Our History

Photo by Roy Sewall

Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc. was founded in 2000 by a group of local community members who saw the need for stronger enforcement of federal, state, and local clean water protections in local rivers through grassroots advocacy and legal action. Riverkeepers are the eyes and ears of the rivers, the voice of the rivers, and the experts in the rivers, protecting the public’s rights to clean water. Encompassing the skills of scientists, teachers, law officers, fishermen, and paddlers, Riverkeepers combine a profound knowledge of their waterway, matched with a relentless commitment to protecting clean water and the rule of law.

Ed Merrifield was hired in 2003 as the first Potomac Riverkeeper and President of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network. In 2006, Jeff Kelble was hired as the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and in 2010 Brent Walls joined the team as Upper Potomac Riverkeeper. Ed Merrifield led the foundation in its early stages to their first successes including filing the first enforcement actions against polluters and testifying before Congress on the intersex fish problem that was plaguing the Potomac River in 2006. Ed retired from being President at the end of 2012, and in 2014 Jeff transitioned to be President and Riverkeeper.

In 2015, Potomac Riverkeeper Network was formed when the organization hired two new Riverkeepers: Mark Frondorf, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper as well as Phillip Musegaas, Vice President of Programs and Litigation, to oversee its expanding docket of legal actions. The resulting organization, PRKN, is the sole nonprofit combining assessment, advocacy, legal action, and community engagement to stop pollution in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

After several more years of growth and success defending clean water in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and their tributaries, Jeff left Potomac Riverkeeper Network, and in 2018 Nancy Stoner, one of the nation’s most experienced water policy experts, joined the organization as the new president, and, along with the board of directors, has helped PRKN expand and deepen its reach throughout the watershed.