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December 05. 2012 10:42PM

Great Bay watershed getting annual physical

PORTSMOUTH - The health of the Great Bay estuary was discussed over pints at the Portsmouth Brewery on Wednesday night during the fourth and final Seacoast Science Café.

Rachel Rouillard, director of the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, and Cory Riley, manager of the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, provided some basic information about the estuary and then took questions from the audience.

Surprisingly, few of those questions focused on nutrient issues affecting the estuary, particularly nitrogen.

That issue will be the topic of discussion at a meeting in Rochester tonight as several municipalities in the watershed deal with EPA permitting issues related to their wastewater treatment plants and the discharge of nitrogen.

About 25 percent of people who live in New Hampshire live in the Great Bay watershed, Riley explained, but everyone in the state should be concerned about it.

Estuaries are places with broad biodiversity and are important spawning locations for fish and other sea creatures. They also help mitigate floods and pollution and hold recreational and aesthetic value for people in the region and visitors to the area.

On Friday, PREP will release their 17th annual State of Our Estuaries report during a day-long conference at the Portsmouth Harbor Events Center, but Rouillard gave attendees to the Seacoast Science Café a brief peek into the data that was used this year.

Unfortunately, many indicators for health are still cause for concern Rouillard said, including clam populations, impervious surfaces around the watershed, shellfish, eelgrass, nutrient concentration and oysters.

But indicators including beach closures, toxic contaminants and micro-algae are looking good.

PREP added 10 new indicators this year to help better understand the health of the watershed.

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Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at gmacalaster@newstote.com.


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