The Buzzards Bay Coalition in Marion

The relatively new Buzzards Bay Coalition science laboratory and baykeeper boat building opened in October at the new location at Route 6 and Spring Street. It will now become a future landmark for clean water stewardship and activity centerpiece in Marion.

From this base of operation, the residential R/V Buzzards Baykeeper can be launched for water quality collection and monitoring all the way from Little Compton in Rhode Island to Woods Hole in Cape Cod. As illustrated, it will provide an expanded environmental playground for the Coalition marine dolphin mascot whose purpose of identification for children is spelled out on its apron in the initials C. W. for clean water.

The historic national focus of concern about clean water was brought to a legislative turning point with the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1986, primarily pioneered by the late Senator and previous Governor of Rhode Island, John H. Chaffee. John was my family’s next-door neighbor and close friend. He built his house with a panoramic view of the Potowomut River in East Greenwich. It was right next to our dairy farm that had historically been a Narragansett hunting and fishing ground. There, when I was 14 years old at the start of World War II, my father who was in the Air Force was reported missing in action over Germany. A Native American who worked on our farm adopted me as a blood brother.

Subsequently, and in my teenage years growing up, I walked with him in his ancestors’ footsteps along the waterfront that had also inspired John Chaffee towards a career in environmental conservation.

Today, the Coalition’s focus of conservation involves both land and water. They watch trails, stream flow, and rainwater when it bleeds into the estuaries with harmful pollutants adverse to reproduction. You will know when this raises their coastal red flag for consuming shellfish.

Another focus is in the local herring migrations where the magical phenomenon is known as “anadromous,” meaning the migration up streams from the sea to spawn. My native mentor taught me the meaning of this natural historic heritage that lasted to this very day. Later in life when I became president of the Berkshire Fish Hatchery Board of Directors, one of the members was the late David Cathcart who had been a vital supporting attorney to John Chaffee in Washington. Together, we did research for the Connecticut River Salmon Restoration Program and were awarded a U.S.F.W. National Partnership Award in Washington’s Rayburn Building. We had developed a process in our hatch house to imprint fingerling Atlantic salmon with river acids so that when they later migrated along the coast, they would recognize chemicals of the mother river and return to a location favorable for their own spawning.

Thanks to you as a reader and The Wandererfolks for allowing me to take you on my own personal bay walk. Let me leave you with the Native American conviction that this land is not ours to own or sell because it will be passed on to our children as caretakers and then future generations. This stewardship philosophy is the very heart of The Buzzards Bay Coalition, now expanded to Marion.

By George B. Emmons

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