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Health of James River stalled at B-

Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ
The James River near Richmond

Progress in cleaning up and restoring the James River is stalled, according to a new report.

Every two years, the James River Association complies a report on the river’s health.
This year’s State of the James report gives an overall grade of B-, about the same as the previous report in 2019.

The biggest factor stalling progress is an increase in polluted runoff and sediment caused by continued periods of heavy rain starting in the fall of 2019. "Looking ahead, if we’re predicting out that climate change is going to continue to contribute to these heavy downpours, increased rainfall events in the watershed, then we’re going to expect more of this," program director Shawn Ralston told reporters Tuesday.

Click here to read more of the report

The association says more state money is needed to fund projects that reduce agricultural and stormwater runoff and fixes Richmond’s Combined Sewer Overflow system.

The association also has a dire warning about one of the fish species found there: The population of American Shad is on the brink of collapse.

Ralston said shad was once one of America’s most abundant fish species. "Decades of overfishing, pollution, construction of dams, water intakes, invasive catfish, all have severely hurt shad," she noted. The report indicates the shad population in the James is less than one percent of historical benchmarks.

Shad populations have been increasing on the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers. But the James River Association says the state needs to create an emergency restoration plan for the fish in the James River.

The report noted a significant rebound for oyster populations found near the river's mouth in Hampton Roads. Those populations declined during the record rainfall period of 2019, as more freshwater was introduced into the brackish and saltwater sections where oysters thrive.

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.