Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019ME121B

Coastal Maine Estuaries (CoMEE) response to freshwater runoff

Institute: Maine
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-05-31 End Date: 2020-05-30
Total Federal Funds: $35,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $70,118

Principal Investigators: Dr. Lauren Ross

Abstract: This proposal aims to close information gaps necessary for decision support tools that can be used to predict the response time to contaminated freshwater runoff into coastal Maine estuaries (CoMEE). This work will build on the knowledge base and framework created by the New England Sustainability Consortium’s (NEST) Safe Beaches and Shellfish Project. The NEST project aimed to help local natural resource managers make sciencebased decisions on the closure of shellfish harvesting areas in response to bacterial pollution through consideration of freshwater and pollution source, delivery, and residence time (SDR) culprits causing coastal water quality problems. Built from requests by stakeholders (i.e., Maine Department of Marine Resources (MEDMR) and Maine Shellfish Advisory Council members) for specific types of information and management resources, the NEST project provides a first order approximation to residence times of freshwater inflows into Maine coastal waters. This project will complement and advance the NEST model by providing a validation tool for initial land-sea connection estimates and providing a basis for higher order approximation of freshwater outflow dynamics in coupled coastal watershed-estuary systems. The project objective will be addressed through field campaigns and analytical modeling tasks, including measurements collected in the wet and dry season in two coastal Maine estuaries that represent a range of land-sea connection conditions in Maine and that are of interest to the MEDMR because of shellfish contamination problems. We propose to implement this project with continued collaboration with local stakeholders. The field measurements will be used to develop idealized hydrodynamic simulations (CoMEE models) of two estuaries on the Maine coast: the Jordan River with a relatively small nontidal watershed contributing freshwater flows to a straight rectangular channel, and the Medomak River with a relatively large nontidal watershed of irregular shape with multiple subembayments that create more complicated hydraulic conditions. The hydrodynamic measurements and simulations will be used to describe the range of land-sea connections that exist on the Maine coast and quantify uncertainty in prediction of freshwater flow exchange in estuaries under varied scenarios of nontidal watershed surface flow output and tidal evacuation. Results will be compiled and organized to contribute to decision support tools for local policy makers by producing detailed estimates of freshwater evacuation times in the Jordan and Medomak Rivers. The results will provide reference conditions important to application of the land-sea connection information produced by the NEST coastal pollution vulnerability analysis. The outcomes of this work will provide new information that push forward the frontier of knowledge among coastal stakeholder communities, expand the capacity to predict coastal pollution problems, and support the development of decision tools and mitigation strategies for problematic freshwater flows affecting coastal Maine estuaries and shellfishing industries