The Buzzards Bay Guardian Award is the highest honor given by the Coalition. This award recognizes those who have demonstrated outstanding service in the cleanup, restoration, or protection of the Bay. What’s more, Bay Guardians are unsung heroes and heroines of conservation. Their public recognition not only celebrates what they have achieved for the Bay, but helps to inspire others to make a difference themselves.
At this year’s Annual Meeting, the Coalition presented a posthumous Guardian Award to Michael Deland, the former New England administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who passed away on January 8. Among his many achievements, Michael Deland was instrumental in the ongoing restoration of New Bedford Harbor and in pushing the city to comply with the Clean Water Act. He led the effort to construct a secondary wastewater treatment plant at Ford Rodman and was involved in the early Superfund cleanup planning of the harbor. Furthermore, Deland set an important precedent — later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — that protects wetlands from destruction by requiring developers to seek out alternative sites. A resident of Marion, Deland was also an avid sailor and an advocate for people with disabilities. This award thanked Mike for over four decades of public service; his voice will be greatly missed in our community. His wife, Jane Deland, accepted the Guardian Award on his behalf.
Michael Gagne, Mattapoisett Town Administrator, received a Guardian Award for his strong support of land conservation, wetlands protection, and regional cooperation on environmental issues throughout his 35-year career. As chief administrative officer in both Dartmouth and Mattapoisett, Gagne ensured that these towns were strong partners to the Coalition in protecting land, including the significant tracts of land we’ve preserved within the Mattapoisett River Valley. Recently, he has been an instrumental supporter of the Mattapoisett Land Trust’s efforts to secure town money to preserve Pine Island Pond. He also supported the Coalition and the town of Mattapoisett in litigation to require a homeowner to restore illegally filled wetlands on Eel Pond. He served as chair of the Buzzards Bay Action Committee, a regional organization.
For her leadership in wastewater cleanup on Cape Cod, the Coalition awarded a third Bay Guardian Award to Wendy Northcross, the chief executive officer of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. Wendy has been instrumental in furthering the Cape’s Blue Economy Plan, which compels Cape Cod towns to protect clean water and use strong local connections to the water to grow new economic opportunities. This work has included advocating for water quality testing and wastewater infrastructure funds. Wendy’s work on the Chamber of Commerce most recently led to a major victory: the creation of the Water Protection trust fund, which collects tax from short-term rentals and dedicates the funds toward wastewater management on Cape Cod and the Islands.
In addition to bestowing this year’s Guardian Awards, at the Annual Meeting the Coalition celebrated another great year of achievements for Buzzards Bay. These included significant efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution through septic system upgrades and improve wastewater treatment infrastructure in the Upper Bay; carrying on the legacy of the Westport Fishermen’s Association following our merger; and engaging the public in outdoor exploration through Bay Adventures, youth programs, the growing Onset Bay Center, and the Swim, Run, and Watershed Ride.