Monday 27 May 2019

James Riverkeeper

The James RIVERKEEPER® Program was launched in 2001 when James River Association joined the Waterkeeper Alliance. James Riverkeeper Jamie Brunkow is a full-time on the water advocates for the right to protect and defend clean water and the environment. On any given day a Riverkeeper serves as a detective, an educator, a river ambassador or a scientist. The goal of this important core program is to maintain a constant vigil on the James River, monitoring its conditions, identifying problems and ensuring that solutions are executed properly.

Jamie joined JRA in May of 2012. He previously served as Riverkeeper at the Sassafras River Association on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. As the eyes, ears and public voice for the Sassafras River, he expanded water quality monitoring to track hazardous algae blooms, worked to implement SRA's watershed action plan, and garnered citizen and local government support for clean water policies. Jamie began his career as an environmental educator working with teenage youth, and went on to work at Friends of the Rappahannock, leading restoration, education and advocacy projects such as "Get the Dirt Out" - a citizen based effort to reduce pollution from construction sites. A native Virginian, Jamie grew up in Stafford County with a love for all things outdoors and earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Virginia Tech. From an early age his love for nature and wild places grew into a passion for protecting our natural resources, and Jamie brings to JRA a commitment to improving water quality in America’s Founding River.

River Monitoring

JRA's Riverkeepers monitor the length of the James River and its more than 15,000 miles of tributaries. You’ll find them on the water in a jon boat, kayak, canoe or doing river reconnaissance on foot and by vehicle 2 to 3 days each week.

Citizen Water Quality Monitor

Many portions of the James River and tributaries are currently impaired due to excessive harmful bacteria. And for those who swim or recreate in the River, bacteria is an invisible pollutant that can pose serious health threats. One of the most common questions JRA receives from the public is whether it is safe to swim in certain parts of the James River.  JRA launched a water quality monitoring initiative in 2013 across the James River watershed. JRA uses volunteers as “citizen scientists”, collecting water samples and recording data to track the environmental health of the River. Sampling occurs weekly from May to September, and data is made available to the public on JRA's James River Watch website ( 

RiverRats Program

JRA and its James Riverkeepers are recruiting the James River’s first line of citizen defense, the RiverRats. This program engages volunteers to patrol the James and its tributaries and to take action to protect and restore the entire watershed. Whether walking a neighborhood stream, kayaking a local river, or boating the wide reaches of the lower James, JRA RiverRats will document potential pollution sources and their effects while also reporting natural patterns in river hydrology and wildlife sightings. A scientific background is not required. Training and equipment will be provided.

RiverRats will be proactive in protecting their river by committing to action projects in their communities. By helping JRA keep watch over our waterways and inspiring their neighbors to choose clean water, RiverRats will play a vital role in protecting and restoring America’s Founding River.

Sturgeon Restoration

The Lower James Riverkeeper and other partners in the scientific community are working to monitor and restore the Atlantic sturgeon population in the James River. The James River’s sturgeon is often called “the fish that saved Jamestown” because this large fish was so numerous that it kept the early settlers from starving. By the first half of the 20th century, overfishing and pollution, particularly sedimentation had decimated their numbers. After almost a decade of tagging and monitoring the James’ sturgeon population, an ambitious program is underway to help increase the number of Atlantic sturgeon in the river. Through a partnership that includes the James River Association, up to three artificial spawning reefs will be constructed in the Lower James.  These reefs reproduce the ideal spawning ground conditions that once existed in the river. The reefs and the river will continue to be monitored for the presence of eggs, juvenile fish and mature adults.


River Advocacy

The James River Association strives to provide a voice for the River on important policy issues. Through advocacy at the citizen, local, state and federal levels, JRA works to ensure the health of the James River. The Lower James Riverkeeper and the Upper James Riverkeeper are also committed to ensuring that environmental regulations and laws under the Clean Water Act are followed, enforced and strengthened so that local waters are swimmable, fishable and accessible, and are clean and safe source of drinking water.

Citizen Advocacy

JRA’s Riverkeepers are frequently asked to address civic and service organizations. Through this outreach, the Riverkeepers help people see water resources in a new light and offer them a new prospective on protecting the James River. JRA and the Riverkeepers call upon citizens to help ensure that local and state lawmakers who make decisions on their behalf every day know their interests and natural resources are represented and protected. Sign Up to Be Part of JRAction Network

Local Advocacy

Urban stormwater represents the fastest growing source of pollution to the James River and if not controlled threatens to undermine the progress that has been made towards restoring the health of the river. JRA believes that by adopting Low Impact Development (LID) large strides can be made in addressing stormwater issues. LID is an environmental-friendly development process that involves altering site planning, design and development processes so that the impact of stormwater on the surrounding land is reduced. To learn more about JRA’s LID work, check out report on Promoting Low Impact Development in Virginia. JRA has also developed a stormwater model ordinance and conducted a study that provides local governments with cost-effective solutions for meeting stormwater pollution obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup. View the Full Report and the JRA Executive Summary.

State Advocacy

JRA’s main policy priority is to ensure that Virginia maintains its commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup effort and continues on the path towards restoring the James. To do so, adequate funding from the Virginia General Assembly and support from state agencies is imperative. Accordingly, JRA works closely with both of these audiences to ensure that the James River is a priority. In order to support continued progress in the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup, JRA released a study that will assist in the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup at the local level, by linking local water quality goals to those of the Bay. To learn more, click here.

A “Tire-less” James! 

JRA with other partners organize volunteers to remove tires -- and only tires -- from the James River during the annual Tire-less James event. Bridgestone Americas LLC is supporting JRA's efforts by providing free hauling and recycling of all tires collected during the cleanup through its Tires4Ward program. This is a self-directed cleanup.


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