Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Court Challenge Planned to Protect the James River

The James River Association has been working with the Southern Environmental Law Center to file a notice of appeal for the permit issued by DEQ to Dominion last month to allow discharge of coal ash wastewater from Bremo Power Station into the James River. Below is the statement released by both organizations today.

We thank you for your support throughout this process. You help us give the James River the voice it deserves.

Conservation Groups Plan Court Challenge to Protect the James River from Coal Ash Pollution

On behalf of the James River Association, Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a notice with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Dominion Power that it will appeal the permit issued by DEQ to Dominion last month to allow the discharge of over 350 million gallons of coal ash wastewater from the Bremo Power Station into the James River. The James River Association is represented in this action by the Southern Environmental Law Center. This notice of appeal is required prior to filing the actual appeal of the permit with a state court judge in Richmond.

In January, the State Water Control Board issued a permit allowing Dominion to discharge millions of gallons per day of coal ash wastewater containing heavy metals at levels exceeding the state’s own standards to protect human and aquatic life.

The conservation groups are challenging the failure of the permit to protect a high quality water body, as required by the Clean Water Act. In violation of the law, the permit does not require Dominion to fully use readily available water treatment technologies to remove enough of the toxic metals from the wastewater to meet state water quality standards before it is released into the river. Rather, it allows higher levels of pollution and relies on dilution within the river to meet water quality standards. The law prohibits this degradation in such a high quality area of the river, which is a popular small mouth bass fishery and home to endangered species of mussels.

“The James River Association is committed to ensuring that the James River is fully protected from the harmful effects of coal ash. The James River near Bremo Power Station is a biologically healthy and diverse section of the river with important resources that must be protected,” said Bill Street, CEO at James River Association. “We are deeply disappointed that the permit approved by the State Water Control Board fell short of fully protecting the James River when the technology to meet stronger water quality protections is readily available and affordable. We are filing notice of an appeal to ensure that ‘America's Founding River’ receives the same level of protection as any other waters.”

Explained Brad McLane, Senior Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center: “The law required DEQ to set tough standards based on the availability of proven and affordable technology to treat these wastewaters and protect the high quality waters of the James River. Instead the DEQ permit sets lax standards that fail to protect the James. DEQ and the State Water Control Board clearly broke the law in issuing this permit.”

In addition to the Bremo permit, the State Water Control Board approved a permit allowing Dominion to discharge wastewater from coal ash ponds at Possum Point Power Station on Quantico Creek near the Potomac. On behalf of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, SELC will also be pursuing a permit appeal to protect the Potomac River and Quantico Creek from coal ash wastewaters discharged from the Possum Point Power Plant in Dumfries, VA.

View the full Press Release. Visit our website for more information.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 General Assembly Priorities

The 2016 General Assembly Session kicked off last week in Richmond. The James River Association is working hard to protect our river and watershed, but we need your help! 

Below are our key priorities for this session. Join our Action Network to stay up-to-date and involved in the coming weeks.

In order to reach the James River Association’s goals for a fully healthy James River and fulfill Virginia’s constitutional commitment to protect our waterways, we urge your support of the following critical actions:

Support Water Quality and Land Conservation Funding
Virginia has made significant investments in water quality and land conservation over the last two decades resulting in major pollution reductions and improvements to local water quality. In order to keep Virginia on track with meeting restoration goals for the James, continued investment is necessary. Therefore, we will be strongly supporting Water Quality and Land Conservation funding.

Support Proper Coal Ash Pond Closure (Senate Bill 537)
The James River watershed is home to coal ash ponds capable of holding five billion gallons of coal ash. Each pond in the watershed is bordering the river or one of its tributaries. Coal ash, which is a waste product of the electricity generation process, contains toxics such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Simply capping coal ash ponds in place without a liner, as currently proposed, does not stop the potential of groundwater contamination or pollution leaking in to surface waters. Every North Carolina pond that has been tested has been shown to be contaminating the surrounding groundwater. Despite this track record of contamination, Virginia’s code does not require lining, capping and long-term monitoring for these facilities. Senate Bill 537 would require that a liner be installed which will stop the potential for groundwater contamination and provide protection to Virginia’s waterways.  The bill also allows power generating companies to recover the costs for the safe closure of coal ash ponds.

Support Swifter Spill Notification (Senate Bill 581 & House Bill 977)
Current law requires the spill of a dangerous substance be reported within 24 hours to the Department of Environmental Quality. We believe that this timeline leaves our waterways, citizens and economy at risk. This bill accelerates that timeline to 12 hours which we believe enhances public notification and better protects us all.   

Support Proper Menhaden Management (Senate Bill 98 & House Bill 150)
Menhaden have been called "the most important fish in the sea." Menhaden are both filter feeders and a primary food source for striped bass (rockfish), bluefish, sharks, ospreys, brown pelicans, and dolphin. Beyond its ecological importance, the menhaden fishery is very important economically to the Commonwealth, supporting hundreds of jobs. The menhaden fishery is also the only fishery in the Commonwealth that is currently managed by the General Assembly – all others are managed by experienced fishery professionals at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).  We support this bill because it transfers management of the menhaden fishery from the General Assembly to the fishery professionals at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 was a huge success!

The James River had a great year in 2015. For the first time in decades, the river’s health received a grade of B- in the State of the James report.

We couldn’t have reached this milestone without the help of our incredible volunteers. Thank you for your hard work and dedication last year. We look forward to making 2016 the best year yet!

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Ben Hawkins at

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Give the Gift of a Healthy River this Holiday Season

Thinking of the perfect gift can be a tough task during the holiday season. Here are a few gift ideas that also benefit the James River Association. By giving these gifts, you are helping us continue to reach toward our goal of a healthy James River.

  • James River Association Membership  - Members also receive discounts of up to 20% at outfitters throughout the watershed.
  • James River Blend Coffee from Blanchard’s Coffee – Clean water makes great coffee. The James River Blend is a perfect coffee to complement cool, crisp mornings on the river.
  • Great Return from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery – This West Coast style IPA is a great gift for beer lovers.
  • Tycoon Tackle fishing rod – Custom built fly fishing and spinning rods specifically designed for fishing the mighty James from a world renowned outfitter.
  • James River art series – These posters, fine art prints, t-shirts and notecards are perfect for Richmonders who love the James.
  • Amazon Smile – Use Amazon Smile when making your Amazon purchases. Make sure to designate the James River Association as your charity of choice.

For more gift ideas, visit our online Gift Shop. We hope you have a happy holiday!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Volunteering for the James

We are so thankful for our volunteers. People just like you give their precious time to help us create a cleaner, healthier watershed.

Meet Jose Espinoza a 24 year old IT professional originally from Stafford, VA. His love for the James led him to clean up trash in the Richmond region, as well as translating river information to Spanish to bring awareness to the Latino population.  Here’s what Jose had to say about his experience volunteering:

I moved to Richmond about 6 years ago to attend Virginia Commonwealth University and graduated in 2013. Like many VCU students, I had my first encounter with the James River by hanging out at Belle Isle. Every time I went to the river, it gifted me and my friends with new experiences and great quality time. Belle Isle brings so many people together but people also take it for granted. 
 After seeing so many people at Belle Isle throw trash on the ground and sometimes in the river, I decided to do something about it. I initially reached out to James River Association to volunteer in their self-directed trash cleanup program and have picked up trash along the Pipeline Trail. The James River Association also tapped into my cultural background to help them bring river awareness to the growing Latino population in the Richmond area. I helped them in translating pamphlets and newsletter that will educate Spanish speakers about the conservation of natural resources, good habits for the river and even volunteering opportunities. I really enjoyed this aspect of my volunteering experience because it helped the organization reach a different audience they wouldn’t have reached without my help 
I would highly encourage Richmond residents to volunteer with the James River Association because it feels good to give back to the river that has given so much to you in one way or another.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Ben Hawkins, Volunteer Coordinator, at

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thank You

On this Thanksgiving, the James River Association wants to express our gratitude to all of our members and supporters. We couldn’t carry out our mission to protect and restore the health of the James River without…
  • Our volunteers throughout Virginia who generously donate their time to help better the watershed. This past year you have helped plant over 1,700 trees and collect over 15,000 pounds of trash.
  • RiverRats who patrol over 800 miles of the James and its tributaries. These dedicated volunteers keep watch over the river and complete action projects that better their communities and the health of their waterways.
  • The members of our Action Network who make their opinions heard and strengthen our voice, the voice for the river. And the River Hero Homes who proudly take action to reduce pollution at home.
  • Our members who help provide education programs for students at the James River Ecology School, who support our events celebrating the river, and who helped us reach a score of B- in the 2015 State of the James report. 
Your dedication to the James has strengthened this organization. We couldn’t do the work we do without people like you.

As we look back on 2015, we are proud of the accomplishments and the progress we have made over the past year. The James River Association thanks you. And more importantly, the river thanks you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Volunteering for the James

We love our RiverRat volunteers! They act as the James River’s first line of citizen defense by assisting our Riverkeepers as the eyes and ears of the river and its tributaries. RiverRats come from all over the watershed, are all ages and have many different backgrounds. You don’t need to be a scientist or skilled paddler to become a RiverRat.

Meet Fred Kelly and Will Maddox, Lower James RiverRats. Fred is a retired mental health professional who currently lives in Dinwiddie County. His family has owned a cabin on the James River for five generations. This is where his father taught him to paddle and introduced him to the joys of being on the river. However, it was at that time a river in trouble. In those days the James was a dumping ground and it was not uncommon to find the shore lined with dead fish due to this pollution. There were fewer ducks, geese, osprey and virtually no eagles.

Thanks to the Clean Water Act and the efforts of local organizations like the James River Association, the river and its wildlife have bounced back. It is once again a place for recreation and creating memories. Fred shares his experiences on the James with his grandson Will. Fred says “Becoming a River Rat has greatly enhanced my enjoyment of being on the river by allowing me to become a protector of it as well. I only wish that I could have been doing this since I began paddling in the mid 1950s. I am especially pleased that my 15 year old grandson, Will, who took the River Rat training with me, will be in place to continue monitoring the river that he has grown to love long after I am no longer able to do so. I strongly encourage anyone who enjoys being on the river to get the training for becoming a River Rat. This is an opportunity that has been a long time coming. Don't miss it. Your river needs you.”

Here is what Fred had to say about his first RiverRat patrol with his grandson this past October:

Will and I have been paddling the James all of our lives and feel a need to preserve and protect this beautiful river. So when we heard about the River Rat program we were excited to get involved.

On October 23rd, we went on our first official River Rat patrol with the mission of shore clean-up. Hurricane Joaquin had produced flooding which carried lots of plastic, glass and other debris onto the shoreline. Our goal was to begin dealing with this problem by cleaning the shore on Tar Bay, part of our designated patrol area. After gathering and bagging trash from about 100 yards of shoreline, we headed out in our boat to collect a very large piece of debris that a previous storm had deposited on a tree nearby. It had been an eye-sore for months and we had talked about removing it all summer. This was the day. How good it was to see that pink, plastic car in our boat rather than on that tree! 

Next, we decided to make a run around Coggins Point and up Powells Creek to check out its status after the hurricane. Powells Creek is beautiful any time of year with its mixture of hardwoods and marsh but this day was exceptional. We motored up about a mile or more into an area where few people venture and stopped to take pictures. The first thing Will spotted as he stepped out of the boat was a very lively crayfish. He had learned earlier this year while on a James River Expedition that crayfish are a good indicator of pollution-free water. So we are happy to report the good water conditions in that part of the creek. We also found no trash to clean up. How lucky we are to have such a pristine area to enjoy, and now, to help watch over.

Assisting the RiverKeepers on the James makes a recreational outing on the river very gratifying. It lets us give back to the river that has always given us so much pleasure.

Need another excuse to get out on the water? Want to make a difference while enjoying your time outdoors? Email Ben Hawkins at to learn more about the RiverRats program or other volunteer opportunities.