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Recap of our 2018 State of the Waters Conference

Elizabeth Burakowski, UNH

Our keynote speaker was Elizabeth Burakowski, an assistant research professor at the University of New Hampshire. UNH has been collecting significant data on how our local environment is already changing, and has been using that data to project how our local area will change in the coming years.  

Port Media, Newburyport’s non-profit public access station, filmed the entire event and edited it down to three of the five presentations. At the top of this post you’ll find a link to Professor Burakowski’s presentation.

Professor Burakowski noted there are a variety of scenarios, each based on how humankind reacts globally to climate change in the coming years. Our local sea levels will rise from 1.5 to 2 feet by 2100, and our temperatures will increase 4.4 to 7.7 farenheit. New England’s snowy winters will disappear, and our climate will be similar to what Virginia’s climate is like today. The region will also experience more intense rainfall events — tropical downpours.
“This means a very warm climate,” she said. “This means temperate forests growing in Canada where we now have tundra.”  

Currently, New England is already experience a significant change in its climate. UNH has been documenting key indicators at a test site in central New Hampshire, and has found a general depletion of the ice pack and a lengthening of the so-called “mud season.” This has significant impact on native species.

Professor Burakowski also presented several solutions that can be applied at the local level to mitigate climate change, such as promoting energy efficiency and renewables, conserving ecosystems, and transitioning to food sources that have lower carbon footprints. 

Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday

Newburyport has one of the region’s leaders in tackling climate change and promoting conservation and sustainability. Mayor Holaday detailed the city’s efforts over the past 8 years to lower the city’s carbon footprint and prepare itself for rising sea levels.
She also gave an impassioned speech on what needs to be done to tackle some of the issues that plague the Merrimack River today — chief among them the frequent release  of sewage into the river by municipal plants that serve Haverhill, greater Lawrence, greater Lowell, Nashua and Manchester NH.

Mayor Holaday recommended that Merrimack River data collection be vastly upgraded, the EPA revisit the consent orders that allow sewage plants to dump into the river, a coalition of Merrimack Valley committees be formed to work together on river-related issues, and cooperation between New Hampshire and Massachusetts be strengthened.
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Morning panel
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The first panel discussion looked at local and regional approaches to resiliency, and drew a lively discussion from our panelists — Justin Kates, Director, Office of Emergency Management, Nashua, N.H.; Sarah J. White, State Hazard Mitigation Officer, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency; and Gabby Queenan, Policy Director, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. The panel was moderated by MRWC Engagement and Communications Coordinator John Macone.

After the panel discussion, the gathering broke for lunch and enjoyed a special presentation by students from the Newburyport Climate Cafe.  
Port Media’s video of the morning panel is included above.

EPA presentation and afternoon panel

Representatives of the regional Environmental Protection Agency hosted a presentation on a new initiative the EPA has just unveiled to map the sources of pollution, water quality data collection, and other key statistics on a GIS mapping platform. The GIS “Story Map” will soon be made publicly available — the MRWC will stay on top of this and will post information as it becomes available.

The final presentation of the day focused on “Shoring Up the Policy Agenda and Promoting Watershed Cooperation.” Panelists included Kate Bowditch, President, Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust; Sherry Godlewski, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Co-Chair of Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup and New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Workgroup; John Terry, Executive Director, Gulf of Maine Institute; and Will Abbott, Vice President for Policy & Reservation Stewardship, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. It was moderated by Rusty Russell, executive director of the MRWC.

Port Media’s video coverage of the afternoon panel is included above.

Thank you to our 2018 State of the Waters Sponsors

The 2018 State of the Waters conference was the largest the MRWC has sponsored to date, and many attendees commented that it was an extremely productive event.  It wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the generous support of our sponsors—we’d like to thank them for their support!  They are:

Merrimack College Center for Sustainability and Environment
Matter Communications
Environmental Strategies and Management
Hillside Center for Sustainable Living  
Sea Level Oyster Bar
Strem Chemical
Worthen Industries
 
We would also like to thank our host—the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge —for graciously opening its doors to our daylong gathering and helping us provide a well-organized experience.