Riverkeeper on Patrol
2011 was a much better year for me as far as injuries go and thank goodness for that. This past year I spent 59 days/nights on river patrol. That total does not reflect single day patrols on the river, just trips I stayed for 1, 2 or 3 nights. I picked up 605 pounds of trash which is a low number for me. Maybe that means there is less trash now? Hope so. I had 19 eagle sighting this year and that is the highest number I have recorded. In January I witnessed an enormous amount of particulate matter in the river. I traced it to the Franklin sewage treatment plant (STP). Though the water coming from the STP was clear, it was heavily laden with white particulate matter. After contacting the STP and DEQ it was determined that it was grease. Unfortunately it was the weekend and DEQ did not get a chance to see it for there self. I actually had a top city official tell me that a operator at the sewage treatment plant was so confident of the cleanliness of the water coming out of the sewage treatment plant that he had drank the water once! All I can say to that is I’ll believe that when I see it with my own eyes, and no I will not try it even if I see it. After extensive conversations with the City of Franklin they finally put up some “No Fishing” signs at the sewage treatment plant outfall. The sewage treatment pipe that flows to the river is a dangerous place especially for kids to fish from. Hopefully this will keep someone from getting hurt there and will stem the trash issue there. On October 19th I witnessed a terrible brown spew going into the river from the Franklin sewage treatment plant. I reported it to the city and DEQ and within a couple of hours the problem was fixed. The reporting to DEQ by the city of the timeline of the incident did not jive with what I witnessed and so I reported that discrepancy. The Va. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) takes accurate reporting of incidence like this very seriously. Does it sound like I’m beating the city of Franklin up? Absolutely not, I’m just reporting what I have seen and what has taken place this past year. However you can bet that DEQ and I are closely watching this facility. I also have stepped up inspection of the outflow pipe after heavy rains even sometimes visiting the site in the middle of the night. I have also enlisted the public’s help at keeping an eye out for sightings of the brown cloud coming out of the pipe. If you see it, call or e-mail me pronto. It must also be noted that since the October spew, I have not witnessed any problems at the plant. After getting numerous phone calls about a logjam at the Norfolk Southern RR trestle over the Nottoway, I contacted them and they soon had the blockage on the Nottoway fixed and a smaller one at the trestle in Franklin. The strange thing was the two buck deer they found hooked together in the log-jam. Sadly they perished because of this but it made for quite a strange picture. Also in October I found an abandoned turtle trap. The huge 7 ft long trap had dead and live turtles in it. I released the live turtles and destroyed the trap. The device was a perpetual death trap. The turtles originally lured into the trap by bait died, then the dead turtles would attract more turtles which would die and then attract more turtles and on and on. This story is not over yet as I’m working my way to finding out whose trap this was. In November I helped the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries with a mussel restoration project in the Nottoway River. The BNRP pontoon boat served as the diving platform for the three divers that day who were harvesting adult mussels to take back to the hatchery where more baby mussels will be raised. Then as on the day I helped out, the baby mussels will be returned to the river. On that day in November we released 9,000 baby mussels back into the river. All of the baby mussels had little id tags on them. The divers actually found mussels that day on the bottom of the river that they had seeded more than a year ago. The way they could tell was they still had the tags on them so they could tell how old they were etc. I thought that was pretty cool!
Eco-Cruise was very successful this past year. I took a total of 101 people out on 12 cruises. Eco-Cruise is our floating classroom pontoon boat. We take organizations and groups out like Boy & Girl Scouts, Garden Clubs, Church groups, school groups etc to learn more about our great rivers that are here for us to enjoy. The cruises are free to these type groups and usually last about two hours. This year some of the groups that enjoyed a cruise were the PDCCC’s Kids College, Senior Circle, Upward Bound, Va. Master Naturalist, Franklin Chamber of Commerce and Windsor elementary and middle school.
Some of the places I visited this past year were the The Village at Woods Edge, Woodmen of the World, Walters Ruritans, Ivor Ruritans and Waverly Ruritans. I also attended Heritage Day sponsored by the Southampton Historical Society, which as always was a great event, and one everybody should go check out.
Clean Rivers Day
Clean Rivers Day 2011 was held on April 2nd. 234 people participated and 6,153 pounds of trash was collected. This years CRD event will be held on April 28. So get your team or group together now. Remember everybody can participate in CRD. You do not have to get in a ditch or go to the river to help. Clean-up your front yard or your church parking lot, every bit of trash picked up means less that will go to our swamps and rivers.
Riverkeeper Around Town
In March the BNRP was awarded the Bronze Governors Environmental Excellence Award. In May I was awarded TV station WHRO’s Community Impact Award for the environmental category. An award ceremony was held at the Waterside Marriott in Norfolk. WHRO showed the video interviews they did with me on the river as well as riverside interviews with Dr. Robert T. Edwards, Reverend Ben Duffey and Bobby Worrell. It was a very nice ceremony. The excellent video is on YouTube and a link to it on my facebook page
I am hoping this year in collaboration with the City of Franklin and Dominion Power we finally get our pier project at the new boat landing. Dominion Power has donated money to help with the issue of getting people on and off the BNRP Eco-Cruise boat at the landing. The pier there is just too high most of the time. In the past we have had to use ladders and coolers, step stools and other really dangerous means to board folks that are not able to jump the sometimes two or three foot gap from pier to boat floor. The plan is to devise a step-down pier that will be safe and easy for people to negotiate for boarding and disembarking from the boat. This project has been on and off now for like 3 years. I’ll certainly be glad when Dominion and Franklin get it together.
Garden Club Project
I had come up with a cool little project for the Franklin Garden Club and the BNRP to do down at the Franklin sewage treatment plant. The idea was to plant some shrubs around a curb flume to stop trash from washing off the street and into the river. We thought it was a great idea with the Garden Club purchasing the shrubs and planting them at the location. The shrubs were of a type that do not need pruning. The city however shot down the idea, which made us all very sad. Then low and behold on a visit to the boat ramp I noticed the city had placed rip-rap, which is large rocks at the location we were going to plant the shrubs. So even though the city did not like our shrub idea, I was very pleased to see that somebody at the city thought our modus operandi was good. I was a bit stunned that nobody let me know they were doing the fix though. But no matter, the rock seems to do a pretty good job of stopping the street trash from going into the river and that’s what counts. Another improvement to that area is that we hope the city will be installing a new large trashcan at the South end of the boardwalk where most of the fishermen gather. This along with the new basket trashcans that have been installed on the railing should help curb the litter problem there. Good job City of Franklin.
Norfolk Pump Stations Shored Up
In December I was on the Nottoway above Courtland when I noticed the river being blocked by a large boom stretched all the way across the river. This was located at the Norfolk Nottoway pumping station where the city of Norfolk pumps water from the Nottoway to their holding lakes. I could not believe they had the whole river blocked to through boating traffic so I got on the phone to my United States Army Corps of Engineer’s contact. It was not too long after that the boom was made more boater friendly. The boom had been put into place to catch any oil that would escape from the cranes and other equipment on shore. It was not working anyway as I found two 5 gallon buckets of heavy duty oil in the river just below the boom. Norfolk is putting in sheathing along the shoreline of the pump station to stop a bad erosion problem there. It was only a couple weeks later I was on the Blackwater and found Norfolk was doing the same work on the Burdette pumping station. Huge steel sheathing was being placed along the shore to keep the river from washing the facility away. One major improvement they did at this location was remove an old overhead pipeline and trestle that yearly caused bad log jams there blocking the river. And even though I wish the pump stations were not there to pump our rivers dry every summer I have to say “good job City of Norfolk” on the removal of the overhead pipe. Here is some facts about those pump stations. The raw water pipelines in Southampton County were installed in 1942 under a Federal Works Project Administration (WPA) project to provide water to the United States Navy. The property and easements were acquired through condemnation by the Federal Court from October 14, 1940 through April 1,1944 pursuant to Federal Acts. After World War II, the City of Norfolk purchased the water facilities of the Federal Government including easements from the Blackwater and Nottoway River(s) to the Lake Prince reservoir for $600,000.00. I’ve always heard that Southampton County had a right of first refusal and chose not to exercise it, but I don’t know if that’s true or not. The purchase price equates to approximately $6 million in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation. The raw water withdrawals from these two rivers are a supplemental component of the City of Norfolk’s overall supply. The pump stations on the Nottoway and Blackwater River(s) are operated when the Lake Prince reservoir drops below 97% of its capacity. Their system storage capacity is roughly 15.2 billion gallons and their average daily use in 2004 (the last time I checked) was 68.1 million gallons, including bulk water sales to the City of Chesapeake, City of Virginia Beach, City of Portsmouth and United States Navy. The water intakes and pump stations predate state regulations governing surface water withdrawals, Norfolk’s withdrawals are “grandfathered” and not to state sources, in order to maintain their “grandfathered” status, the City of Norfolk must avoid any physical construction within the limits of the rivers and avoid increasing their pumping capacities. Both pump stations have pumping capacities of 23 million gallons per day.