Monday 22 October 2018

Upper James Riverkeeper

The James RIVERKEEPER® Program was launched in 2001 when James River Association joined the Waterkeeper Alliance. The program includes the Lower James Riverkeeper and Upper James Riverkeeper, full-time on the water advocates for the right to protect and defend clean water and the environment. On any given day a Riverkeeper serves as a detective, an educator, a river ambassador or a scientist. The goal of this important core program is to maintain a constant vigil on the James River, monitoring its conditions, identifying problems and ensuring that solutions are executed properly.

Pat Calvert, the Upper James Riverkeeper, monitors the James River and its many upland tributaries from the fall line at Richmond to the headwaters in the mountains. His territory includes the non-tidal portion of the river. This area is comprised of a vast number of small streams, many of which cannot be floated by kayak or canoe and must be patrolled on foot. Only 20 percent of the watershed’s population live in the Upper James, but its waterways drain approximately 88% percent of the watershed’s land mass. Land use in this portion of the watershed is largely agricultural, with extensive poultry and forestry industries.

Prior to joining JRA in 2011, Pat served as an on-the-water educator and manager of the Virginia Watershed Education Program of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a position he led for 13 years. He was recognized as the 2011 Water Education Leader by the Virginia Resource-Use Education Council (VRUEC) for his education work. He earned his bachelor’s in environmental science from Auburn University and has worked in the nonprofit environmental education community sector for his entire professional career. He is a 2005 graduate of the Virginia Natural Resource Leadership Institute and has served on the board of directors of Rivanna Conservation Society. In addition to his official duties as a Riverkeeper, Pat is an avid fisherman and advocate for healthy waterways.

 River Monitoring

JRA's Riverkeepers monitor the length of the James River and its more than 15,000 miles of tributaries. You’ll find them on the water in a jon boat, kayak, canoe or doing river reconnaissance on foot and by vehicle 2 to 3 days each week.

RiverRats Program

JRA and its James Riverkeepers are recruiting the James River’s first line of citizen defense, the RiverRats. This program engages volunteers to patrol the James and its tributaries and to take action to protect and restore the entire watershed. Whether walking a neighborhood stream, kayaking a local river, or boating the wide reaches of the lower James, JRA RiverRats will document potential pollution sources and their effects while also reporting natural patterns in river hydrology and wildlife sightings. A scientific background is not required. Training and equipment will be provided.

RiverRats will be proactive in protecting their river by committing to action projects in their communities. By helping JRA keep watch over our waterways and inspiring their neighbors to choose clean water, RiverRats will play a vital role in protecting and restoring America’s Founding River.

Citizen Water Quality Monitor

Many portions of the James River and tributaries are currently impaired due to excessive harmful bacteria. And for those who swim or recreate in the River, bacteria is an invisible pollutant that can pose serious health threats. One of the most common questions JRA receives from the public is whether it is safe to swim in certain parts of the James River.  

JRA launched a water quality monitoring initiative in 2013 across the James River watershed. JRA uses volunteers as “citizen scientists”, collecting water samples and recording data to track the environmental health of the River. Sampling occurs weekly from May to September, and data is made available to the public on JRA's James River Watch website ( 


River Advocacy

The James River Association strives to provide a voice for the River on important policy issues. Through advocacy at the citizen, local, state and federal levels, JRA works to ensure the health of the James River. The Lower James Riverkeeper and the Upper James Riverkeeper are also committed to ensuring that environmental regulations and laws under the Clean Water Act are followed, enforced and strengthened so that local waters are swimmable, fishable and accessible, and are clean and safe source of drinking water.

Citizen Advocacy

JRA’s Riverkeepers are frequently asked to address civic and service organizations. Through this outreach, the Riverkeepers help people see water resources in a new light and offer them a new prospective on protecting the James River. JRA and the Riverkeepers call upon citizens to help ensure that local and state lawmakers who make decisions on their behalf every day know their interests and natural resources are represented and protected. Sign Up to Be Part of JRAction Network

Local Advocacy

Urban stormwater represents the fastest growing source of pollution to the James River and if not controlled threatens to undermine the progress that has been made towards restoring the health of the river. JRA believes that by adopting Low Impact Development (LID) large strides can be made in addressing stormwater issues. LID is an environmental-friendly development process that involves altering site planning, design and development processes so that the impact of stormwater on the surrounding land is reduced. To learn more about JRA’s LID work, check out our report on Promoting Low Impact Development in Virginia. JRA has also developed a stormwater model ordinance and conducted a study that provides local governments with cost-effective solutions for meeting stormwater pollution obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup. View the Full Report and the JRA Executive Summary.

State Advocacy

JRA’s main policy priority is to ensure that Virginia maintains its commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup effort and continues on the path towards restoring the James. To do so, adequate funding from the Virginia General Assembly and support from state agencies is imperative. Accordingly, JRA works closely with both of these audiences to ensure that the James River is a priority. In order to support continued progress in the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup, JRA released a study that will assist in the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup at the local level, by linking local water quality goals to those of the Bay. To learn more, click here.


Fish Kill Task Force

Each spring since 2007, smallmouth bass, sunfish and other fish in the Cowpasture, Jackson, Maury and James Rivers, and several tributaries, have been affected with lesions, fungal infections and fin rot.  A specific bacterium is now being studied as the potential cause of the deaths. Working with the state’s Fish Kill Task Force and the Department of Environmental Quality, the Upper James Riverkeeper has been conducting field work to determine locations, timing, species and the geographic extent of the problem. He has also enlisted the help of local residents in reporting the sighting of sick or dead fish.

A “Tire-less” James! 

JRA with other partners organize volunteers to remove tires -- and only tires -- from the James River during the annual Tire-less James event. Bridgestone Americas LLC is supporting JRA's efforts by providing free hauling and recycling of all tires collected during the cleanup through its Tires4Ward program. This is a self-directed cleanup.



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