Shenandoah Algae Reporting Campaign


It’s Budget Time in Virginia — Let the General Assembly Know That Funding Clean Water Must be a Priority!

Dear Friend, It’s Budget Time in Virginia — Let the General Assembly Know That Funding Clean Water Must be a Priority! Dollars can move mountains or better yet, protect our rivers and streams. We have a unique opportunity this year to see meaningful increases in natural resource funding, thanks to the budget proposed by Gov. Northam. […]

cattle in the shenandoah

Respect the Shenandoah

The Shenandoah River is near and dear to the hearts of all those who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley as I did. It is a beautiful river, a great fishing river, and great river for paddling, rafting, and inner tubing. I enjoyed many of those pastimes in my youth, but I stopped going to […]


Help Shenandoah Riverkeeper Pass a Law to Keep Cattle out of Our River!

This Wednesday, January 29, a key House Committee in the Virginia legislature will consider  HB 1422, a bill that sets a 2025 deadline to fence cattle out of waterways and requires state funding to ensure farmers can afford it. Unfenced cattle destroy streambanks and valuable riparian buffers, and directly “deposit” manure and bacteria into the […]

Comments to 2018 Virginia Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report

We are continuing our fight to force the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to fulfill its duty to identify the North Fork, South Fork, and main stem of the Shenandoah River (collectively, “Shenandoah River”) as impaired (Category 5) due to widespread algae blooms fueled by uncontrolled or poorly-controlled pollutants including nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment, […]

Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Shenandoah Riverkeeper Comments on DEQ Draft Water Quality Assessment Guidance Manual

Read the comments on behalf of Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Shenandoah Riverkeeper (“Commenters”) regarding the above-referenced Guidance Manual. Commenters appreciate the opportunity to provide our perspective on the adequacy and applicability of the manual to assessing persistent pollution problems in the Shenandoah River watershed which continue to negatively affect and impair the public’s ability to […]

Shenandoah Riverkeeper Files Lawsuit Over Algae in the Shenandoah

We’ve been dealing with excessive algae blooms throughout the river ever since a massive fish kill occurred in 2005. That event spawned Virginia’s Fish Kill Task Force to study the problem. The Task Force discovered many things. None of them good. They discovered male fish with female parts, known as intersex fish. They discovered fish […]

Press Release

EPA Fails to Protect the Shenandoah River

Local groups challenge EPA’s approval of Virginia’s decision to not list the Shenandoah as ‘impaired,’ despite excessive algae blooms and nutrient pollution Front Royal, VA — Today, four local citizen groups filed a lawsuit filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the agency’s repeated failure to address the Shenandoah River’s increasing problem with […]

Keeping Cattle Out of the River is Healthier for the Cattle – and the River

Cattle trample vegetation and destroy a stream bank as they walk down the bank to enter the river. The damage can be severe. It denudes the streamside vegetation and increases the sediment load into the river along with all of the poop and urine. Healthy stream banks and their buffers protect the vegetation, providing needed […]


Algal Outbreaks Continue to Plague the Shenandoah

The Shenandoah River and its inhabitants have been suffering from algal outbreaks for years now. We know that a principal source of the problem is nutrient runoff from agricultural operations, and we know that the fish kills directly result from the outbreaks. We also know that there are management practices, such as fencing herds of cattle out of streams, planting stream buffers, and limiting manure application to match crop needs, that would minimize nutrient pollution and their associated harmful algal outbreaks.

So, if we know the cause and we know the solutions, why is nutrient pollution allowed to continue? To make the question even more refined, why is Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) not doing more to address this problem? Always remember that the department is called “Environmental Quality” so we should be asking some hard questions.

Why, for example, does DEQ fight our effort to list the Shenandoah as impaired by nutrient pollution? Recall that Mark Frondorf, as Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Potomac Riverkeeper Network filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency when it approved DEQ’s refusal to list the river as impaired; a finding of impairment would require DEQ to impose stricter standards to guard against nutrient pollution. That lawsuit was our only recourse against DEQ’s obstinate position. We lost that case, but we are appealing.

For years, we have been asking recreational users of the Shenandoah to take photos, including information about time and location of the algal outbreaks they observe. Our members and volunteers have filled our inboxes with such photos — and we have been submitting them to DEQ with a request for action. Last year, DEQ established a formal program for accepting detailed complaints, so we have been following that new detailed protocol. Despite your efforts to document pollution — and our efforts to use that documentation for advocacy and legal action — DEQ has not yet even begun the process to list the Shenandoah as impaired by nutrient pollution.

Those of you who know us well will not be surprised to learn that we are not giving up — and we don’t want you to give up either. In addition to appealing the adverse legal ruling we received, we are continuing to document algal outbreaks, we are continuing to push for more funding for agricultural management practices that will reduce pollution (and we actually got record levels of funding in 2019), and we are bringing this problem to the attention of the media and to public officials who can help us to solve it.

Agricultural nutrient runoff causes algae to bloom; algae blooms kill fish and make the Shenandoah a less vibrant and rich part of our ecosystem as well as hindering our enjoyment of it. It’s time for DEQ to act. We need your help to make that happen. Please continue to send us your photos and observations every time you see an algal outbreak. We will use those photos with your support to redouble our efforts to advocate on your behalf for a clean Shenandoah. We will no longer be ignored.