Restoring the North River: Fish, Water Quality, Tourism for Shenandoah

Restoring the North River: Fish, Water Quality, Tourism for Shenandoah

Anglers say they’re seeing more and better brook trout since the North River has been restored closer to its natural state. (Mossy Creek Fly Fishing)

August 22, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – Restoring the North River is bringing better trout habitat, cleaner drinking water and more economic development to the Shenandoah, according to folks close to the project.

One main objective has been to help the river respond flexibly to floods and droughts, by taking out man-made structures.

Seth Coffman, fisheries supervisor for Trout Unlimited’s Shenandoah Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative, says that means undoing some of the roads and culverts constructed after flood and fire damage starting in the 1940s.

“Moving some of the roads so they wouldn’t be flooded and washed out, replacing some culverts that were impassible for fish, to help the stream get back to where it wants to be in a natural state,” he says.

He also says the changes mean more cool, deep pools where trout like to live, plus better water quality downstream, all the way to the Shenandoah.

This Thursday, the groups doing restoration host a public tour of similar projects on other waterways. They’re gathering at noon in Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg is halfway between the George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park, and much of the local economy is based on outdoor tourism – hiking, biking, rock-climbing and fishing.

Colby Trow, the owner of Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, says they’re about 40 minutes from the restoration project in the GW. He says projects like this are a big deal for those who make their living from forest recreation.

“It’s gigantic,” he exclaims. “Better habitat means more fish – and the more and bigger and healthier fish you have, the better the fishing. And the better the fishing, the more people that come to the area to fish.”

According to Coffman, the coalitions they built can be used for other, similar river restoration projects in the area. He says in all, the projects will mean better drinking water for towns and cities on the rivers, and ultimately give a boost to efforts to clean up the bay.

“We’re sending cleaning water downstream, which in turn is going to have beneficial impacts on the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, but it also helps to maintain clean water for those communities,” Coffman added.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service – VA