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James River improvements have stalled, report says

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:11 PM EST
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The James River is a major recreational and economic player in the commonwealth.

For years, the James River Association has scored the waterway on a number of factors.

For 2021, they say it’s coming in at a B-.

“This report is a comprehensive assessment of the river’s health and tracks progress toward the goals set by the Commonwealth of Virginia to achieve a fully healthy James River,” said Bill Street, CEO.

Street says while the alphabetical score has remained the same now for years, the numerical score has slightly dropped.

In 2017 the river got a score of 63%. In 2019 it was scored at 62%. It now sits at 61%.

They blame heavier rainfall for washing pollution into the environment and spurring the lower score.

“The heavier than normal rainfall in recent years has washed more pollution into the river, causing setbacks for pollution reductions and stream health,” said Street.

A critical aspect of the report is a 0% score for American Shad.

The species has been decimated along the river in recent times, which JRA says will take immediate action to reverse.

“America’s founding fish is on the brink of collapse on America’s founding river. We’re calling on Virginia to develop an emergency recovery plan to ensure this storied and important fish remains a part of the James River ecosystem,” said Street.

Despite the setbacks, there have been some positives.

The oyster population has sharply increased and tidal water quality has bounced back.

But threats of climate change are at the forefront of the river’s future, with goals being raised to account for its impacts.

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