Every River Needs a Keeper

There’s a cool profile in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today about Chuck Frederickson, the river keeper for the 340-mile James River. As a member of the James River Association staff, he plies up and down the tributary in his 23-foot skiff looking for fish kills, algae blooms and other signs of pollution. By publicizing his findings, he lights a fire under regulators to move quickly on the problem.

Every major body of water in Virginia needs a James River Association and a Chuck Frederickson.

(Photo credit: The Virginia Severe Weather Page.)

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8 responses to “Every River Needs a Keeper”

  1. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    It’s a nice article. All rivers need care and to be free of abuse. The best way for that to happen is for everyday people to fish, picnic on its banks, and let their kids play with crawdads or bugs.

    The health of a river is its creatures’ health. Association with the river educates the public, makes for better and more complete monitoring, and creates a realistic affection for nature.

    Jim Bacon wrote: “Every major body of water in Virginia needs a James River Association and a Chuck Frederickson.

    That may be so —I hope it is, since the article says he ‘loves the James River’— but no river needs a Riverkeeper™. Yes, that’s a trademark symbol, franchised and licensed from Waterkeeper™ corporate offices.

    Waterkeeper™ and its Riverkeeper™ subsidiaries are about as relevant to conservation as MacDonalds™ is to the benefits of fine dining.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Jim, do you have any evidence that the James River Association is connected to “Riverkeeper”? I don’t recall that the JRA has been very aggressive with litigation. I would be very distressed if that were the case. Although litigation is occasionally justified, there are far more positive ways — more effective in the long run, too — to protect our rivers and streams than filing lawsuits. Indeed, Frederickson’s river inspection seemed to be one such alternative.

  3. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    Jim, from the article:
    – “Frederickson is the riverkeeper for the 340-mile James.”
    – “Frederickson is one of more than 150 so-called waterkeepers …”
    – “They fall under the umbrella of the Waterkeeper Alliance, …”

    The Waterkeeper™ – Riverkeeper™ pyramid is a scheme to enrich themselves via lawsuits. The typical terms of use for the trademarks are to use Waterkeeper™ legal counsel — RFK Jr.— who never settle for less than attorney’s fees.

    The actual cost is borne by consumers/citizens. Suits or settlements against public utilities and corporations result in higher pricing. That’s the way all costs, taxes, proffers, fees —and fines— work.

    My research to date on Waterkeeper™ action shows little is any progress is made (or ever intended) to improve the environment. The currently threatened suit on the Shenandoah —if successful— will permanently degrade that river.

    (There’s already three articles on my website about this threat, and two or three more in the pipeline. Look for The Enviromental Hu$tle)

  4. I recently got a notice that a neighborhood association was organizing a stream watch event and planned to pick up trash along the streambeds.

    The notice said “This is regarding property you own at…” “It is to inform you of a neighborhood effort to clean up a section of stream that runs through your property. Due to extensive erosion and accumulation of trash, naighbors have decided to wee what can be done to help with restoration of the stream.”

    As it happens, my section of the stream is not extensively eroded, nor does it have any trash, that I know of.

    In addition to the trash, the plan is to also remove “invasive plants”. It seems to me that even invasive plants are one of the things that help prevent erosion, so I’m not sure what the goal is here. They plan to replant an area ten to 20 feet from the streambed with native varieties.

    I don’t have any strong feelings about this one way or the other, but it does seem that the time to tell me is before the plans are made. The plan was approved by te Department of Public Works and Environmental services, and they didn’t notify me, either.

    Because of the way this was handled, I’m left with the feeling that I’m not so sure my neighborhood association, isn’t as invasive as the plants they want to remove. It might be that I’m perfectly happy with the stream the way it is, and in fact, I have not noticed any major, changes in it over the last 25 years.

    Am I off the track here, or should this letter have been better stated as a request, and sooner, rather than as a done deal approved by the government? Whats my liabiliy if someone breaks an ankle, or gets hit by a rotten tree?

    The letter says to bring shovels and loppers. I sure hope they have a lot of people, because to do what they say might take ten or 20 people all day, just for my section, and they will be up to their knees in swamp. If they are actually going to accomplish anything, chainsaws and a trackhoe might be more appropriate.

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Ray, are you going to let them on your property? Is there a public right of way on your property? Just curious.

  6. There is no public right of way. As I understand it waterways in Virginia are public if they are navigable, meaning you can float a canoe more than you drag it. This stream barely has enough water to wet a frogs belly, ordinarily. Today there is probably a running stream.

    I’m inclined to let them pick up the trash if there is any, and tell them not to cut anything. To may way of thinking, invasive means successful. Anything that grows there is likely to help stop erosion, and if they plant something else, it will probably get over-run anyway. I don’t see the point. Whatever is growing down there isn’t hurting anybody.

    Every year, I get a letter from the local Johnsongrass committee, telling me to get my Johnsongrass under control. Only thing is, they don’t say how to control it. The stuff is nearly impossible to kill, and if you plow it up, it multiplies.

    In the old days, shellfishermen used to cut up starfish into pieces, because starfish eat shellfish. They didn’t know that each piece of starfish would grow a whole new one.

    Johnsongrass is like that. Now, Johnsongrass can poison cattle, especially if they eat it during a dry spell. Johnsongrass is full of Prussic Acid, and it concentrates as the grass dries out.

    There are no cattle farms remaining, near me, but I do my best to control it anyway. 400 miles west of here Johnsongrass is grown as a crop, which gives you some idea of how dangerous it really is.

    I am not willing to buy a bunch of poison to kill the stuff, but I have told the Johnsongrass committee that if they will supply the poison, I’m willing to apply it, against my better judgement.

    No response. So this is another group who wants you to work for them, but they are not willing to contribute.

    The most disturbing part of the Johnsongrass letter is that they make a big point out of telling you that under FAuquier ordinance, if you don’t comply, they can send in a contractor to do the work and send you the bill.

    So far as I know, this has never happened.

    My neighborhood association letter has a little of the same flavor, in that they tell you their activities are sanctioned by the government.

    I’m really not very execised by this: cleaning up the neighborhood is a good idea. I bring my dump truck for the fall trash cean up. But, what bothers me is the creeping crud syndrome. When people start talking about “our watershed”, and “our viewshed”, and “our open space”, then pretty soon they start believing it.

    I’m perfectly willing to agree that those things have community value, and the community should work together to preserve them. I have a problem when the community expects me to do it for them, or when they make plans without specifically including me.

    In case anyone out there has a fetish about invasive species, or if someone really just wants to kill something, then I will make an open invitation for anyone to come and cut down Elanthia trees. Those things are the bane of my farm existence.

    They are not worth much, although I have seen Elanthia wood for sale for as musch as $1.25 per board foot. It is clear, white, and soft: I imagine if you used the wood epoxy saturation technique, it would glue up like armor plate. It burns like cardboard, and rots like crazy, so you could make good mulch from it.

    If you are interested, just gove me a call.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Fauquier County is a trip. They’re the folks that redefined “animal dealer” in November to include anyone who sells, gives away, or trades animals from more than one litter of “companion animals” per year as a “for profit pet dealer”, requiring a permit, inspections, a business license, and special zoning.

    In other words, your daughter’s hamster and your barn cat have babies. You spay the barn cat. You give away one hamster and one barn kitten, for free, and you’re assumed to be a “for profit” business. Have two litters of Beagles or Foxhounds, even if you give them away to other fanciers or swap them with another breeder, and you don’t sell a single one? Heaven help you. You have to be rezoned (because a dog business is a commercial kennel, which requires a conditional use permit), inspected, pay a fee, and licensed.

    There’s something intrinsically wrong when folks not running a business and not attempting to make a profit have their hobby redefined as a business, complete with intrusive bureaucracy.

    Fauquier County has historically been world famous for the quality of its dogs and horses. Guess it’s just going to be horses in the future.

  8. Yep. It won’t be long before they simply outlaw making money in Fauquier, you are simply supposed to have it. Only the little people have to earn it. Businesses attract people and people causes growth, donchaknow.

    So you can’t sell give away or trade companion animals, and yet they recently changed the rules to allow keeping livestock on properties as small as two acres. Animals tend to happen, and if you can’t sell them and can’t give them away, I guess you have to eat all your pets.

    In order to have a farmers market in Fauquier you must have over a hundred acres, live on the porpert, be located on a main road, and have sanitary facilities permitted and inspected by the county.

    There is exactly one farmers market in the county, and I understand it is owned by a family of considerable wealth. The others are located inside town limits where county rules don’t apply.

    Pretty whacky for a county that supposedly supports agriculture. Some county (Spotsylvania?) included plans for a centrally located farmers market in their new government center. Now that’s what I call support.

    I particularly like their tourism slogan: “Come, spend money, and leave.” This was actually quoted in the paper as coming from a Fauquier official.

    Fauquier is nationally known for the way its tight zoning restrictions are enforced. The Michigan land use instiute says, “Fauquier’s secret, of course, is that a dozen of the state’s wealthiest people live there. And those wealthy families have dug deep into their pockets to defend the restrictive land use plan.”

    Dr. Michael Coffman says “Government data shows a nice “middle managers” house with four bedrooms and two-and-one-half baths and a double car garage, costs between $150,000 and $200,000 in American cities having no smart growth or growth-management planning. The price for that same house jumps to $300,000 to 440,000 if that type of planning has been in place for ten to fifteen years. In cities having this planning for twenty-five years or more, the same house costs a staggering $500,000 to as much as $1.5 million.”

    Want to guess what homes cost in Fauquier?

    And then try on this quote. “The very fashionable Fauquier County, Virginia, which has imposed severe growth restrictions and limits on homebuilding, has seen its African-American population fall both relatively and absolutely over the decade of the 1990s.”

    Among other things, Fauquier county has denied a special exception for a church because it would adversely affect the use or development of neighboring properties. This was after the county explained to the applicant that financial hardship was not a consideration in the application. This is a perfect catch 22. You are not allowed to develop because it might affect some future but unspecifed development on the part of your neighbors. Then of course, when they apply, they will get turned down out of compassion for future development rights already previously denied.

    Fauquier County is world famous alright, The county’s actions have been cited in places as far out as the US House of Representatives in the recent hearings on the Property Rights Implementation Act of 2005. I imagine it will gall the county to no end if it turns out that Pomponio vs Fauquier Board of Supervisors winds up making it easier to sue over land use injustices.

    And fauquier has been cited in a California Tax Accountants Journal on how not to apply land use taxation.

    Yep, Fauquier is famous all right.

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