- Front Royal Dam Meeting
- South River Science Team Meeting
- George Washington National Forest Planning Meeting
- Upper James Resource Conservation and Development Meeting
- Steelhead Sampling on Muddy Run (Jackson River Tributary)
Front Royal Dam Meeting
Just a few weeks ago a 9 year old boy was playing on the dam in Front Royal, fell into the water, and drowned. This is the second person to lose their life at the dam since winter, the first was a kayaker. Although the town was already taking steps to remove the dam, the dam has now been declared an emergency and the process has greatly accelerated. However, before the dam can be taken out much paperwork and a historical review of the dam must be completed. The town of Front Royal purchased the dam in 1904 with the intent to generate hydropower. Sometime after 1910 they accomplished this goal and the dam supplied power to the town until it was abandoned in 1930. Questions still remain as to the actual age of the dam and the original purpose it was built to serve.
South River Science Team Meeting
Since the South River Science Team began conducting research in 2000 over 8000 fish including 37 species have been sampled on the South River and its control sites. The team has not only studied fish, but also macro invertebrates, arachnids, and birds. As one might expect, basically all animals and plants that live in the river and all animals whose food chains depend on the river have been impacted by the Mercury contamination in the water. Although great strides have been made to determine where the Mercury is, how much of it is there, and how to best inform people of health risks, one large question still remains. This is- Where is the Mercury being methylated and how can this methylation be stopped? This question is extremely important because inorganic (or non-methylated Mercury) is not harmful to living things but once it is methylated it is extremely toxic.
George Washington Nation Forest Planning Meeting
This past week I went to my first Forest Planning Meeting. Some people might cringe at the thought of sitting in a meeting for four hours talking about a forest, but for me, it was really interesting! This meeting was one in a long string of meetings which will ultimately end in a “preferred alternative” being chosen and submitted to the Regional Forester. At this point, different alternatives for a forest plan are being developed which are supposed to cover the range of management options for the forest. The alternatives outline how different issues such as access, riparian zones, recreation, and timber harvest could change under different management styles. It’s important to point out that some issues, such as designated wilderness areas and cultural/heritage areas, will stay consistent under all plans. Ultimately the forest plan which is currently being created will govern the all decisions and use of the forest for the next 10-15 years. For me, one of the most interesting things about the meeting was seeing the different groups that were represented, from the Southern Environmental Law Center, to Mountain Bikers, to Timber Harvesters, and watching them interact. I learned a lot about how the forest is currently managed, the planning regulations which have to be followed, and the different uses which will be mixed and combined.
Upper James Resource Conservation and Development Meeting
At the Upper James RC & D meeting I learned a lot more about the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollutant program. When the EPA lists a stream as “impaired” a TMDL assessment is completed to figure out what the stream is being polluted with. Then recommendations are made which, if carried out, should reduce pollutants in the stream to below EPA standards. The next phase of the pollutant program is implementation. In this phase, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is charged with taking the recommendation to the community and working to actually get the stream clean. Often, other organizations like the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), and other community groups are involved. Because the Chesapeake Bay was declared impaired, the TMDL program has gone into effect. Now, tributaries all over Virginia which flow into the Bay, like the James River, have to reduce their load of Nitrogen and Phosphorus. Although the allocations for each river many not be easy to reach, I am happy to see real interest in cleaning our bay.
Steelhead Sampling on Muddy Run
One day this week I took a break from the meetings and helped sample Muddy Run, a tributary to the Jackson River, which leads to Lake Moomaw. Steelhead trout have been introduced to this tributary and others in hopes of creating a natural, sustainable trout population in the lake. Although we did locate some Steelhead trout during our sampling, it’s too soon to tell if they will survive and successfully out-migrate to the lake. If they do, then hopefully they’ll survive to maturity and make it back to the tributary to spawn. Stay tuned to see what happens over the next few years…