State of the James report shows steady improvements in river’s health

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A recent environmental study by the James River Association shows the health of the James River is improving.

The JRA noted in their annual “State of the James” report that the overall health score has risen to 62 percent, which they say represents a 10 percent increase since they began publishing the report 10 years ago.

“Increasing 10 points in 10 years shows that our collective commitment and investments in water quality are really paying off,” the organizations CEO Bill Street said. “Improvements can be seen not only in the health of the river but also in the benefits that the river provides to the surrounding communities in terms of drinking water, quality of life and economic opportunities.”

Image of James River at Pony Pasture. Image courtesy of Carrie Brockman

The annual report examines the health of the river by measuring four different categories: fish and wildlife, habitat, pollution reductions and protection and restoration actions.

Of the 19 indicators used to measure these categories, 14 showed improvement over the past two years, three remained the same and two declined.

As a result, smallmouth bass and oyster populations have improved along with tidal water quality. The report also shows that Virginia has reduced wastewater pollution significantly.

However, the report also showed that underwater grasses in the river, after two decades of expansion, declined for the first time this year. And despite re-stocking efforts, the James River’s American shad population has continued to struggle.

Image courtesy of the James River Association

The James River Association said in a release that the river’s health improving means healthier drinking water, better opportunities for outdoor recreation and improved economic value from the river.

“The Commonwealth is grateful to the James River Association for their tireless advocacy for clean water. All of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay watershed reap the benefits of their hard work and success,” Molly Ward, the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources said.

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