Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Save Our Streams Orientation

Save Our Streams Orientation Scheduled for April 20, 2012 WILL BE RESCHEDULED
Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes is involved in water quality testing SOS
Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter is involved in water quality testing for SOS
Over the years, the Smith Mountain Lake Association has joined forces in a collaborative effort with the Virginia Save Our Streams Program and the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist to increase the number of certified volunteer Save Our Streams monitors checking the health of streams entering Smith Mountain Lake.  As we continue to hear and read about environmental pollution, data from the Save Our Streams Program serves as important indicator of the health of our streams both locally and throughout the Commonwealth.

Although Smith Mountain Lake is considered to be in great condition, we frequently hear about problems related to increasing sediment entering the lake, especially at the upper ends of the Roanoke and Blackwater channels of the lake, within coves and other streams entering the lake.  One just has to look at the river bed under the bridge on Route 834 crossing the Blackwater and reflect back to when people were able to water ski under the bridge.  Sediment/silt from erosion up river has made its way down the many miles from the headwaters.  Similar scenarios can be seen upstream on the Roanoke.

With the sediment comes phosphorus and other chemicals that can have a negative impact on the health of Smith Mountain Lake.  Recent efforts have been underway to make people aware of buffer landscaping and the importance of using silt fences to help keep sediment and chemicals out of the lake.  The potential positive impact of buffers along the rivers and streams is enormous.   But, where does the Save Our Streams program fit in?

The Virginia Save Our Streams is designed to give an indication of the health of a stream at a given point in time.  Local streams are monitored by certified volunteers who monitor quarterly every year.  Data from this monitoring is extremely valuable in looking at health trends in our streams.  By identifying and counting the benthic macroinvertebrates (those aquatic “bugs” without backbones that can be seen with the naked eye) living in the stream, we are able to make a judgment about the streams health and the potential impact of water entering Smith Mountain Lake.  Without the use of silt fences and areas with vegetation next to the stream, we have seen where land development upstream may increase the amount of sediment in a portion of a stream.  This sediment actually can smoother these tiny “bugs” (such as mayflies and stoneflies) living under rocks in riffles in the stream.  We have seen areas where increased sediment has resulted in unacceptable scores using metrics developed out of Virginia Tech.  Some streams never recover; others may improve over time if no further development occurs. 

The results of our monitoring and of others around the Commonwealth are sent to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for further analysis and possible action.  Currently, we have about 30 certified Save Our Streams monitors checking 19 different streams sites that lead into Smith Mountain Lake.  We have many more sites that need to be monitored.  

If you are interested in learning more about the Virginia Save Our Streams program or becoming a monitor, the next Orientation Session has been set up for Friday, April 20th from 9 am to noon at the Smith Mountain Lake Office.  Please contact De English for further information about this session at or call the SMLA office on 540-719-1690 to register for this session. 

Learn more about the Virginia Master Naturalist program here.

*Article and info by De English

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