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Clean up the Streams, Clean Up the Bay

How do you get folks living hundreds of miles away from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay excited about restoring America’s largest estuary?

They say all politics is local, and so it is with pollution. If we can all pitch in and clean up the hundreds of small, local creeks and rivers that feed into the Bay, we’ll not only boost local water quality, local fishing and swimming, local business, and local quality of life, but at the end of the day (and at end of the river) we’ll wind up with a clean Chesapeake  Bay as well.
Now that Virginia and the other Bay drainage states have created state cleanup plans for restoring the Bay, the challenge now falls to local governments, local businesses, neighborhood farmers, and individual homeowners. Since we all live somewhere “local,” we all have to figure out the most efficient, cost-effective ways to reduce pollution going into our backyard waterways.

Most people care deeply about such local places – their special fishing spot, favorite swimming hole, scenic paddling stretch, or just a place to go with the kids to hike, wade, and enjoy the outdoors.

Rivanna_NFWF_MapThat point was brought home to several local officials in Central Virginia during a recent paddle trip on the Rivanna River, a 40-plus mile-long tributary of the James River and Chesapeake Bay. The Rivanna, sometimes called “Mr. Jefferson’s River” because Thomas Jefferson grew up playing on its banks, winds through the City of Charlottesville and parts of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson, and Orange counties.

Stretches of the Rivanna are polluted by runoff and are targeted for cleanup by the state, area localities, and local groups such as the Rivanna Conservation Society (RCS) and the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC). But much of the river remains relatively pristine and beautiful, making it a favorite destination for local anglers, paddlers, and other outdoor lovers.
On July 21, several officials from Albemarle and Fluvanna joined RCS, RRBC, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for a canoe tour of the river. Early morning rains had raised the water level enough for a pleasant paddle from Crofton to Palmyra, Va. During the 6.5-mile run, the paddlers looked up to see herons, hawks, ducks, and bald eagles, and down to observe gar, catfish, and small mouth bass. Towering sycamores and white oaks protected steep stream banks from erosion and provided habitat for hundreds of species of plants, animals, and insects.

The significance of this beautiful river and the need to protect it wasn’t lost on the local officials. Paddlin' Peggy and super volunteer Bill Emory from C-ville having a chat on the Rivanna 7-12

Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols told the conservation groups after the trip, “Thank you all for a great experience on Saturday! I learned a great deal and can now serve as a more knowledgeable advocate for our waterways.”

Joe Chesser, a Fluvanna supervisor, summed up his thoughts saying, “I enjoyed the day.  We have a great resource to continue to protect.”

That local pride and commitment to protect local waterways will one day produce a clean and restored Chesapeake Bay.  Clean water: it starts in our own back yards.

Chuck Epes
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photos, Robert Jennings/CBF; Map, Rivanna River Basin Commission


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