John M. Kennedy
DEQ Office of Water Monitoring and Assessment
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, Virginia 23218-1105
RE: Draft 2014 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report
Dear Mr. Kennedy,
I am writing to request that Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality add the North Fork, South Fork and Main Stem of the Shenandoah as impaired waters on thee 2014 305(b)3/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report because of the severe algae problems the river experiences every year.
I fish the North Fork, South Fork and Main Stem of the Shenandoah extensively and I also use all three rivers to take my family canoeing and camping. However, for much of the year, large sections of each river seems to experience a series of noxious algae blooms that seriously diminish my use and enjoyment of the rivers.
In each of the past six years during late winter a planktonic algae blooms, usually after a high water event, but not always. Over the course of the year I use the entire river system and have seen this on all three rivers from Port Republic down to Front Royal, from Broadway to Front Royal and from Front Royal to the Confluence with the Potomac River. This bloom turns the river a dark murky green color, like green paint, from late winter until about July. When the algae blooms I often choose not to swim or fish and I don’t like to take my family swimming because they don’t like the off-color murk water. When I do fish I find the fishing is poor and I don’t enjoy the experience as much. Whenever the river is this murky color, it’s disturbing to fish and the fish are usually lethargic and often they don’t feed at all. Activity in the river drops to near zero. For the past two years I simply could not fish the lower south fork or the entire MainStem from July through August because of the plankton green water. I have never seen these problems on other Virginia Rivers.
By mid May or June each year as the river clears the planktons seem to die back. But then a filamentous algae (rock snot) takes hold covers the river bottom and the native grasses which are trying to emerge. The native grasses turn brown and lose their leaves and remain bare the rest of the year. Additionally, a floating bubbly type of algae (I’m told its Cynabacteria or Blue Green Algae) comes at this time. Clumps rise up to and float on the water surface and then accumulates on anything sticking out of the river and in back eddies. This algae smells like sewage or rotting broccoli. When these algaes are blooming I literally do not want to be anywhere near the river and I often choose to go somewhere else. When I have no other place to go then it just takes all the enjoyment out of my day. The fishing is frustrating because you cannot fish without fouling your line on the algae, the fish won’t bite lures or bait with algae sticking to it. I find being around the river very unpleasant due to the odors and annoyance. I found this problem in the following areas last year from July through August; Broadway, Lupton, Deer Rapids, Edinburg, Woodstock, Strasburg, Front Royal, Goods Mill, Luray Dam, 211, Alma, Port Republic, Warren Dam, Shenandoah, Route 50, Route7 among other places.
Finally, in the fall each year the native grasses die back and a bright green filamentous algae again covers the entire bottom of the river from Broadway to Strasburg. All three of these algaes make it nearly impossible to fish and again diminishes and sometimes eliminates my ability to enjoy the river.
This cycle of algae diminishes both my use and my enjoyment of the Shenandoah River system. As a result I would like to ask that DEQ include the three sections of the Shenandoah River on 305B/303D list, determine why we are having these algae problems, and to develop and implement a plan to make them go away.
Thank you for considering my comments,
Mr. Tired’of Algae
102 East Main Street
Boyce, VA 22620