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For more than 23 years, Joe Payne has been working with fishermen, businesses, government agencies, citizens, and others to advocate for the health of Casco Bay.

In his role as Casco Baykeeper, he has responded to citizen concerns about pollution in Casco Bay, advocated compliance with environmental laws, and worked to resolve pollution problems threatening the Bay.

Joe was the first staff person hired by Friends of Casco Bay. He was only the seventh “Waterkeeper” in the world and founding member of WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE, an international environmental movement that safeguards our waterways.

This past week, Joe announced his retirement.

In a statement posted on the Friends of Casco Bay web site, here’s some of what Joe had to say:

“Casco Bay runs in my veins. I was introduced to the Bay in utero as my mother traveled between Peaks Island and mainland Portland. Having been raised on the island, the natural wonders of the Bay were my playground. I would go on to study marine biology and dedicate my professional career to understanding the dynamics of our coastal waters.

“My love of Casco Bay makes what I am about to share with you hard to say. After nearly 24 years of working to protect this amazing place, as of early January 2015 I will be retiring as Friends of Casco Bay’s Casco Baykeeper. I want to spend more time with ‘the Keeper of the Keeper,’ my wonderful wife Kim, and I’d like to spend enough time on my other interests to call them hobbies.”

KMA salutes Joe and all he has done for Casco Bay, greater Portland, and beyond. Joe is a prime example of how one person can make a huge difference by serving his community and others (KMA’s president, Kim Anania, is a Member of the Board of Directors of Friends of Casco Bay).

Some of Joe’s accomplishments as Casco Baykeeper include:

  • He launched a volunteer water quality monitoring program to collect baseline data at multiple sites around the Bay.
  • The US Coast Guard and Governor Angus King recognized him for his work in the recovery effort from the Julie N oil spill in 1996.
  • He conducted water quality sampling and helped restore clam flats which lead to reopening of Casco Bay clam flats (a model emulated along the entire coast of Maine).
  • He was the impetus behind the rescue and relocation of 35,000 lobsters from Portland Harbor’s shipping channel during dredging in 1998 and 2013.
  • He championed a federal “No Discharge Area” designation and a state law which stopped cruise ships from dumping their wastewater in Casco Bay.
  • He warned about the impact of nitrogen pollution on the health of the ocean and served on the 16-member Ocean Acidification Commission, which just released recommendations for dealing with coastal and ocean acidification.
  • He worked with the Portland City Council on multi-million dollar construction projects designed to stem the flow of raw sewage, industrial wastes, and storm water into Casco Bay.
  • He helped launch BayScaping to teach homeowners how to have lush lawns without toxic pesticides and fertilizers.
  • He co-founded Waterkeeper Alliance, along with environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
  • He has served on a number of state and regional oil spill advisory committees, including being a key advisor to Gulf of Mexico Waterkeepers confronting the Deep Water Horizon oil rig disaster.

Watch Joe’s recent appearance on WCHS TV’s 207 here:  wcsh6.com

To honor Joe, the board of Friends of Casco Bay has bestowed on him the title of “Casco Baykeeper, Emeritus” and is creating the “Emeritus Fund” to help strengthen advocacy efforts on behalf of the health of Casco Bay. Donations to the fund can be made at donate.cascobay.org/pages/emeritus-fund.

Friends of Casco Bay is holding a public celebration to wish Joe a happy and healthy retirement and thank him for his efforts over the years on Wednesday, January 21, from 5 to 8pm at DiMillo’s Restaurant, 25 Long Wharf, Commercial Street, Portland. Please RSVP to slyman@cascobay.org. You can learn more about the event at cascobay.org/celebrate-joe.

Joe looks forward to assisting (in a volunteer capacity) the next Baykeeper.