Coastal Communities (2014-2017)

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Project Type: 
Extension
Project Number: 
A/CC-3

Participants:

Julia Peterson N.H. Sea Grant Extension Specialist for Water Resources
Chris Keeley N.H. Sea Grant Communities and Climate Program Assistant
Situation: 

New Hampshire’s coastal watershed comprises 42 towns. The relatively small coastline is commercially, historically, recreationally, scientifically and ecologically significant and encompasses both coastal shore lands and two estuaries – Hampton Seabrook Harbor and the nation’s most recessed estuary, Great Bay. The Great Bay watershed also includes 10 municipalities within the state of Maine, which is connected to New Hampshire by the Piscataqua River. Seacoast New Hampshire is a fast growing region in a fast growing state. Coastal ecosystems are under constant pressure from burgeoning development that transforms forested and agricultural land to residential and commercial land uses and seaside cottages into year-round residences. As in many coastal areas, pollution potential is high along New Hampshire’s attractive coastline where effluent from 20 wastewater treatment facilities and hundreds of stormwater pipes releases into the coastal waters, bay and tributary rivers. In 2010, about 9.6% of the Piscataqua Region’s watershed was impervious cover. Since 1990, the amount of impervious cover has increased by 120% while population has grown by 19% (PREP, 2013). Close to half of the region’s coastal communities have greater than 10% of their land covered by impervious surfaces, a condition associated with water quality degradation.

In 2009, most of the Great Bay Estuary was placed on New Hampshire’s 303(d) list for impairments associated with total nitrogen, namely low dissolved oxygen, macroalgae blooms and declining eelgrass beds. A recent analysis indicated that nonpoint sources account for about 68% of the nitrogen. Model outputs indicate that the primary contributors are atmospheric deposition (33%), human waste from septic systems (27%), chemical fertilizer (27%), and animal waste, mostly from livestock (13%) (GBNNPSS, 2013).

The 2013 State of Our Estuaries Report (PREP) indicates that of the 14 condition indicators used to monitor estuarine health, only four are showing substantial progress toward a management goal. Challenges related to nutrient concentrations, dissolved oxygen in coastal rivers, eelgrass bed loss, and limited shellfishing opportunities remain. Meanwhile, communities in the region have had to recover from a series of severe and damaging storms in the midst of tightening municipal budgets. Community leaders are looking for practical and sound tools and techniques that will provide resilience, assist them to grow, and maintain their ability to be attractive places to live, work and play while addressing these impairments. Municipal leaders are influenced by many different forces – economic, environmental, social, political and cultural – and are often drawn in different directions. More than ever, N.H. Sea Grant’s work with communities calls for high degrees of engagement and the ability to draw from multiple disciplines in order to be responsive to communities’ particular needs.

Fortunately for New Hampshire, its diminutive shoreline results in a concentration of research and outreach resources related to coastal issues. Along with progress in environmental research, strides are being made in social science research that help outreach professionals understand environmental thinking and behavior. Combining the best of environmental research with social science research will help educators and coastal resource managers better influence coastal resources users toward resource protection.

Goals: 

1.     Coastal communities in New Hampshire protect and enhance marine and coastal natural resources through better land use practices, thereby supporting the associated social, economic and environmental benefits and beneficiaries.

2.     New Hampshire’s coastal watershed residents and visitors protect and enhance marine and coastal natural resources by supporting community decisions related to improving water quality and by learning about, promoting and adopting property-based practices that improve water quality.

Objectives: 

Community leaders (municipal employees, volunteer board members), conservation organizations and design professionals from at least four communities, organizations or businesses per year will build their capacity to address water quality challenges.

At least two communities per year will promote, request or require land use patterns and development techniques that protect the environmental, economic and social benefits of coastal resources through planning documents, policies, regulations and practices.

Each year, at least 20 coastal watershed residents or professionals will express an intent to adopt at least one new home or lawn care practice designed to protect water quality, particularly by reducing nutrient losses via runoff or leaching.

At least 60 coastal watershed residents or visitors per year will report gaining knowledge about New Hampshire’s coastal resources, ecosystems, research, stewardship and educational opportunities through field and facility-based approaches.

Accomplishments: 

2015

N.H. Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension promote water quality-friendly lawn care and landscaping with state partner

N.H. Sea Grant collaborated with UNH Cooperative Extension agricultural specialists and state environmental agency staff to provide education to gardening enthusiasts and professional landscapers in the coastal region on practices that reduce the likelihood of nutrient runoff and leaching into coastal waters, affecting an anticipated 600,000 square feet of land area.
Relevance: State and community leaders are concerned over a recent EPA designated impairment for nitrogen in New Hampshire's Great Bay Estuary.
Response: In 2015, N.H. Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension were tapped by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services to serve as partners on a NOAA funded project to deliver a series of trainings that address polluted runoff from properties in the coastal watershed by training professional landscapers on best practices. The 2015 trainings included two, two-day introductory trainings on landscaping for water quality, and a series of more advanced trainings including two half-day workshops on rain garden installation, and one workshop each on pervious pavement systems, innovative stormwater management systems with the UNH Stormwater Center, and marketing water quality friendly services.
Results: Post-session questionnaires from the introductory trainings indicate that greater than 80% of participants increased their knowledge, motivation and confidence with the suite of water quality-related topics presented. Greater than 60% plan to promote, incorporate or apply what they gained during the training, affecting an anticipated 600,000 square feet of land area. Over 80% of participants believe that incorporating these practices will result in improved water quality over time. The training series attracted over 100 registrants. A directory of trained landscapers and a N.H.-based recommended plant list for rain gardens were produced for the workshops.

N.H. Sea Grant increases awareness of N.H.'s marine environment through public cruises

N.H. Sea Grant and the University of New Hampshire Marine Docents, volunteers coordinated and trained by N.H. Sea Grant, led 23 cruises for 550 people aboard UNH's research vessel in 2015, introducing participants to research going on along N.H.'s coast as well as tools and techniques used by scientists to investigate marine and estuarine systems and increasing their awareness, knowledge and connectedness to the marine environment in N.H.
Relevance: New Hampshire's coast has ecological, environmental, historic and cultural significance. It is one of the most densely populated regions in the state and attracts millions of visitors each year yet knowledge about N.H.'s coastal resources varies.
Response: To increase knowledge and connectedness to N.H.'s coastal water resources, for over 15 years N.H. Sea Grant has offered the public day-long boat-based educational cruises about the natural and cultural history of Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine and N.H., and about the marine and estuarine ecosystems of N.H.'s Great Bay Estuary.
Results: N.H. Sea Grant staff and UNH Marine Docents, volunteers coordinated and trained by N.H. Sea Grant, led 18 cruises to Appledore and five activity-based cruises into Great Bay for 550 people during 2015. At Appledore, participants visited the Shoals Marine Lab and Celia Thaxter's gardens, collected marine life samples, conducted water tests, and learned about the history, culture and science of the N.H. coast, the Gulf of Maine and the Isles of Shoals. On the Great Bay cruises, over 90% of participants reported an increase in knowledge of the estuary's physical and chemical characteristics and its inhabitants, of the interrelationships between the biotic and abiotic, and an increase in their feelings of connectedness, curiosity and concern for the estuary. Great Bay cruise participants also learned about tools and techniques used by scientists conducting research in the bay and at UNH's Jackson Estuarine Laboratory. Feedback is consistently positive about the value and quality of the educational experience.

N.H. Sea Grant educates landscaping professionals about water quality-friendly lawn care at regional conference

N.H. Sea Grant collaborated with UNH Cooperative Extension agricultural specialists at a regional conference to educate professional nursery owners and landscapers within the New England region on practices that reduce the likelihood of nutrient runoff and leaching into coastal waters, as well as to learn about their and their customers' water quality-related concerns.
Relevance: Nursery and landscaping professionals serve as opinion leaders and trusted practitioners for landscaping trends throughout the region. They are an important audience to target for nonpoint source pollution reduction strategies.
Response: In 2015, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension agriculture educators worked with state and regional partners to host the Northern New England Nursery Conference, a day-long event focused on bringing together nursery and landscaping professionals to learn about current trends and topics in their industries. The 2015 event attracted 42 participants and was held within the coastal watershed. A N.H. Sea Grant extension specialist collaborated with event planners to present information on stormwater concepts, water quality-friendly lawn care and associated social science, and also designed and conducted a keypad poll on environmentally friendly practices so audience members could view the group responses and discuss them.
Results: One striking result from the informal poll indicated that over two-thirds of attendees are noting moderate to high demand for environmentally friendly products and services among their customers. They list a variety of concerns among customers, including potential harm to children and pets and unintended harm to pollinators, water quality and wildlife. Post-session questionnaires indicate that knowledge among participants increased "quite a bit" based on the contributions by N.H. Sea Grant. Close to 90% of participants indicated an intention to make changes or try new plants/products/ideas. About half of respondents said they applied knowledge gained at prior conferences.

N.H. Sea Grant helps town of Newington manage threats to water resources

N.H. Sea Grant's sustainable coastal development staff worked with partners to educate community leaders and residents of a N.H. town about practices that reduce the likelihood of pollutant runoff and leaching into an impaired estuary.
Relevance: Community leaders are especially concerned over a recent EPA designated impairment for nitrogen in New Hampshire's Great Bay Estuary. Coastal communities are asking for help educating their residents about reducing polluted runoff.
Response: N.H. Sea Grant, UNH Cooperative Extension and the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership are leading coordination and collaboration among members of the N.H. Natural Resource Outreach Coalition (N.H.'s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials program) to help N.H.'s 42 coastal watershed communities reduce pollution to coastal and estuarine waters. In 2015, they assisted the conservation commission from Newington, N.H., to host a community education event focused on reducing nonpoint source pollution from lawn care and septic system maintenance. One-third of Newington's properties are shoreland and all of the residential properties in town have onsite wastewater systems. Featured presenters included a Cooperative Extension agriculture educator and a septic installer who provided information to over 30 participants as well as opportunities for follow-up site visits. In 2016, the Newington Conservation Commission will continue its public outreach efforts with assistance from N.H. Sea Grant by hosting a workshop on the state's Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act.
Results: Post-session questionnaires were very positive and indicate that participants learned new information and that most are willing to change a house and/or yard care habit as a result.

N.H. Sea Grant helps town of Exeter manage threats to water resources

Driven in part by an impaired local estuary, community leaders in a coastal watershed town in N.H. are looking for technical assistance with outreach as they build support for a fertilizer initiative in their town. N.H. Sea Grant staff worked with partners to educate community leaders and residents, through collaborative and iterative engagement, about residential practices that can reduce nutrient runoff into coastal waters.
Relevance: Community leaders are especially concerned over a recent EPA designated impairment for nitrogen in New Hampshire's Great Bay Estuary. Coastal communities are asking for help educating their residents about reducing polluted runoff.
Response: N.H. Sea Grant, UNH Cooperative Extension (UNHCE) and the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership are leading coordination and collaboration among members of the N.H. Natural Resource Outreach Coalition (N.H.'s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials program) to help N.H.'s 42 coastal watershed communities to reduce pollution to coastal and estuarine waters. In 2015, N.H. Sea Grant and UNHCE worked with a newly convened municipal committee in Exeter, N.H., to help them become better educated about reducing nutrient runoff from lawns and to plan a public outreach event for spring of 2016. The subcommittee sought information and guidance as they build public support for a fertilizer initiative that will result in restricted use of fertilizers in town. N.H. Sea Grant staff introduced the subcommittee to water quality-based recommendations for lawn cultural practices such as planting, watering, cutting, aerating and fertilizing, as well as recommendations from social science for lawn care outreach. This was followed by a presentation and discussion with a UNHCE agricultural educator on types and uses of fertilizers.
Results: Plans are underway for a lawn care clinic in Exeter in spring of 2016 that will teach participants practical skills for attaining an attractive, healthy lawn that protects Exeter's residents and rivers from polluted runoff.

N.H. Sea Grant provides water resource protection training to volunteers

N.H. Sea Grant trains volunteers, like Master Gardeners and Natural Resource Stewards, in concepts of sustainable development, stormwater management and water resource protection to increase their knowledge and enthusiasm and potentially that of those they reach. These volunteers are opinion leaders and influential community members.
Relevance: N.H. Sea Grant and University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension (UNHCE) train hundreds of volunteers each year who work on natural resource-related projects. These volunteers are typically influential members of their communities and help disseminate new knowledge and best practices within their circles.
Response: N.H. Sea Grant staff help educate natural resource professionals and volunteers within the state by serving as trainers on coastal and water resource topics. During spring 2015, approximately 16 master gardeners, who are opinion leaders of landscape and gardening practices and can be instrumental in promoting water quality-friendly practices, participated in a session delivered by N.H. Sea Grant about stormwater concepts, management approaches and residential pollution reduction practices. N.H. Sea Grant staff also presented similar information to 18 professionals and volunteers in the UNHCE Natural Resources Stewards training course offered through a local technical college for credit. The November 2015 presentation was based on a community guide developed by N.H. Sea Grant with the UNH Stormwater Center and UNHCE. The training team incorporated use of the Watershed Game which helps participants learn about nutrient management by highlighting the necessity for watershed-wide action in order to reduce actual pollutant loads.
Results: University Extension volunteers are drawn in through their interest in agriculture or natural resources. This interest opens doors for them to learn related information on marine and water resources and the effects of development. N.H. Sea Grant increases the knowledge and enthusiasm of trained extension volunteers by delivering volunteer training on these topics.

2014

N.H. Sea Grant staff win award for innovative internship program
Four staff members representing N.H. Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension won the 2014 Academic Engagement Award issued by UNH Cooperative Extension for their work to improve the experience of student interns. Recognizing that summer interns often worked in isolation and without peer support, the award recipients organized two gatherings during the summer to introduce interns to each other and to a wider audience of partners to enhance communication and professional networking, as well as to increase opportunities for feedback, collaboration and assistance. At a final meeting of all interns and hosts, interns presented their projects and reflected on their summer experiences, allowing them to practice presentation skills and enabling the mentors to learn about the work of all of the interns. Interns stated that the series of meetings created a better experience for them than if they had not been able to network, and the hosts learned ways to provide a more meaningful internship experience by getting feedback from each other and from the interns.

NHSG develops intern community with UNH Cooperative Extension
N.H. Sea Grant staff worked with colleagues from UNH Cooperative Extension (UNHCE) to bring interns together across multiple programs (e.g., UNHCE, N.H. EPSCoR, and the Stewardship Network:New England), including two interns working with N.H. Sea Grant staff in the Coastal Communities and Healthy Coastal Ecosystems focus areas. This intern community, established in the summer of 2014, has helped create connections with UNH students, increase awareness of N.H Sea Grant with faculty advisors and professors, and involve interns in events that help link NHSG’s work with their academic programs.

NHSG marine educators take residents and visitors cruising
Public cruises aboard the University of New Hampshire’s research vessel have a solid track record over nearly two decades of increasing participants’ knowledge and connectedness to New Hampshire's coastal water resources. The cruises are day-long, activity-based educational events that are open to the public and delivered by Sea Grant extension staff and trained UNH Marine Docents aboard the Gulf Challenger. During the 2014 season, these cruises into the Great Bay were rebranded as Scientist for a Day cruises. Over 90% of participants on UNH cruises into Great Bay reported an increase in knowledge of the estuary’s physical and chemical characteristics and of its inhabitants, including plankton, eelgrass, oysters, horseshoe crabs and juvenile fish, as well as of the interactions between the biotic and abiotic. They also learn about the tools and techniques used by scientists conducting research in the bay and and at UNH’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory. Over 90% also reported an increase in their feelings of connectedness, curiousity and concern for the estuary. Feedback is consistently positive about the value and quality of the educational experience. Cruises provide public access to the resources and research of the University and are featured from time to time in newspapers and news reports. Three cruises were offered during the summer of 2014, providing over 60 participants and 15 volunteer educators from the UNH Marine Docent Program with first hand experiences in estuarine science.

N.H. Sea Grant helps coastal communities manage threats to water resources
NHSG’s sustainable coastal development staff educated communities about the connections between land use and water quality and quantity during 2014. Community leaders were especially concerned over a recent EPA designated impairment for nitrogen in N.H.’s Great Bay Estuary. N.H. Sea Grant is one of three organizations (along with UNH Cooperative Extension and the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership) leading coordination and collaboration among members of the N.H. Natural Resource Outreach Coalition (N.H.’s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials program) in helping the 42 coastal watershed communities to reduce pollution to coastal and estuarine waters. Because they surround a nitrogen-impaired estuary, communities in coastal New Hampshire want help educating their residents about reducing polluted runoff. For example, during the summer and fall of 2014, NHSG staff worked with partners and the town of Newington’s conservation commission to plan and start implementing a community education program focused on reducing nonpoint source pollution. Working through a deliberative process, the commission targeted septic and lawn care and maintenance as their focus for a public workshop scheduled for early 2015.

N.H. Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension promote water quality-friendly lawn care and landscaping
NHSG staff worked with UNH Cooperative Extension (UNHCE) agricultural specialists in the coastal region to provide education during 2014 to gardening enthusiasts and professional landscapers on practices that reduce the likelihood of nutrient runoff and leaching into coastal waters. As a result, NHSG and UNHCE were tapped by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services (DES) to serve as partners in delivering trainings for coastal audiences that address coastal issues. The trainings draw content from DES’s statewide Soak Up the Rain and UNHCE’s Landscaping at the Water’s Edge programs. A grant from NOAA is supporting a concentrated effort to deliver three related trainings in the first half of 2015. Additionally, N.H. Sea Grant and UNHCE are integrated into implementation plans for the latest version of the DES Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Plan, which is required by EPA. The efforts of extension staff are integrated into the lawn care and landscaping chapter, which resulted in support for them in 2014 and beyond to deliver programs that align closely with the DES NPS Management Plan objectives.

N.H. Sea Grant provides water resource protection training to volunteers
NHSG and UNH Cooperative Extension played a major role in educating numerous natural resource professionals and volunteers within the state during 2014. Sea Grant staff often serve as trainers on coastal and water resource topics for long-standing volunteer programs. For example, sustainable coastal development staff presented information on stormwater concepts and management in the Natural Resources Stewards training course, a credit course offered through a local technical college, for 27 professionals and volunteers. The November 2014 presentation was based on a community guide, Protecting Water Resources and Managing Stormwater: A Bird's Eye View in New Hampshire and Throughout New England, developed by Sea Grant in conjunction with the UNH Stormwater Center and Cooperative Extension. The training included use of the Watershed Game, which was developed by the Northland Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) team to help participants learn about nutrient loading and reductions from implementing best practices as well as the necessity for watershed-wide action in order to reduce actual pollutant loads. The UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners are another volunteer group that plays a particularly important role in helping to disseminate landscape and gardening practices that are more water quality-friendly. During 2014, approximately 50 master gardeners participated in training sessions about stormwater concepts, management approaches and residential pollution reduction practices organized and led by N.H. Sea Grant.

N.H. Sea Grant publication describes innovative stormwater management implementation in a coastal town
As a result of a U.S. Forest Service grant, NHSG staff completed a report during the fall of 2014 on a collaborative project in Portsmouth, N.H., to install three tree box filters (innovative stormwater management devices) in an urban setting. The report accompanies a technical report by the UNH Stormwater Center describing stormwater treatment performance results of one of the tree box filters in this field setting. The report describes the project and results for a lay audience of community leaders interested in trying to implement newer practices. It includes information about the project and photographs of the site preparation, box installation and recommended trees to help familiarize audiences with what to expect. The project was a joint effort by the Stormwater Center, the N.H. Division of Forests and Lands Urban Forestry Center, N.H. Sea Grant, and UNH Cooperative Extension. A NHSG communications staff member is completing additional desktop publishing before the document, Treating Stormwater with a Tree Box Filter in a Coastal New England City: A Field Study of Effectiveness and Community Guidance for Installations, is more widely distributed.

N.H. Sea Grant and scientists partner with municipal leaders to research and reduce nitrogen in Great Bay
The Nitrogen Sources Collaborative Advisory Board is a team of leaders from New Hampshire’s coastal communities that have been working with UNH scientists, N.H. Sea Grant, and the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to better understand nitrogen sources and pathways to Great Bay. After helping to shape research questions and meeting regularly with scientists to learn about research findings, the advisory board met with NHSG and partners in a mini nitrogen summit in summer 2014 to review the state of nitrogen science amongst all partners and to inform the development of final guidance materials with the advisory board. This work will lead to a guidance publication for area decision-makers based on local research needs and findings for reducing nitrogen in non-point source pollution.