Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018ME331B

Estuary Margin Watershed Characterization to Compare Coastal Bacteria Pollution Vulnerability in Maine

Institute: Maine
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $37,818 Total Non-Federal Funds: $75,672

Principal Investigators: Sean Smith, Kate Beard, Bridie McGreavy

Abstract: This proposal focuses on research activities that will advance the knowledge and understanding of coastal watershed-estuary systems initiated by the recent EPSCoR funded project focused on Safe Beaches and Shellfish Areas and led by the collaborative and interdisciplinary New England Sustainability Consortium (NEST). The NEST project had a goal of equipping resource managers to make science-based decisions about the closure of beaches and shellfish beds in response to bacterial pollution. Working with stakeholder partners, including representatives from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (MEDMR), the Healthy Beaches Program, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Shellfish Advisory Council, we identified the needs for research and partnership preferences that have helped us partially accomplishing this goal. Managers expressed a need to assess differences in watershed responses to rain and runoff, so a biophysical objective of the effort was to complete a coastal pollution vulnerability analysis based on clustering of coupled watershed-estuary systems along the coast of Maine. Results included the clustering of coastal settings and their associations with bacteria pollution, providing a proof of concept. One research outcome was the identification of gaps in mapping and characterizing the areas directly adjacent to estuaries that project investigators and the MEDMR know to have substantial influence on coastal bacteria pollution trends. This proposed project will concentrate on those gap areas that we refer to as the estuary margin watershed areas (MWAs) by delineating them and determining surface flow pathways to tidal estuary water bodies that will also be newly identified. Once delineated relative to estuary locations, analyses of their associations with bacteria pollution will be performed using an expanded clustering approach and metrics that describe the identified estuaries and the non-tidal and margin watershed areas that contribute surface flows to them. The spatial data and vulnerability analyses will be developed in coordination with MEDMR and other stakeholders involved with shellfish harvesting and management. Results will be presented in stakeholder guided formats with use of estuary reference sites to provide interpretative descriptions of the information, its uses and limitations.