State of the James

The State of the James is a report card summarizing ongoing efforts to bring the James River back to full health. This comprehensive assessment of the health of the river is published every two years.

The State of the James report is designed to examine the status and trends of indicators in two categories – River Health and River Restoration Progress – that are interconnected and build on each other to achieve a healthy James River. The River Health score is comprised of ten indicators, identified in blue, related to the ecological health of the James. They include fish and wildlife species native to the river as well as the habitat features that help these species thrive.  The eight River Restoration indicators, identified in green, track our progress as a watershed to complete the restoration actions outlined in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan and reduce the amount of pollution entering the James River by 2025.

For each indicator, the James River Association has identified and compiled quantitative benchmarks set for what is needed to achieve a fully healthy river. When possible, the benchmark is a goal that has been set by the state or an authority on a specific indicator.

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The overall score remained steady at 60% and a grade of B-minus, a positive sign for the resilience of the James River despite the record rains of 2018.

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The increased polluted runoff associated with heavier than normal downpours caused setbacks for a number of indicators, including sediment reductions, bacteria pollution, tidal water quality, and oysters.

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While bald eagles and smallmouth bass remained strong, American shad were the lowest scoring indicator, dropping to just 1%.

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We continue to see progress in areas where Virginia has made significant investments, particularly wastewater pollution controls.

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Virginia’s newest Cleanup Plan provides a blueprint for achieving a Grade-A James River by 2025 and calls for more investment in agriculture and stormwater pollution controls.

DRINKING WATER

2.7 million people rely on the James River for water, making it Virginia’s largest source of drinking water

SEAFOOD PRODUCTION

6.1 million pounds of commercial fish and shellfish were landed from the James River in 2018 with a total dockside value of $21.4 million.

RIVERSIDE PARK VISITATION

More than 5 million people visited riverside parks along the James River and its tributaries in 2018. Richmond’s James River Park System saw the most visitation with 1,753,046 guests.

PUBLIC RIVER ACCESS

The James River and its tributaries offer over 250 places to enjoy the James River and its tributaries. 39 new places have been added since 2013.

HUNTING & FISHING LICENSES 

495,918 people purchased hunting and fishing licenses within the watershed in 2018.

The James is definitely on the comeback – but we need your help to keep making progress! Change the James with us , see how the James can change you and keep the comeback coming!

CHANGE THE JAMES AND THE JAMES WILL CHANGE YOU

One third of all Virginians live in the James River watershed and benefit from a healthy river. At the James River Association, we have many ways you can be a James Changer:

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Prevent pollution at home by becoming a River Hero Home.

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Lend us your time and talent by volunteering for the James.

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Help be eyes and ears on the river by joining the RiverRats program.

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Remind your elected officials that a healthy, accessible James is a priority by becoming a RiverRep.

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Get out and enjoy the river on a James River Adventures trip.

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Introduce someone to the river on a Connect with the James program.

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Strengthen our collective voice for the river by becoming a member

Acknowledgements

The James River Association would like to thank the following organizations for their contributions to this report:Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Conservancy, College of William and Mary – Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Conservation Biology, Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Environmental Endowment, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Integration and Application Network, United States Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program, and United States Geological Survey.