Skip to main content

About Eight Towns and the Bay (6/00)


On This Page
Coastal Resources
8T&B Mission
Mass. Bays Program
8T&B Operations

Working with Communities to Protect the Region's Coastal Resources

Rockport, Gloucester, Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, and Amesbury

What is Eight Towns and the Bay?

Eight Towns and the Bay (8T&B) is a coalition of nine communities located along Ipswich Bay ("the Bay").


Related Page
Color Map of
8T&B Region


Our coalition includes representatives from these communities and also includes educators, state and local officials, nonprofit organizations, and interested citizens who are concerned with protecting and restoring the area's coastal environment. Our group is unique in that we bring issues of local concern to the attention of state and federal agencies.

How We're Working with Member Communities

We are working with local officials and the general public to:

  • Prepare grant applications for state, federal, and private funding sources. 8T&B has secured in excess of $500,000 over five years to our member communities.

  • Facilitate communication between local and state officials and serve as a coastal information clearinghouse.

  • Carry out educational programs, including a Coastal Speakers Bureau and a quarterly newsletter.

  • Provide planning and technical assistance in protecting and restoring coastal habitat, reducing and preventing coastal pollution, enhancing fisheries resources, and managing land use and growth.

Technical Assistance and Grantwriting. 8T&B has facilitated and prepared grant applications for projects in growth planning, wetland restoration, nonpoint source pollution, and other key coastal issues.

Our Coastal Resources

The Eight Towns and the Bay region, which stretches from Rockport to Salisbury, includes the more than 15,000 acres of salt marsh known as the Great Marsh. The region's extensive and unique barrier beach, marsh, estuarine, and riverine ecosystems provide habitat for a multitude of animal and plant species.

To emphasize the importance of the area, much of the region has been formally designated by the state as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

The region's traditional industries such as fishing, shellfishing, and farming, as well as newer industries such as tourism and recreation all contribute to local economies and are dependent on clean water and habitat.

Wetland Restoration and Monitoring. 8T&B cosponsors a volunteer wetland health monitoring program. Here volunteers are documenting salt marsh vegetation in Essex. 8T&B is also working closely with communities to remove restrictions to historic tidal flow, resulting in restored salt marsh.

What are the Threats to our Coastal Resources?

Increased development and human activities in our once rural communities are impacting water quality and habitat in the rivers, estuaries and coastal waters. The resulting nonpoint source pollution has led to a host of natural resource and human health problems.

Shellfish beds throughout the region are subject to rainfall closures, and many are permanently closed to harvesting due to high bacteria concentrations. Invasive wetland plants and animals and stormwater runoff threaten the health of the Great Marsh. Planning for growth in the region is a major challenge for our communities but is absolutely essential to preserve and restore our coastal environment.

Great Marsh Education. 8T&B produced educational displays describing the values of and threats to salt marshes. Twelve of these can be seen throughout the 8T&B region. 8T&B also produced Voices of the Great Marsh, a video documentary about the Great Marsh and its advocates.

What is the 8TB Mission?

Eight Towns and the Bay Committee (8T&B) is dedicated to the protection of our coastal waters and watersheds on the upper North Shore of Massachusetts Bay. 8T&B works with communities and the general public to foster stewardship of coastal resources by heightening public awareness of solutions to pollution problems, providing technical assistance, and supporting local research and education projects.

8T&B is sponsored by the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission and the Massachusetts Bays Program (MBP). MBP is funded under the Clean Water Act through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

8T&B is one of five MBP local committees. Committee Members are appointed by the chief elected officials in their communities and meet monthly. MVPC began providing staff support to 8T&B in 1993.

What is the Massachusetts Bays Program (MBP)?


Anadromous Fish Restoration and Stewardship. 8T&B cosponsors a volunteer alewife stewardship program in Gloucester, and has helped secure funding for fish ladder repairs on the Parker and Little Rivers.

The MBP is a cooperative federal, state and local environmental initiative focused on preserving the state's coastal waters.

A member of EPA's National Estuary Program, the MBP's ultimate objective is “to institutionalize the water quality management planning process to ensure that a dynamic action agenda is implemented to protect, maintain, and, where necessary, restore or improve the Massachusetts Bays ecosystem.” Some of the MBP's accomplishments include a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), bays-wide and embayment level scientific research, local demonstration projects and public education programs.

How does 8T&B operate?

The MBP is unique among National Estuary Programs in its setup of five “local governance committees” (LGCs) representing five coastal sub-regions: the Upper North Shore (Eight Towns and the Bay); Salem Sound; Metropolitan Area; South Shore; and Cape Cod. 8T&B was “born” in 1992 as a result of this initiative to develop networks between the Massachusetts Bays Program (MBP) and local governments. Each LGC reflects regional differences and needs, and each is coordinated by a staff person based at the regional planning commissions.

Committee members are appointed to 8T&B by the chief elected officials in their communities. The Committee meets monthly, and works closely with local officials, citizens, nonprofit groups and state agencies to promote coastal protection. It also works to enact the recommendations made by the CCMP. The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC) began providing staff and technical support to 8T&B in March of 1993.

What is the CCMP?

The MBP's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) is a blueprint for coordinated action which was signed by most coastal communities. Each community agreed to work towards implementing the recommendations of the CCMP. Participation is voluntary; there are no regulations attached to the plan. The centerpiece of the CCMP is Chapter 5, which contains 15 major action plans. There are about 70 actions within the major action plans. The 15 major action plans in the CCMP are listed as follows:

  1. Protect Public Health
  2. Protecting and Enhancing Shellfish Resources
  3. Protecting and Enhancing Coastal Habitat
  4. Reducing and Preventing Stormwater Pollution
  5. Reducing and Preventing Toxic Pollution
  6. Reducing and Preventing Oil Pollution
  7. Managing Municipal Wastewater
  8. Managing Boat Wastes and Marina Pollution
  9. Managing Dredging and Dredged Materials Disposal
  10. Reducing Beach Debris and Marine Floatables
  11. Protecting Nitrogen-Sensitive Embayments
  12. Enhancing Public Access and the Working Waterfront
  13. Planning for a Shifting Shoreline
  14. Managing Local Land Use and Growth
  15. Enhancing Public Education and Participation

Each major action plan in the CCMP contains a series of individual recommended actions, each of which is divided into eight sections: Rationale, Responsible Agent(s), Implementation Strategy, Legislation Required, Estimated Cost, Potential Funding Source(s), Target Date, and Further Information. Municipalities are listed as one of the responsible agents. Each LGC, with the support of the MBP, is charged with assisting municipalities in carrying out recommended actions that are relevant to those communities.

What do 8T&B members do?

8T&B representatives provide environmental stewardship to their respective communities. To do this effectively, each representative should develop a rapport with local officials, such as the following:

  • Conservation Commission
  • Planning Board
  • Board of Selectmen
  • Harbormaster
  • Department of Public Works

Representatives communicate their community's timely issues and concerns to the Committee and in turn, bring 8T&B “resources” and coastal priorities (set by 8T&B and the CCMP) back out to the community. 8T&B resources include: environmental information, grant information and assistance, state agency contacts and resources, and in some cases, funding (although this is very limited at the present time).