Freshwater fish are flourishing in the Jackson River, a major tributary of the James. After two years of exhaustive data collection, an 11.36-mile stretch of the river is on its way to being delisted from EPA’s list of impaired waterways.
As rewarding as this is from an environmental perspective, the unique effort that made it happen reflects the beneficial results that occur when public and private sector entities partner together for a cause.
“It was a team effort between an industrial facility and a state agency working together,” said Kerry McAvoy, Principal at ONE Environmental Group. “This work involved three different organizations collaborating toward the same collective goal. I really enjoyed seeing that happen.”
This portion of the river south of Covington was listed on Virginia’s 303(d) list for not supporting the Aquatic Life Use standard due to dissolved oxygen levels. The low dissolved oxygen levels impacted fish and subaquatic vegetation, both of which were unable to thrive due to the conditions.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, in conjunction with an industrial facility, took a proactive approach for this project. ONE came aboard to provide assistance with water quality monitoring and the ensuing data analysis to ensure that oxygen levels had improved enough to request the river be removed from the list of impaired waterways. That meant ONE consultants Jamison Clarke and Amanda Leonard visited the site in the western part of Virginia three times a week for roughly three months during the fall seasons of 2019 and 2020.
While collecting samples from the banks would have been easier, they plunged knee deep into the river for optimum results along with McAvoy.
“We suspended our monitoring equipment off the sides of bridges in areas where wading was not possible,” McAvoy said. “To get the best sample, you have to be in the middle third of the river where water is flowing properly.”
Water tends to be more stagnant and pools in areas along the riverbank, which would not provide a representative sample.
The stunning scenery made for a good day at the office.
“The river is absolutely beautiful,” McAvoy said. “It’s gorgeous and offers some of the best flyfishing in the country.”
Clarke, can attest to the improvements that have been made in the river’s ecosystem based on the number of fish he caught and the countless sightings of beavers and river otters while sampling on the river.
It takes years to officially delist an impaired waterway, but McAvoy said that in the next few years, she hopes this stretch of the Jackson River will no longer be on the 303(d) list for dissolved oxygen impairment.