Restoration Efforts in Virginia
Sustain, restore and conserve

National Wildlife Refuges in the James River Watershed
December 20, 2011

Every day is a great day for a virtual tour of our National Wildlife Refuges in the Chesapeake Bay, so get on board to explore the James River Watershed!

Contact Info:  Meghan Carfioli, (804) 829-5413,

Native Oyster Restoration Backed by Record of Decision
August 13, 2009

Crassostrea ariakensis. Photo by Julie Slacum
Asian Oyster. Photo by Julie Slacum

The controversy over the introduction of a non-native oyster species into the Chesapeake Bay ended on Aug 13, 2009  as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Maryland all agreed on an oyster restoration strategy focused solely on the native Eastern oyster.

A document signed by Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), known as a record of decision, ended an extensive five-year study, which began when state officials, faced with a native oyster population ravaged by disease, over harvesting, and destruction of habitat , proposed the introduction of a the non-native Suminoe oyster.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, not only was the proposed action to be assessed , but also a range of options for restoring oysters to the Chesapeake Bay and an evaluation of the potential environmental consequences of each options.

The Corps, Maryland and Virginia were the lead agencies for study. Cooperating federal agencies included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission also participated in the process.

Alternative options included taking no action, a harvest moratorium, introducing the non-native oyster, expanded aquaculture efforts, abandoning Eastern oyster efforts, and various combinations of alternatives.

But years of scientific study made it clear that the use of non-native oysters in Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries posed unacceptable ecological risks. The record of decision is the most sustainable solution to restoring the oyster to the Chesapeake Bay.

 Contact Info: Kathryn Reshetiloff, 410-573-4582,

Partners Protect 500 Acres of Tidal Freshwater Wetlands: James River, Charles City County, Virginia
December 4, 2008

Ducking Stool Point. USFWS photo.
Ducking Stool Point. USFWS photo.

More than 500 acres of tidal freshwater marsh, located at the mouth of Herring Creek, in Charles City County, Virginia, on the James River are now safe from erosion thanks to a partnership that included the James River Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Vulcan Materials Company, Coastal America, Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (CWRP) and Coastal Design and Construction.

Ducking Stool Point is a spit of land at the mouth of Herring Creek on the James River that protects over 500 acres of tidal freshwater wetlands.  The site was experiencing an alarming erosion rate exacerbated by wave action from large commercial vessels, barges and recreational vessels utilizing the river and recreational vessels using the creek.  Prior attempts to stabilize the shoreline using vegetation failed due to the high-energy wave action.  The purpose of this cooperative project was to protect the eroded shoreline.  The ecological structure and function of the 500-acre marsh would have been compromised, if it were left to erode.

In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Virginia Fisheries Coordinator Office (VFC), in collaboration with the James River Association (JRA), applied for a Cooperative Conservation Initiative (CCI) Grant through the Department of the Interior to fund a project to protect the tidal freshwater wetlands on the James River at Ducking Stool Point in Herring Creek.  The site location is downstream of the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery and across the James River from the James River National Wildlife Refuge.  A $100,000 grant was awarded for the project in 2004.  The James River Association was selected as the non-government organization (NGO) to coordinate the project and a Cooperative Agreement between the USFWS and the JRA was completed.  JRA leveraged an additional $111, 000 to complete the project.

Anadromous fish species such as blueback herring, alewife, and hickory shad utilize Herring Creek for spawning and as a nursery area.  In addition, striped bass and American eel use the area as nursery habitat.  The area is important to wildlife, too.  Bald eagles nest and feed in Herring Creek and various waterfowl species frequent the area for feeding and for resting.  The area is also important for recreational fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie and catfish, thus making it an important place for people to connect with nature.

Overall, this project is an excellent example of an effective, resource-based partnership in action.  The $100,000 provided by the USFWS leveraged an additional $111,000.  Clearly, without the cooperation of many partners, this significant project on the James River in Virginia … and its multiple public resource benefits … would not have been possible.

Contact Info: albert spells, 804.829.5627,

Potomac National Wildlife Refuge Hosts National Trails Day Signature Event
June 6, 2009

Woodmarsh Trail after closure. USFWS photo.
Woodmarsh Trail after closure. USFWS photo.

On Saturday June 6, 2009, the Potomac River NWR Complex partnered with the American Hiking Society to conduct the Signature National Trails Day event for the Country at the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

National Trails Day events take place across the country in June to bring an awareness of the importance of trails as well as to provide a day in which the public can join in maintaining, constructing and dedicating trails.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was the host agency for this year's event.

A special ceremony took place at 9 AM on the grounds of the Mason Neck State Park. The newly established Occoquan Water Trail was featured during this event. It is estimated that 80 people attended the ceremony, 50 people requested information on trails around the Neck, 10 people participated in the canoe "paddle" and 34 people participated in specific trail work projects.

At the refuge, deputy manager Daffny Hoskie and maintenance worker Steve Boska coordinated the restoration and rehabilitation of a 200 foot section of trail at Eagle Point along the Woodmarsh Trail.  Boy Scouts from Troop 141 and volunteers assisted with the laying out of coconut matting and hauling of limbs and logs to discourage public access into the restored area.

This was the American Hiking Society's first time leading the signature event.

Contact Info: Daffny Hoskie, 7034904979,


Restoration Stockings of American Shad in the Rappahannock River, Virginia in 2009
June 1, 2009

American shad. Illustration by Duane Raver
American shad. Illustration by Duane Raver

In 2009 Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery produced and stocked 3.25 million marked American shad fry as part of a cooperative interagency project to restore this commercially and recreationally important fishery species to the Rappahannock River.  All of the released fish carry a permanent tetracycline mark on their ear bones that discern them from wild fish, which will allow biologists to determine the success of the hatchery program.

The migratory American shad, historically the dominant commercial fishery in the Chesapeake Bay and a valuable recreational species, has declined drastically due in part to the loss of hundreds of miles of spawning/nursery habitat by dam construction.  In Virginia, the majority of American shad habitat lost from dam construction occurred in the James and the Rappahannock Rivers.  Providing fish passage at dams and reintroducing young fish to imprint on the historic habitat are key solutions to restoring the species.  The imprinted shad return as adults to spawn 3-5 years after stocking and have the instinct to return to the upper river where they were originally stocked.

On the Rappahannock River, Embrey Dam at Fredericksburg used to exclude American shad from accessing at least 73 miles of former spawning/nursery habitat.  In 2004, Embrey Dam was demolished providing American shad and other migratory species unrestricted access to their historic habitat.  However, the remnant American shad stock in the Fredericksburg area was very low and none of the returning adult fish were imprinted to spawn in the habitat above the former dam.  To accelerate the recolonization of the upper river and restore the river's population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commonwealth of Virginia began stocking marked larval American shad above Embrey Dam in 2003.  For this stocking program, eggs are taken from adult shad captured in the Potomac River at Fort Belvoir and transferred to Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery for rearing.  The hatched fry are marked with tetracycline and then stocked into the upper Rappahannock River well upstream of Fredericksburg.  The young shad spend their first summer of life in the upper river and then migrate to the ocean the following fall.  An estimated 9,634 of the fish stocked by Harrison Lake NFH this year should return as adults to spawn in future years.

Contact Info: Jennifer Lapis, (413) 253-8303,


Last updated: February 9, 2012