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PORTLAND — As important as it is for Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca to understand the bay, she said it’s just as important to know the people who live and work near it.
“One of the biggest accomplishments I want to have in the coming year is to get out there and meet as many people as possible,” she said.
Frignoca, of Cumberland, said one of her first tasks has been informing people about what she does.
“I’ve noticed that for as many who know what a baykeeper is, there are just as many who don’t,” she said.
According to Friends of Casco Bay’s website, the baykeeper is an advocate “who acts as the eyes, ears and voice of the bay.” The baykeeper’s job is to work with volunteers, businesses and members of the community to find solutions to problems facing the bay.
“My job will be to listen and work for solutions that protect the bay for its many uses,” Frignoca said. “I will continue working with communities in the watershed and responding to issues raised by members of the public.”
Frignoca said it’s important to hear people’s concerns so they can be addressed before problems become too serious.
“I’m here to meet with and listen to as many people as possible so we can work on solutions that are actually doable,” she said. “At Friends of Casco Bay, we’re proactive as well as reactive.”
In order to hear everyone’s ideas and concerns, Frignoca said she and the team at Friends of Casco Bay will have to more actively promote the work of the organization.
“I’d really like to increase the visibility of the position so people know where to get information or where to report issues and concerns,” she said. “We’re very big on letting people know what they can do.”
Frignoca is the third baykeeper. Casco Baykeeper Emeritus Joe Payne was hired by Friends of Casco Bay as the first baykeeper in 1991 and retired in January 2015. Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell had been serving as interim baykeeper until Frignoca started.
An environmental attorney, Frignoca most recently worked for Conservation Law Foundation in Portland on issues such as ocean and coastal acidification. She was also CLF’s clean water and clean air advocate.
She said she’d like to use her background to address similar issues as baykeeper.
“I’m looking forward to dealing with issues of ocean acidification and stormwater pollution,” she said. “It’s going to take creative solutions.”
Frignoca said there are many threats to the bay, but the biggest are pollutants from the atmosphere , tributaries and the land.
“The issues that are confronting the bay are so complex and so many,” she said.
Other issues include rising water temperatures and species that are coming into the bay in response. Frignoca said she will be looking at how to save the bay from the threats and, in some cases, how to work with the threats.
“How do we protect the bay for the future, or help the bay adapt to the threats we can’t change?” she said.
As baykeeper, Frignoca will also be educating people about the issues facing the bay. In March she will be giving a presentation in Rockland at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum on the effects of microbeads on clams and shellfish. The tiny plastic pieces are used as exfoliants in face wash, toothpaste, deodorant, and many other beauty products.
She is also working to protect the bay through legislation. She is lobbying on behalf of Friends of Casco Bay against proposed bill LD 1494, which would eliminate the requirement to report an oil spill of under 10 gallons. According to Frignoca, spills of this size account for 75-85 percent of ocean spills, and people need to be held accountable for them.
Frignoca said the love she has for the ocean has been lifelong, and her role as baykeeper will only strengthen it.
“I can’t remember a time that I was not a water person,” she said. “It’s at the core of who I am. I can’t imagine not doing this.”
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was hired by Friends of Casco Bay in October 2015 and started working to protect the bay in early January.