July 2009 Newsletter

25 Jul
July 25, 2009

View the latest Newsletter and find out what has been going on with the Blackwater Nottoway Riverkeeper.

Riverkeeper Around Town

Well, I’ve been getting around a little bit in last few months. I went out of town for three days in March staying in Hampton for the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) symposium. I was invited so I went to see what it was all about. I met some of the best outdoor writers in the Commonwealth and made some great friends and valuable connections. I attended my first meeting serving on an advisory committee for the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program (APNEP). The meeting was held in Williamston, NC, right on the shore of the Roanoke River. My job that day was to help divvy up $50,000 in grant funding from APNEP to go to schools that had submitted environmental schoolyard demonstration projects. Five schools received money. Only one school from Virginia applied and it was one of the five that we approved. That school was the Edward W. Wyatt Middle School in Emporia Va.

In April I took a boatload of divers from Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) out on the Nottoway River. VDGIF was doing mussel studies and looking for the rare eastern lamp mussel and eastern pond mussel that they did find. The critters will be used to propagate the species at the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery in Charles City, VA. In May I travelled to Dendron to participate on a panel concerning the proposed coal fired power plant to be built there. The public meeting had about two hundred in attendance. They asked the panel questions about everything from mercury in fish (which is why I was there) to air pollution issues and other problems such a large generating plant would bring to the region. Also in May I served as a judge for the Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District’s (VASWCD) 2009 Envirothon Competition. School teams were given the complex theoretical problem of designing a management plan for a 100 acre preserve. The teams had to present to the judges how they would manage all aspects of the environmental sanctuary and were judged in many categories. Fort Defiance High School in Augusta County won. I have also visited the Boykins Lion’s Club and the Village at Woods Edge showing both the latest movie I made about the rivers.
These are some of the highlights of where I have been the last few months.

Riverkeeper on Patrol

Since the last newsletter in February I have spent only 7 three-day/two-night patrols on the two rivers. Not including Clean Rivers Day totals, I have picked up only two bags of trash from the Blackwater. That is very good and it means the City of Franklin is doing a good job maintaining ditches, stormwater drains and streets. On the Nottoway I also have collected only two bags. I have been monitoring the construction of the new bridge over the Blackwater at Franklin. I have not seen any terrible problems there. Trash is a little more prevalent around the site and I saw some concrete falling into the water during demolition of the old bridge but it looks like that was not too bad. The City of Franklin had a problem at the sewage treatment plant on 3/15. A citizen witnessed an unusual discharge coming from the plant going into the river. Due to excessive rain the 2 million gallon per day facility was trying to process 5 million gallons. The system could not handle the large inflow and that caused the cloudy plume and solids to get into the river. Speaking of sewage treatment plants, the new one being built near the Nottoway in Courtland is coming along fine. I have seen no issues affecting the river from that construction. This new modern plant will be a nice facility…well, as nice as a sewage treatment plant can be, I guess. The cows in the Blackwater are still living it up at Cow Beach below Franklin. With that influx of fresh poop into the river coupled with low flow conditions from lack of rain, fecal coliform bacteria levels will increase. I sure wish that farmer would accept assistance from our Soil & Water Conservation District and fence those cows out of the river. They have offered to help with paying for the fencing and even with a water supply for the cows. It would really help the river quite a bit.


Again this year, Eco-Cruise has started off very well. So far I have taken the Franklin Woman’s Club, a group interested in starting a Virginia for the Humanities organization and the Franklin Summer Super Jam kids. Three other cruises were cancelled for weather and one was cancelled for the Kids College for lack of interest. I have seven more Eco-Cruises scheduled through September and anticipate at least that many new registrations in the next three weeks. If you have a group interested, you better let me know so I can get you on the calendar. Beware that August is extremely hot on the river and early morning cruises are only available through that period.
Clean Rivers Day 2009

Well, folks. it appears Clean Rivers Day (CRD) 2009 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 that collected the most bags with 15.
● Team Ashland/Hercules was a close 2nd with 12 bags.
● Total bags collected were 126 by 109 hardy volunteers.
● Total tires collected were 39.
● Some unusual items were a grill, car seat, cat bed, child car seat, shopping cart and a door.
● Total combined weight of bags, tires and all debris picked up was 5120 pounds or 2.56 tons!
Now tell me, how impressive is that?

Teams participating and bag totals that were reported to me: Renee Trull/Pack 27 Hunterdale-9, Joyner-Grey-Yale Ruritans-5, Scenic River Group-6, Boy Scout Troop 17-5, Three Rivers Bass Club-2, Team Behnken-3, Ashland/Hercules-12, Team Hancock-8, Iluka-3, Team Tiller-7, Zuni Ruritans-8, Southampton Academy-7, Team Joyner-7, Team Bobby Turner-2, YMCA Black Achievers-15, Team Newsome-4, Franklin Garden Club-4, Team Bunch-5, Team Wagenbach-3, Team Wiggins-5 tires, Team Updike-6, Team Cutchins-2, Team Brewbaker-2, Team Gilbert-2, Team Parker-2, Team Thompson-5, Unknown-2. Some of these groups also had tires.

As always, every single group and individual that participated in CRD is a hero, a true Defender of the Rivers and I hope you know I appreciate it very much. We could really get those totals up if we could just get Franklin City Schools and the other area schools to get their kids involved like Southampton Academy did.

Scenic River

Over the past few months there has been a lot of work done to get the Blackwater River designated a Virginia Scenic River. I am happy to report that effort is well on its way to being accomplished. The river first had to be surveyed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). They and others did several float trips earlier this year starting at Proctors Bridge (which is way upriver) and ending with the last leg of the river survey being done from the BNRP pontoon boat from Franklin to the mouth of the river. The total designation will be 56 miles long that would make the Blackwater the longest Scenic River in the Commonwealth. The next step is that all the cities and counties in the designation area will have to pass resolutions of support and then ask our General Assembly reps to serve as patrons for the legislation that will need to be passed. If done in a timely fashion, it could be ready for presentation in the 2010 General Assembly.

Dendron Power Plant

The fight rages on to keep Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) from building a massive coal burning electric generating plant right where the Blackwater River is born. If built in Dendron, the monster generating facility will inundate this area with fly ash producing a staggering 60,000 pounds of the toxic stuff per day. As much as 520 million pounds would eventually be stored at the plant. Just think what would happen the next time we have a Hurricane Floyd. Just what the City of Franklin would need is a wave of fly-ash slurry to crash into town. If you remember, the people of Chesapeake just sued Dominion Virginia Power for contaminating their drinking water with fly ash that was used to build a golf course. High levels of arsenic were found in their water. Fly ash also contains lead, chromium, boron and mercury, none of which you want to breathe or drink. Speaking of breathing, this coal-fired plant will produce 55 tons of air-born pollution per day or a staggering 20,075 tons per year. Just to put things into perspective, according to Troy D. Breathwaite, Manager of Air Compliance and Monitoring for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, in 2008 the International Paper mill in Franklin released 14,674 tons of airborne pollutants. If built, this power plant would be the 6th largest polluter in the state and that is from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Look, I know we’ve got to have electricity; I like it a lot. However, these power companies have got to get cleaned up and start using state of the art cleaner technology and/or cleaner fuel sources. There is also a need to change mining practices and stop mountain top removal to mine the coal. I’m sure we are going to burn coal because we have it, just like oil. Well, let’s put it like this: I’m sure we will burn these fuel sources until they are gone. All I’ve got to say is burn it cleaner and somebody better start finding something to replace oil and coal because it will be gone one day. Of course, I could just say what everybody in that industry is saying to themselves which is, “Why should I care, I’ll be dead and gone before we use that up: that will be somebody else’s problem.”
And that is precisely why we are in the predicament we are in today.


Well, I guess by now all of you Moonpie fans know she passed away on May 29th. Certainly it was one of the saddest days of my life. Moonpie was 16 years old and was having a lot of problems. So she had to go away to doggy heaven. Thing is, when she got there she was such a Moonpie they decided to fix her up and send her back to continue her legacy of protecting the rivers… and being Moonpie. I have compiled some Moonpie facts over the past few weeks, some of which are pretty amazing. On May 9, 1993, I got baby Moonpie from Charlie Ashburn, a fellow that worked over at the Mill my dad knew. Moonpie’s first river trip was 7/30/93, a three-day trip on the upper Nottoway. On a camping trip in 2001 I accidently shot MP. A freak .22 ricochet off a nail in a board caught her in the side. Miraculously, she survived the 18 hours it took to get her to a doctor. There are many, many more Moonpie stories, of course, and I hope to write a book one day about them. But for now I’ll leave you with these staggering figures. Best I can figure, Moonpie went on 339 camping trips totaling about 1,130 days. That’s like three entire years and that does not include-single day river patrols and excursions to the river.

What a good doggy!

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