April 27, 2011
Restoration Plan Announced for Lafayette River
Restoration Efforts Unveiled April 27
New Special Event���Lafayette RiverFest���Celebrated April 30
"The Plan for Restoring the Lafayette River" will serve as a guide for community efforts to make the river fishable and swimmable by 2014.
(NORFOLK, VA)���A new comprehensive plan to restore the environmental health of the Lafayette River to conditions safe for swimming and fishing by 2014 was unveiled today by the Elizabeth River Project (ERP), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and community partners.
"As soon as we began the planning effort in 2009, the disparate interests began working together���and now there is a massive, coordinated effort already underway," said Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, Executive Director, Elizabeth River Project. "That's why we know this plan will succeed. There's huge momentum. Add the public on Saturday at Lafayette RiverFest���going home with fun, easy ways to help���and we're almost there."
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker said, "The Lafayette initiative���with its emphasis on public-private partners, the community, neighborhoods, individual families, and creative, cost-effective approaches���is an important model for cleaning up the Bay on a local watershed-by-watershed basis, and will help meet federal-state pollution reduction targets. Community-based restoration is happening here on the Lafayette, and it can happen across the region."
Some of the key goals of the Lafayette River restoration plan include:
- Goal 1 - Reduce harmful bacteria by 2014 to levels that are safe for swimming in all practical reaches of the Lafayette.
- Goal 2 - Achieve healthy, plentiful wildlife in the Lafayette River. With this goal, partners will seek to reduce a massive algal bloom ("red tide") that originates in the Lafayette in late summer and spreads into the lower Chesapeake Bay.
- Goal 3 - Encourage river stewardship in the Lafayette community through public awareness and action.
To achieve the plan, the City of Norfolk and Hampton Roads Sanitation District are investing millions of dollars renewing the wastewater collection system infrastructure and stormwater treatment; state, local and non-profit partners are working together to increase testing of bacteria and nutrient levels; and CBF is leading an oyster restoration effort on the Lafayette, including the pioneer use of oyster "reef balls," stocking of native oyster sanctuary reefs, and increasing oyster gardening. Meanwhile, ERP is introducing a new program for citizens, River Star Homes, providing free yard flags for citizens who pledge to "scoop the poop" and reduce other pollution sources.
Marinas are also being enlisted to reduce boat pollution. ERP, City of Norfolk, Virginia Zoo, Hermitage Museum and Gardens, Lafayette Wetlands Partnership, Old Dominion University, Roland Park, and Highland Park civic leagues and other partners have planted tens of thousands of wetland grasses at multiple sites to restore wetlands, native trees, and shrubs; much more such work is planned. The zoo, with ERP, this spring installed the region's first "floating wetland islands" at a duck pond to absorb nutrients.
In addition, 17 "River Star Schools" and 15 "River Star Industries" in the Lafayette River watershed are working with Elizabeth River Project to reduce pollution and restore wildlife habitat.
In 2009 the Lafayette River Steering Committee was formed to plan an effective, multi-faceted restoration initiative. The group consisted of more than 100 people representing science, government, business, and citizen interests. The result is an ambitious action plan with goals, projects, tasks and timeframes, designed to make the Lafayette River fishable and swimmable by 2014. Coordinated action began as soon as the planning process was started with a massive amount of projects already underway. The plan will serve as a guide for citizens, governments, schools, businesses, and non-profits.
Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim read a proclamation about the plan at today's press conference and announced that the official kickoff will be celebrated at a new event, Lafayette RiverFest, on Saturday, April 30. Citizen involvement is a key component of the Lafayette River restoration plan's success. At Lafayette RiverFest, the public can find out how they can become involved while celebrating the river. The festival will be held from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Saturday, April 30, along the Colonial Place waterfront, at the corner of Mayflower Road and Newport Avenue in Norfolk.
Lafayette RiverFest features live music, food, children's eco-games, free CBF canoe trips and a trip aboard CBF's educational vessel, the Bea Hayman Clark, plus tours of the ERP's Learning Barge, the world's first floating wetland. Other activities include a scoop-the-poop relay race, environmental workshops, games, fishing, and paddling tournaments. ERP will debut River Star Homes, the new program to engage citizens in ways to help at home. A River Star Home will be available for tours.
In addition, to show their commitment to the restoration plan, volunteers from the U.S. Coast Guard 5th District Command will conduct a Lafayette River debris cleanup on shore and in kayaks on Friday morning, April 29, at Lafayette City Park.