The James River Association celebrated it’s 41st year at the Annual Meeting and Oyster Roast held in Richmond at The Boathouse at Rockett’s Landing. Members enjoyed panoramic views of the downtown city skyline, an oyster roast, appetizers and cocktails as they mingled with other attendees who shared a passion for the James River.

This year CEO, Bill Street, gave a sneak peek of the 2017 State of the James Report, which is a report card on the ongoing effort to bring the James River back to full health. This comprehensive assessment of the health of the river is published every two years. This most recent report shows the overall health of the James at a grade of “B-“in 2017. The overall score for the river rose to 62%, which represents an increase of 10 points since the report was first published in 2007 and 3 points over the past 2 years. View the whole report at

In addition to the State of the James program, three people whom the James River Association identifies as environmental leaders who perform honorable actions to protect the James, or connect people to it, were named as the 2017 James River Heroes.

Adrienne Kotula, the Government Affairs and Policy Manager for the James River Association, introduced and awarded a 2017 River Hero Award to Senator Amanda Chase.

Senator Chase is from Chesterfield County and represents Chesterfield and Amelia County as well as the City of Colonial Heights.


The James River Association was first introduced to Senator Chase through her constituents who were concerned about pollution in the James River and specifically pollution coming from the coal ash ponds at Chesterfield Power Station.


Despite the fact that coal ash was one of the most controversial environmental issues before the General Assembly this year, Senator Chase took the time to learn the issue in detail, to work tirelessly with her colleagues on finding a solution, and at every step along the way was fighting for her constituents and for the James River. Now, if you speak to Senator Chase’s Senate colleagues, you will find out that she is a fierce advocate for her constituents and the issues that are important to them.


As a result of her efforts, Virginia has taken a step back to better understand the impacts that coal ash is having on our waterways and the Commonwealth will be able to make more informed decisions on the best way to protect the James River moving forward.

Jamie Brunkow, James River Association’s Lower James Riverkeeper, awarded Albert Spells a 2017 River Hero Award.

Albert Spells has had many titles over the years, acting as Fish Hatchery Supervisor, Project Leader, and Fish Biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service based in Charles City County. The mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service Virginia office is to improve the health of Virginia’s rivers for fish and for people, and foster quality fishing and outdoor experiences.


During Albert’s time with USFWS, which spans more than 30 years, he has worked to restore and help manage migratory fish species such as Atlantic sturgeon, American shad, Alewife, Blueback herring, and American eel. Albert has also worked on projects to improve habitat for Virginia’s aquatic species – removing dams and culverts that create barriers to trout or river herring migration.


In 2004, an inaugural meeting took place titled the Sturgeon Summit, which was a gathering of academic faculty, biologists, and fisheries experts and managers from across the region. Back then, many believed sturgeon were no longer in the James River – that overfishing and habitat loss had decimated the population for good. Albert was the only voice at that meeting that believed there were still sturgeon in the James, and that in time we could restore the species.


Albert is exceptionally knowledgeable and experienced – but he also knows how to inspire people to be good stewards of the environment, and to build effective partnerships that can accomplish big goals. He is a River Hero that we should all thank for his tireless work to help restore Virginia’s rivers.

Nat Draper, the Education Manager for the James River Association introduced and awarded Mr. Rodney Culverhouse as a 2017 James River Hero.

Rodney Culverhouse is the science director for Newport News Public Schools. Rodney has been a huge advocate of hands on outdoor education for the students of Newport News. Currently, all sixth graders from that community have an opportunity to visit the James River Association’s Lower James River Ecology School.


During this opportunity students learn how to canoe on Powhatan Creek, conduct water quality testing and experience nature unlike they are able to do in their day-to-day lives. Thanks to the work of Mr. Culverhouse and the James River Association team, 6 environmental education grants have been secured in the last 2 years which help reduce costs and train Newport News teachers.

Thank you to all of the James River Association members who were able to join us at this year’s celebration, and a special thanks to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Smithfield, Estes, and Dominion Due Diligence for their sponsorship of the 2017 Annual Meeting.