October 26, 2023


Erin Hillert, Director of Communications
James River Association
Cell: 608.239.2644 | Email:

The James River is Healthier but Actions are Still Necessary

The James River Association’s State of the James Report Reflects a “B” Grade for the River.

The James River Association (JRA) released their biennial State of the James report today, showing the overall health of the river at a grade B with a score of 66%. The overall grade of the State of the James has improved to a B with a score of 66% from its failing health decades ago. Although the pace of progress has slowed, a grade-A James River is possible if we address key issues. It is estimated that the James River’s health in the 1970’s would have been a D minus.

“The James River has come a long way since JRA was founded in 1976, and is now a prized asset for the communities that surround it, playing an important role in people’s lives everyday,” said Bill Street, CEO and President for JRA. “While progress has slowed in recent years as the river faces new challenges from climate change, we see signs that a grade A James is possible if we keep up our collective commitment and all do our part to safeguard the river for future generations.”

JRA’s State of the James is essentially a report card for the river, summarizing ongoing efforts to bring the James back to full health. This critical assessment, compiled using data from partners across the watershed, examines the status and trends of eighteen indicators across two categories of River Health and River Restoration Progress.

In terms of good news for the James, underwater grasses expanded to their highest total on record and tidal water quality also returned to its recent high. Both of these indicators are largely influenced by pollution from upstream sources, so their collective improvement signifies broader progress. Additionally, continued investment in clean water programs for wastewater, agriculture and urban stormwater has yielded direct improvements in pollution controls, which have helped to improve the overall health of the river.

“The State of the James demonstrates a strong correlation between funding by Virginia in clean water programs and the health of the James River. The recent historic level of investments in wastewater and agricultural pollution controls are already paying dividends for the millions of Virginians who rely on the James River,” said Nathan Thomson, Lead Policy Advocate for JRA. “The more we invest in the river, the greater the improvement in river health and benefits to the community.”

Unfortunately, American shad, the report’s first ever 0% indicator as of 2021, still remains in a critical state. Upon the urging of JRA and partners, Virginia’s General Assembly allocated funding toward the creation of a recovery plan for American shad. The recovery plan is due to the General Assembly next month.

A recent stock assessment conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission found that coastwide populations of American shad were depleted, and monitoring by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has found that American shad abundances in the James River are at an all-time low. “The conservation and management of American shad in the rivers of Virginia will take a continued and coordinated effort by multiple partners to address both direct and indirect pressures on this species,” stated Dr. Eric Hilton of VIMS. VIMS will be submitting a report to the General Assembly in November detailing the threats to the shad population in the James River and recommending actions that need to be taken to evaluate these threats and stem the decline.

“To save this iconic species and other migratory fish in the James, Virginia must take swift action to address the threats identified in the American shad recovery plan,” stated Tom Dunlap, James Riverkeeper. “We cannot let such an important part of our river ecosystem, our history and our culture disappear from the James River.”

To learn more about the State of the James, visit, or contact Erin Hillert at to be connected with a member of JRA’s advocacy team.




The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000-square mile watershed, the James River Association works toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. With offices in Lynchburg, Scottsville, Richmond and Williamsburg, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information, visit

Thank you to our press partners for the following coverage:

Oct 26, 2023 – WVTF Radio IQ – New report gives James River a ‘B’ for overall health

Oct 26, 2023 –  NBC 29 – James River’s health given ‘B’ grade in latest report

Oct 26, 2023 – ABC 8 – James River Association releases 2023 ‘State of the James’ report

Oct 26, 2023 – VPM News – James River health improves slightly, environmental group says

Oct 26, 2023 – CBS 19 – James River Association gives James River a grade B rating in annual report

Oct 26, 2023 – WTKR 3 – James River health improves in 2023: Report

Oct 26, 2023 – NBC 12 – James River’s health given ‘B’ grade in latest report

Oct 26, 2023 – KWCH 12 News – James River’s health given ‘B’ grade in latest report

Oct 26, 2023 – WLOX – James River’s health given ‘B’ grade in latest report

Oct 26, 2023 – WBRC 6 – James River’s health given ‘B’ grade in latest report

Oct 26, 2023 – RICtoday – A report card for the James

Oct 26, 2023 – Richmond Times-Dispatch – James River water is healthier, but key species struggle

Oct 26, 2023 – The Daily Progress – James River water is healthier, but key species struggle

Oct 26, 2023 – The News & Advance Report: James River is healthier but actions still necessary

Oct 26, 2023 – Nelson County Times Report: James River is healthier but Actions Still Necessary

Oct 26, 2023 – WYDaily – James River Association: River is Healthier, but Actions Still Necessary

Oct 28, 2023 – WAVY TV 10 – James River getting healthier

Oct 28, 2023 – The Daily Press/Virginia Gazette – James River receives passing grade in biennial study, though there is more work to be done

Oct 29, 2023 – Danville Register & Bee – James River water is healthier, but key species struggle

Oct 30, 2023 – – James River water is healthier, but key species struggle

Oct 31, 2023 – Chesapeake Bay Magazine – State Of The James River Reports Slowing Progress, Zero American Shad

Oct 31, 2023 – CBS 6 WTVR – He moved to Richmond and fell in love with the James River. Now he works to protect it and needs your help.

Oct 31, 2023 – The Smithfield – Times James River earns a B grade; actions still needed to improve its health