & Restaurant
Bradford’s Ace Hardware
Cape Abilities Farm
Cape Cod Chocolatier
Catania Hospitality Group
Edible Cape Cod
Elburne Eco Home Décor
Eugene R. Curry Law Offices
Governor Bradford Restaurant
Hot Chocolate Sparrow
Housing Assistance Corporation
Hyannis Country Garden
J. Miller Picture Framer & Gallery
J.M. O’Reilly & Associates, Inc.
Jack’s Outback II
Joe Coffee & Café
Mass Bay Company
Nancy’s Candy Etc.
Notus Clean Energy, LLC
Pavilion Indian Restaurant & Bar
Puritan Cape Cod
Quicks Hole Tavern
red fish blue fish
Royal II Restaurant & Grill
Science Wares, Inc.
Shepley Wood Products
Simply Divine Pizza
Snow’s Home & Garden
Spoon and Seed
Sunpower by E2 Solar
Talbot Ecological Land Care
Water Resources Associates
Wilkinson Ecological Design, Inc.
Wood Lumber Company
Woodward & Curran