April 2008 Newsletter

29 Apr
April 29, 2008

The latest BNRP Newsletter has been mailed to dues paying members. Click on the link to read on-line.

Riverkeeper Around Town

Busy, busy Riverkeeper…that’s why I get the big money, I guess! Since our last newsletter I attended the Isle Of Wight Publique Ffaire in November where I displayed our BNRP info booth to the public. It was a very cold day to be doing that outside. In November I also attended a three-day mercury symposium hosted by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The meeting was held at the Omni Hotel in Newport News. Environmental groups, state, Federal, and local officials attended, hearing Virginia’s plan of action on the mercury issue in Virginia waters. In January I toured the wet wood yard facility at International Paper (I.P.) being constructed south of the paper mill. That month I also gave a presentation to the Boykins Lion’s Club and also attended a meeting of the Southampton County Stormwater Committee that I was asked to be a part of. That committee is charged with developing a stormwater management plan for the county. In February I gave a presentation to the Greensville-Emporia Ruritans, the Franklin Rotary Club, and Southwestern Elementary School. In March I presented to the Southampton 4-H Green Clovers and attended International Paper’s Community Action Coalition meeting at Phinn’s. I also attended the Chowan Watershed Roundtable meeting to prepare for Clean Rivers Day and presented to the AG Center Committee at the museum in Courtland. In April I presented to the Waverly Ruritans and the Drewryville Woman’s Club.

Riverkeeper on Patrol

Since 10/31 I have spent 16 three-day/two-night patrols on the two rivers. Total weight in trash collected (not including CRD) is an estimated 535 pounds. Some of the unusual items pulled from the waters were a boogie board, a lantern that Moonpie thought was magic and a full 2-liter Pepsi that Moonpie and I drank. Yummy! On a trip in January I found an old wooden flume along the I.P. waterfront. It still had water flowing out of it after a probable 100 years of service. Most likely it was used to carry water under a set of railroad tracks that once ran along the river. The water coming out of the flume was groundwater. I thought it was really cool to see something that old from the mill’s past still functioning. In January I got a call/complaint about a RV in the Food Lion parking lot. The RV was dumping its sewage-holding tank into the stormwater drain and, of course. that goes to the river. A Franklin Police Officer investigated but at the time did not know that was illegal. After talks with the City Attorney and Chief of Police, I was assured everybody now is on the same page and knows this is a violation of city code. The Solar Car Wash on Armory Drive has installed a catch drain after I observed wastewater from the facility entering the ditch adjacent to it. The ditch is considered a tributary to the Blackwater River. DEQ, Franklin City Officials and reps from the car wash agreed that the facility needed a catch drain and the problem was promptly fixed. Last year I noticed a telephone cable adjacent to Monroe Bridge was getting lower and lower where it crossed the Nottoway. It had become so low it was hanging below the bottom of the bridge and during elevated river levels was getting real close to hitting the mast light on the BNRP pontoon boat when traveling under the bridge. After contacting the good people at the Franklin VDOT office they helped determine the cable belonged to Verizon. That cable has now been lifted back up off the water to a very safe height. I think the last flood we had broke some support cables for the poles on each side of the river and that allowed those poles to lean in, making slack in the cable.
Eco-Cruise

There have been no Eco-Cruises on the rivers during the winter but on April 16th I guided the Yakity Yak Kayak Club on the Blackwater. Leader Sharon Camp Carter and seven more merry Yakity Yakers were taken on a paddle excursion upriver from Franklin and then back downriver to Barrett’s Landing. One of the ladies even produced a handful of Moonpies for me to take home to… Moonpie! The trip was the first time I had attempted such an excursion with people in kayaks and I in the BNRP Waterstrider, our main workboat. My intention was to escort the ladies using electric power from my bow mount motor, but that worked for only a short spell. I tell you, those ladies could paddle! I had to use the 40 Hp outboard several times just to keep up. Fortunately, the Waterstrider is equipped with a very eco-friendly four-stroke outboard motor that is very quiet and very clean. Next time they come down for a tour I plan on putting them on the BNRP pontoon boat. At least that way I can contain those Yakity Yakers.

Clean Rivers Day 2008

Well, folks. it appears Clean Rivers Day (C0RD) 2008 was another big success. The weather was great and all the individuals and the teams that came out to clean up our environment are to be commended for their hard work. Here are the results:

● Franklin YMCA Black Achievers are once again the team with the most bags collected with 36.
● Donald Powers had the most tires with 6.
● Total bags collected were 193 by 110 hardy volunteers.
● Total tires collected were 16.
● Some unusual items were a leather jacket, bedsprings, a U-Haul bumper, gill net, three grocery carts and a car windshield.
● Total combined weight of bags, tires and all debris picked up was 6,560 pounds or 3.28 tons! Now tell me, how impressive is that?

Teams that participated and bag totals that have logged in as of this date were: Donald Powers 10, YMCA Black Achievers 36, Hercules 2, Team Vicki Brown 32, Team Curtis Newsome 6, Iluka 25, Friends of the Meherrin 2, Dean Wagenbach 2, Team Ronnie West 8, International Paper 8, S.W. Rawls 1, Team Otto Wachsmann 4, Three Rivers Bass Club 7, Southampton High School Ecology & Key Club 9, Team Jeremy Cutchins 3, Team Miriam Chaffee 5, Team Renee Trull 5, Howard Barnes 2, Franklin EMS 1 and the Zuni Ruritans 25. All these folks should feel proud of what they accomplished on Clean Rivers Day. I hope they will be an inspiration for other individuals, schools and organizations next year when CRD will be held on April 18, 2009.
I also want to thank the City of Franklin’s Public Works for disposing of all that trash and debris that was collected, VDOT for supplying bags and safety equipment, Southampton County Litter Control for litter getters and all the agencies that came out and set up information booths. Thank you, Franklin City Mayor Councill and Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson for all your support and kind words on CRD. The Chowan Watershed Roundtable did a great job this year with its first association with CRD. I hope that will continue to grow in the following years. Maybe there could be a full day of events after the clean up like a bass tournament and kayak races and have vendors and food. Anything that can get the public interested and excited about our rivers would be great. We are so fortunate to have the Blackwater and Nottoway Rivers in our community. It is my hope that we as a community continue to take care of these rivers and utilize them in a way that is fun and recreationally beneficial to all who use them. I am very proud and appreciative for all the work and help sent my way on CRD and I want all of you who helped to know that at the end of that day, both rivers smiled.

Volvo for Life Award

Well, we certainly gave them a good run for the money. Being nominated for the Volvo for Life Award was a great honor, to be sure. Making it to the top ten in the country really blew me away. Winning the $25,000 award was just mind-boggling. Certainly, if I had not received the online votes from thousands of supporters, I would not have won this award. It just goes to show you the power of the Internet and the huge support the BNRP and I have in this community and abroad. Some people told me they voted (legally) for me dozens of times. I even had a guy from Iraq vote for me! Even people from Hawaii and all over the world voted. Moonpie even e-mailed all her friends and got her union, “Pets Eating Tasty Americans” (PETA), to vote.
So while I did not win a Volvo every three years for the rest of my life, or the $100,000 award, I did win enough money to pay for a new truck to pull the BNRP boats and proudly represent the BNRP at events I participate in. That vehicle should last the BNRP for many many years. Moonpie has already decided that it will be an extended cab with that part of the vehicle being her designated coach.

BNRP Meetings Moved

On June 11th the BNRP will move its monthly meeting location to the Paul D. Camp Community College Workforce Development Center (PDCCCWDC). After five years of meetings being held at the Walter Cecil Rawls Library, policy changes by the Blackwater Regional Library have dictated we move out. The reason cited was that all after- hours use of the Library cease primarily for liability reasons. Meetings at the new location will be on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30 in PDCCCWDC board meeting room.

BNRP Supports NO OLF

I have written letters to all the Navy personnel and politicians I can think of stating that the position of the BNRP is no OLF. I even wrote President Bush! I have also have been involved in meetings, public and otherwise. with leading officials and opponents of the No OLF to try to hammer out an effective strategy for keeping the OLF out of our watershed. I, of course, am charged with the environmental impact aspect of the issue. Some of the main concerns I have are the huge amounts of run off from the strip and adjacent complex. Toxic run off and flooding issues are a big concern. Then, naturally, there is the issue of wildlife and the effect the jet noise would have on nesting birds and other wildlife. I think a lot of studies will have to be done and a lot of case studies reviewed. The only way to defeat the OLF on the wildlife issue will be to use good proven scientific data. If that is not done, then playing the wildlife card will be worthless.

Franklin STP To Increase Copper Limit

After a study procured by the Franklin Sewage Treatment Plant, DEQ will allow the facility to increase copper limits in their permit. The study approved by DEQ and EPA went to public comment this April. With information supplied by the facility, I had the procedures and methods of the study examined by scientists from the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The results were that the study was pretty much properly done and on the up and up. There were some procedural issues but nothing they or I thought was a big issue now. Copper can be deadly to marine life in certain waters, but it was determined that the new limit would not harm aquatic life in the Blackwater River because of the chemistry of the river as it is now. A more detailed report of this issue can be found on the BNRP web site with the full statement from those that examined the study. Personally I think the limit should have been left alone. In my opinion, limits of potentially harmful substances should not be increased into our waterways.

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