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, the James River Association works to ensure the health of the James River.

Learn more about our advocacy efforts below.


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. View the report to see how the river’s health has changed.

Meet the Team

Tom Dunlap

Tom Dunlap


Nathan Thomson

Nathan Thomson

Lead Policy Advocate

Make Your Voice Heard!

The actions of our government – at the local, state and federal levels – have an enormous impact on you and your family. Writing an email or a letter and making a follow-up phone call only takes a few minutes of your time, but it ensures that the people who make decisions on your behalf every day know how you want to be represented.

Elected officials at every level of government need to hear that their constituents care about clean water and a healthy James River. We’ve identified policy solutions that will help us reach a “Grade A” river. Take action now to share those solutions with your representatives.

Press Statement: JRA Statement on Memorandum from Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on Protection of State Waters

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 29, 2023 CONTACT:Bill Street, President and CEOJames River Association(e)...

Clean Water Legislation Spotlight

The 2023 General Assembly session is now over, and legislation is on its way to the Governor's desk as we write these words. The final state budget...

2023 James River Agenda

Across the Commonwealth and across the aisle, Virginians value clean water and healthy rivers. The James River supports thriving industries, from...

Become a RiverRep

Interested in taking a deeper dive into advocacy? Join RiverReps — our group of passionate individuals ready to speak up on the issues impacting the James River.

RiverReps are trained in how to most effectively share their message for clean water, are kept in the loop on our advocacy strategy each legislative session, and are asked to take three advocacy actions per year. As a RiverRep, your voice can bring change to the James.

Advocacy at each level

Local Advocacy

Many decisions that impact the James River are made at the local level. From stream buffer protections to political support for river restoration to emphasizing environmental education – it all starts at home. The James River Association works at the local level to ensure that the river is a priority in decision makers minds.

State Advocacy

At the state level, we ensure that public policies are in place to achieve a fully healthy James River. Our focus is two pronged: addressing long-term pollution concerns through river restoration plans and ensuring proper protections are in place to prevent future degradation. To accomplish these objectives, we work closely with state agencies as well as the Virginia General Assembly.

Federal Advocacy

As a part of its federal government outreach, the James River Association participates in the Choose Clean Water Coalition — 200 organizations from throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed dedicated to protecting clean water for all. The James River Association focuses on supporting federal funding for clean water programs, working with the EPA on the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup, as well as agricultural and urban stormwater issues.

Policy Highlights

The first multi-state agreement to clean up the Chesapeake Bay dates back to 1983. But by 2008, after three more agreements, we faced a harsh truth: we were decades away from our goal. Recognizing that the Chesapeake Bay was a national gem that needed federal support, President Obama signed an executive order directing agencies like the EPA to help the Bay states restore clean water.

EPA got to work developing a pollution diet, calculating the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment the Bay could handle and still be healthy. We call that diet the “Bay Total Maximum Daily Load” or Bay TMDL. To get the Bay back to fighting weight, we need to cut 25% of our nitrogen loads, 24% of the phosphorus and 20% of the sediment.

While the Bay TMDL sets the target, it’s still up to the states to decide how to get there. Each state writes a series of Watershed Implementation Plans, with the tools and best management practices that will reduce its pollution load to meet the Bay TMDL diet. Over the past 10 years, the overall health of the James River has improved 10 points to a B-, a sign that restoration efforts are working. The more we invest in water quality, the more benefits the river can offer communities through clean drinking water, recreation, and quality of life.

Virginia’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan picks up where the previous two plans left off, building on our progress, learning from our mistakes, and charting a course for the last five years of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup. It’s ambitious, calling for renewed efforts by every sector — agriculture, wastewater, and urban stormwater — to help close the gap between where we are and where we need to be by 2025.

Coal ash is a waste product of coal-fired power plants that contains arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury among other toxins. When stored improperly in unlined landfills, coal ash can cause pollution by leaching, or draining, heavy metals into nearby waterways. Many of these metals are carcinogens (capable of causing cancer) that may cause significant health risks for people exposed through drinking water or through recreation in contaminated areas.

Like many power plants that use heat to make electricity, coal plants are often built near rivers to provide easy access to water for cooling. For decades, the Environmental Protection Agency failed to set requirements for safe coal ash disposal, leaving coal ash to pile up in unlined ponds and landfills near vulnerable rivers that provide clean drinking water for neighboring communities.

Dominion Energy has a total of 21 million tons of coal stored in unlined ponds at two power plants located on the banks of the James River: Bremo and Chesterfield. Together with our partners and the help of our Action Network, we’re working to keep Virginia communities safe by calling on Dominion to safely dispose of coal ash through beneficial recycling and safe removal to lined landfills.

Throughout Virginia, thousands of manufacturers and other businesses store potentially hazardous chemicals in above-ground storage tanks, but we lack comprehensive safety regulations for these tanks. Spills could pose a substantial risk of harm to public health and natural resources, including sources of drinking water like the James River.

Virginia has comprehensive regulations for oil tanks and underground chemical storage tanks, but nothing for aboveground chemical tanks. The hazardous substances stored in these chemical tanks is, in many cases, far more hazardous to human health than oil.

A 2014 chemical spill in Charleston WV highlighted the need for action. Toxic chemicals leaked from corroded tanks and contaminated the city’s water supply for more than a week.

We need a strong regulatory program for above-ground tanks storing hazardous chemicals that requires registration, reporting, safety specifications, and spill prevention and response planning.

Advocate for your river.

Our Action Network, made up of thousands of advocates, contacts legislators, attends public hearings, researches policies and regulations, and helps us recruit others to speak up for the river.