Seven Things You Can Do To Protect the Shenandoah River From Future Fish Kills

Posted on April 23, 2008

Guest Article by Jeff “Yakfish” Little

I went to Jeff Kelble’s Shenandoah Riverkeeper gathering on the South Fork Shenandoah River last month. The presentation rocked – but I was kind of bummed out by the poor showing from the and PRSC communities. We need to do better in supporting Shenandoah Riverkeeper, so I asked Jeff what we could do. He went into very specific detail (including photos) of the types of things he wanted fellow paddlers and fishermen to be looking for while they are out on the river doing their normal thing. Here’s what he said:

1. River Bank Destruction – Any alteration of the naturally formed bank which includes vegetation, trees and rock/dirt structure can be damaging to the river. If you see anything destroying a bank, be it people, animals, or machines, snap some photos.

2. Cows in the River – This one hits more than close to home for me, as my wife is a dairy farmer, and her cows are trampling the bank and crapping and peeing in Little Pipe Creek (a tributary of the Monocacy River). However, I do not feel threatened by Jeff’s focusing on this issue. I know that he understands that farmers like my wife are trying to make a living. I think Jeff is trying to create a visual picture of the bank degradation that has occurred in the valley, and his interest is in finding new ways to solve this historical cultural issue. This one goes hand in hand with river bank destruction. By tallying the prevalence of this problem, Jeff may be better suited to argue for a change in the way we provide incentives farmers to fence out cattle.

3. Discharge Pipes (or any other apparent point source pollution) – Discharge pipes that are discolored, emitting a foul odor, a lot of foam, or some other detectable pollution fall under this category. This could be a straight sewage pipe from a home or cabin on the river, a big industrial discharger or something funny seeping out of the ground. If it looks funny – snap a photo.

4. Foam – some foam can naturally occur from the decomposition of leaves. If you see mounds of foam, or a big iceberg looking wad of foam, take a picture of it, email the photo to Jeff, and let him know the specific location it was found. Foam can be a sign of someone’s illegal septic discharge, or some industrial pollution.

5. Lesions – Among the most important things we can do right now is to document the development of lesions on our fish WHEN IT IS HAPPENING. Where in the watershed is important too. Take close up pictures of the lesion with something like your hand or a coin next to it to show the size of the lesion – let Jeff know by email or phone. Please try to be as detailed as possible without feeling you’re giving away secret fishing locations.

6. Healed Lesions – At the gathering, Jeff displayed several close up pictures of healed lesions. This means that some fish survived after being sick. This is great news! Now we’re trying to figure out where in the watershed fish were able to survive these lesions and where they generally died from them.

7. Funky Stuff – Jeff illustrated “funky” by showing a photograph of a rock in his hand that was entirely covered by green stringy algae. He said the whole river bottom was covered with the stuff. It looked out of place to him, so he investigated. The rock happened to be just downstream of an industrial discharge pipe that was dumping incredibly high nutrients. Jeff is now in litigation with the company. I think his point here was that if it looks out of place, take a picture, and send it to him with your narrative of what about it caught your attention. If it looks funny for any reason – send it along.

If you were unable to attend the event last month, you can still help out in a huge way. Take pictures, make observations, and communicate them to:

Jeff Kelble, Shenandoah Riverkeeper
Riverkeeper Hotline: (540) 837-1479

Please print this thread, and keep it in your vehicle, boat, or dry bag for hotline reference.

Membership in Shenandoah Riverkeeper is $35 for individuals and $50 for families. All donations are tax deductible and can be mailed to:
Shenandoah Riverkeeper
P.O. Box 405
Boyce, VA 22620

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