The James River Association released its 2023 State of the James, a report card for bringing the river back to full health. This year’s overall grade improved to a B with a score of 66%.
JRA publishes the study every two years. In 2021, the James made a B- at 61%. Since then, improvements in the areas of river health and river restoration have raised the score.
Use the interactive report to explore what numbers have gone up and where the James can still improve. The report includes scores for 18 indicators related to river health and restoration. Here’s a quick breakdown.
The bald eagle indicator held steady at 100% and wastewater pollution controls rose nine points to also reach 100%.
Juvenile striped bass (86%) and nitrogen (80%) are the other two highest scores, although the bass number actually fell six points since the previous report. JRA says rising temperatures and an increase in recreational fishing may be contributing to the population decline.
Many indicators are hovering at the B level, reaching 60-79%. This includes land protection, riparian forests, smallmouth bass, brook trout, and oysters, which all came in at over 70%.
Smallmouth bass had a score of 76%, down 13 points from the previous report, likely due to warmer water temperatures and loss of habitat.
The biggest improvement was underwater grasses, which rose 14 points to 60%.
Areas for improvement
The American shad number remains at 0%, where it has stayed since 2020. Restoration efforts are ongoing across the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.
JRA also notes that improving scores in certain areas will impact other indicators. For example, building up riparian forests (currently at 78%) improves habitat conditions for fish like smallmouth bass (76%) and helps reduce sediment pollution (45%).
Want to get involved? Check out the James Changer program to see how you can support the health of the James from home.