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Riverkeepers are the eyes and ears of conservation groups
Chuck Frederickson works as the riverkeeper for the James River Association, a nonprofit group.
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By RUSTY DENNEN
At least once a week during the winter months, Chuck Frederickson puts his small boat in the James River near Richmond.
He's not fishing or admiring the scenery, although it can be beautiful this time of year.
Frederickson has one of the nation's more unusual job titles: riverkeeper. He works, full time, for the James River Association, a nonprofit conservation group.
"I am the outside guy, and I spend a lot of time in and on the water, looking for problems," says Frederickson, 57, a retired civil servant.
He's on the prowl for anything that might harm the James--pollution, erosion, water-quality issues. He does water monitoring, talks with homeowners, builders and developers to help gauge the health of the river.
If Fredericksburg's City Council approves a plan to protect nearly 5,000 acres along the Rappahannock River, it may join one of just over a hundred places around the country with paid riverkeepers.
Like all Virginia rivers, the James--running almost 350 miles from its headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay--has its share of problems. Erosion from building sites and fertilizer from farm fields and suburban lawns are contributing to habitat loss along its shores, and harmful algae growth downstream that robs marine life of oxygen.
Frederickson has been riverkeeper for 21/2 years; the program was started by the association in 2001.
"I guess you could say I'm kind of a watchdog for the river," he said. "I monitor conditions, identify problems and work to make sure there are solutions."
He works with industry, state and federal regulatory agencies. "So I kind of get involved in a lot of things. It's the best of both worlds because I'm not a member of the regulated community" such as builders and developers, "and not a regulator, so my main goal is the health of the river."
Frederickson's territory is the entire river, "and we try to address issues in all areas," he said.
But one person can do only so much. His main focus is the river and its tributaries within about 50 miles of Richmond. His office is in Prince George Courthouse. He keeps his boat at Jordan Point in Hopewell.