Falmouth Receives OCEAN Environmental Initiative Award

Cape Cod’s water resources, specifically its estuaries and drinking water supply, are at risk to impacts of excess nutrients found in waste water and fertilizers. Effects of excess nitrogen can include human health risks from consumption and causing eutrophication in coastal embayments. It is widely understood that a majority of the additional nitrogen is generated from wastewater, but more recently the use of fertilizers was recognized another controllable source. According to Buzzards Bay Coalition, fertilizer contribution can make up 5-15% of the excess nitrogen in certain impaired watersheds on Cape Cod.[i] Due to this, the use of fertilizers and the regulation of that usage have become contentious topics around the Cape Cod community. State and local officials, industry representatives, environmental organizations, and the private property owners have all joined in on the discussion to voice their opinions and concerns about fertilizer regulations.

In an effort to spearhead water resource protection efforts, the Town of Falmouth has taken further action at reducing nitrogen loading by passing a local bylaw regulating the use of fertilizer. On November 13th, 2012, a fertilizer bylaw was passed at Falmouth Town Meeting. The purpose of the bylaw as stated in Article 7 of the November 2012 Town Meeting Warrant is to “… to conserve resources and protect our environment by regulating the outdoor application of nitrogen in order to reduce the overall amount of excess nitrogen entering the town’s Resource Areas as defined in the Wetlands Protection Bylaw (Chapter 235; Section 2) and regulations.” The bylaw prohibits application of nitrogen-containing fertilizer between October 16th and April 14th of ever year, and would ban applications during heavy rain events or within 100 feet of water resources. There are several exemptions that include application of nitrogen for agriculture and horticulture uses; application of fertilizer to golf courses, except any application within water resource areas; application to gardens; and application for the establishment of new vegetation in the first growing season or repairing of turf.[ii]

The development of the Falmouth fertilizer bylaw began with the Falmouth Water Quality Management Committee (WQMC), established in 2011 by the Falmouth Board of Selectmen. You can find more information about the committee here: http://www.falmouthmass.us/waterq/web%20site/index.html 

The WQMC consists of eight members with backgrounds in the areas of environmental science, water management, public health, natural resource management, and community planning and leadership. In the beginning stages of the bylaw development, the WMQC Technical Staff reviewed several reports and recommendations from other fertilizer studies conducted on Cape Cod. The group met with the Director of the Barnstable County Cooperative Extension for guidance and researched the Falmouth Friendly Lawns model released by the Preserve Falmouth’s Bays and Ponds community campaign.

The Water Quality Management Committee held several meetings to discuss specifics of the bylaw including how to regulate for maximum benefit of removal of nitrogen from going into estuaries. It was important for the group to gain public support and develop a bylaw that would be manageable and consistent for all parties involved. The WMQC met with all stakeholders including golf course managers, landscapers, Falmouth Association Concerned with Estuaries and Saltponds (FACES), and municipal leaders to discuss concerns for the bylaw and how it would impact each party. These discussions led to the exemptions and specific performance standards detailed in the bylaw. After working on several drafts, the WQMC voted on the final bylaw and brought it to the Falmouth Board of Selectmen who unanimously endorsed for Town Meeting vote. After the 2012 Falmouth Town Meeting, the bylaw was sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for approval. In May 2013, the MA Attorney General rejected the Falmouth bylaw stating that it “conflicts with a MA state law giving the MA Department of Agricultural Resources the authority to regulate fertilizer use.” [iii] Falmouth could still maintain its fertilizer bylaw if the House and Senate budget passes, as an exemption for the bylaw was included in the language.

There are other initiatives for reducing excess nitrogen by fertilizer use on Cape Cod. In September 2013, the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates designated a Cape-wide Fertilizer Management District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) under the Cape Cod Commission Act.

You can find additional information about the DCPC here: http://www.capecodcommission.org/index.php?id=140&maincatid=131 Also, the Town of Orleans Board of Selectmen adopted a town policy to reduce fertilizer use on Town-owned land.

Thank You to OCEAN Researcher Katherine Garofoli

Herring River Restoration: Update

DER Coastal Projects Update Herring River, Wellfleet


The largest proposed salt marsh restoration project on the North Atlantic Coast has just been updated. Read the excerpt from the department of environmental resources' latest newsletter posted below. Safe Harbor supports salt marsh restoration. Safe Harbor director, Gordon Peabody was chair of the Herring River Technical Committee which reviewed all previous technical information regarding the river and developed the conceptual restoration plan. More information regarding development of that plan can be found elsewhere within this post, and the Herring River category.

Herring River Estuary July 4, 2004

Herring River Estuary July 4, 2004

Aerial view (looking north) of a portion of the Herring River Estuary in Wellfleet. The dike, acting as the main source of restricting tidal flow to the estuary, is in the foreground.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report for this large-scale restoration project, which would restore tidal flow to an approximately 1,000 acre area in and along the Herring River estuary, is scheduled to be released in October, and public informational meetings about, and a comment period on, the project are expected to be scheduled shortly thereafter.  This is the largest tidal estuary restoration ever undertaken in Massachusetts and the North Atlantic coast of the United States.  DER has served as a core project partner over the past decade and has contributed substantial technical and financial resources to support project development.

The once proud and economically supportive herring river on Cape Cod, being forced to “Breathe through a straw” with grossly undersized culverts, for 100 years. Social influences diked this 1,200 acre river system and social influences will be required to give this river back it’s voice.  
— Gordon Peabody, Wellfleet MA August 2012

In the meantime, the Friends of Herring River have produced Return of the Tides: The Herring River Restoration Project, a video developed to educate the public about the value of a healthy salt marsh estuary and the expected benefits or restoring the historic tidal flow of the Herring River Estuary. For thousands of years, this estuary was highly productive and provided feeding and nursery habitat for commercially important fish and shellfish, cycled nutrients and sediment to improve water quality, produced salt hay for animal fodder, and buffered storm surges. Then, throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, road and railroad dikes were built across the river’s floodplain, bisecting the salt marshes and dramatically altering natural tidal patterns.  In addition to the group’s website, Return of the Tides may also be viewed on Vimeo and (with subtitles) on an electronic bulletin board at the Beach Sticker Office in Wellfleet. [Click here and here for additional info on this project.]

Diked for 99 years, the natural resources of Wellfleet's Herring River may get a second chance.

The diked Herring River estuary in Wellfleet, Massachusetts is being considered for restoration. Nearly 100 years ago, the 1,200 acre salt marsh system was reduced to 7 acres. Upper reaches of historic Cape Cod tidelands stretch four miles North into the town of Truro. During the past 100 years, the ecological values of the salt marsh have degraded. Upland vegetation began invading the flood plain. Lack of flushing contributed to low levels of dissolved oxygen. Acidic conditions supported mosquitoes and high levels of bacteria. Fish kills and routine closures of adjacent shellfish beds eventually received attention. In August of 2005, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), between the town of Wellfleet and the Cape Cod National Seashore, detailed the process for considering restoration.

A Stakeholder Committee was appointed, to solicit local concerns about potential restoration. A Technical Committee was formed to study the existing scientific information available on the Herring River's existing conditions. The Technical Committee was also directed to respond to Stakeholder issues and make a recommendation on the feasibility of restoration to the Wellfleet Board of Selectmen. In January, 2006, the Wellfleet Board of Selectmen reviewed the Full Report of the Technical Committee.

The Technical Committee's report recommended "that tidal restoration of the Herring River Salt Marsh is feasible and will provide numerous and substantial public benefits" The recommendation continued, "....significant improvements in water quality would provide subsequent public health, recreational, environmental and economic benefits.". Specifically included was "a new structure capable of full tidal restoration....incorporating controlled gates to provide incremental increases in tidal exchange. This would allow for well thought out management, supervision, monitoring and evaluation."

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Want More Information?

1. Numerous additional documents are available upon request. Please contact Gordon Peabody at 508-237-3724 or click here gordonsafeharbor@yahoo.com

2. For access to most recent documents, such as agendas, draft plans, minutes and chairman's notes, go to the CURRENT DOCUMENTS page, at the very top of this page.

3. Restoration Brochure, background and general information. Just click on the link below to read the brochure.

Herring River Restoration Project Brochure


Bee Gathering nectar, and collecting pollen

Bee Gathering nectar, and collecting pollen

The environmental movement has been prolific and gaining momentum in recent years. Being green and health conscience has become more than a fad in Western culture with no end in sight, and with good reason:  humans, animals and the environment are at risk. One recent finding supports this after it was found that commonly used pesticides may act as neurotoxins in developing nervous systems in people in addition to depleting an unintentional insect population.

            The European Food and Safe Authority are so concerned that they set a two year moratorium and are enforcing guidelines as to what levels of exposure are acceptable for two specific insecticides: acetamiprid and imidacloprid. Though the UK tried to appeal this decision this office represents the European Union thus enforced across the continent. These relatively new pesticides may specifically affect the development of neurons and brain structures active in learning and memory, as preliminary results showed in newborn rat studies. More data needs to be collected in order to develop appropriate thresholds, which is alarming in and of itself since these health risks have not been regulated enough prior.

            In 2002, US’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted that acetamiprid is applied on leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, pome fruits, grapes, cotton and ornamental plants and flowers to control sucking type insects, with restrictions of about half a pound per acre per season. Unfortunately under health findings it is noted to cause “generalized, nonspecific toxicity and did not appear to have specific target organ toxicity.” So though it was deemed harmful the extent was not pursued and currently acetamiprid is used on cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, peas, plums and tree nuts both national and as an export from the US. Of those, the EU refuses tree nuts and apricots from America because levels of the toxin exceed appropriate levels.

            It is also possible that the widespread uses of these neonicorticoids have contributed to the decline in bees seen in recent years.  The ongoing mysterious mass loss of bees that could have an immense domino effect globally may have an answer in these very same products. These toxins are thought to not kill the bees outright, but it is thought that they impair and disorientate them leading to their demise in mass or make them more susceptible to viruses. This year an Oregon state representative will introduce legislation to ban certain neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, to reduce anthropogenic bee deaths.            

            There has been growing support in the United States to ban the neonicotinoid pesticides through lawsuits and legislations, and hopefully the US will follow Europe’s sustainable lead and not risk its inhabitants, big and small, soon. 

Thank you to OCEAN Researcher Brigid McKenna

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Invasive Cape Cod Plants "The Dirty Dozen"


Download "Dirty Dozen 2nd Edition"

Dirty Dozen: 13 plants we need to control on Cape Cod

Native plants co-evolved with native insects and animals to transfer plant biomass inti protein biomass, which fuels ecosystems. Invasive (non-native) plants did not co-evolve with insects and animals and do not because their plant biomass rarely gets transferred to protein biomass, the presence of invasive vegetation neuters invaded ecosystems. 

Safe Harbor Intern Vida, removing Queen Ann's Lacebefore it goes to seed.     This invasive plant was originally brought to this country as a wild carrot.

Safe Harbor Intern Vida, removing Queen Ann's Lacebefore it goes to seed. This invasive plant was originally brought to this country as a wild carrot.

Invasive plants are fast growing. They easily out compete native vegetation for nutrients, sunlight and moisture. This crowds out native species and reduces native plant biodiversity. Reductions in native plant population stress native animals by reducingfood and shelter options. This overallpattern creates economic impacts. 

Large and small scale removal of invasive plants must be matched with re-planting of native species or using encouragement strategies for native plants. Otherwise the invasives will simply reappear. Large scale invasive plant removal should be done with a three year management plan, to give slower growing native vegetation the chance to become dominant. We have also developed several innovative strategies for encouraging resurgence of native vegetation.

A warning to homeowners removing invasive vegetation themselves: please DO NOTput the removed vegetation in compost piles! This will spread the seeds to dozens of other homes. Bag the removed plants and dispose of them with household trash. On Cape Cod, our trash is incinerated to produce electricity.