Nelson County STEP Internship

Summer 2004


Sponsoring Group Name:

 Friends of the Rockfish Watershed (



       FOR Watershed
       P.O. Box 115
       Lovingston, VA 22949


Contact Person (name; phone number; and e-mail address, if available):

       Michael Lachance

       Nelson County Extension Office

       434 263-4035


Alternate Contact (name; phone number; and e-mail address, if available):

       Constantine Roussos, Ph.D.

       Lynchburg College

       Lynchburg, VA 24501


       245 Cabell Mt Ln

       Arrington, VA 22922



Description of proposed work for either one or two interns:


The study will strive to provide a complete log of the main channel of the Rockfish River with a fair appraisal of the river’s stability, the condition of its banks & adjoining riparian buffers, and important natural and man-made features along its course.  It will not attempt to characterize the chemical or biological status of the waters per se, rather it will be geographical in focus.  They will also compile a photographic record of the river that can be used in future educational programs.


The interns will incorporate historical flow data gathered at gauging stations to give weight to their study and recommendations.  They will be expected to research existing information related to the Rockfish River as well.  This might include stats on annual rainfall, information on flooding and other information from the Division of Mineral Resources in Charlottesville, other state and federal agencies and reliable on-line sources.  For example, information on dam licensing is no doubt published in detail.  This would include provisions for native fish migration, dam operation and maintenance & re-licensing time-tables.


Field work will be conducted by floating portions of the river and where convenient or where significant hazard exist, to travel on foot.  Travel by canoe will be a key means of performing an geographic analysis of the Rockfish River. For safety purposes, a field party will consist of no less than two canoes or kayaks, manned by both STEP interns and members of the FORW.  Personal floatation devises (PFD’s) will be worn at all times while engaged in river travel, in addition to foot travel when there is any risk of submersion.  Interns will be instructed in safe paddling techniques and related water safety practices at the onset of the internship.  When road access allows or permission is gained from landowners, the survey will be done on foot. 


The following items will be included in the survey:

·                    Latitude and Longitude of observation

·                    River width

·                    River depth (especially the location of deep pools of importance to fish survival)

·                    Condition of both stream banks including steepness of bank, state of vegetation, and degree of active erosion taking place

·                    Type of bottom substrate

·                    Sediment load on bottom substrate

·                    Width and length of islands

·                    Points of public access

·                    Historical features

·                    Dams

·                    Hazards to recreational use

·                    Evidence of livestock use

·                    Man-made debris, litter & graffiti

·                    Discharge pipes and type of discharge

·                    Degree of “wildness” vs. manicured landscaping of riparian buffers

·                    Areas of significant visual appeal


Where active erosion is occurring on steep stream banks, and prior approval by landowners is secured, horizontal “re-bar” lengths will be set into the bank by sledge hammer so annual loss of bank can be documented, plus benchmark reference points will be set on significant islands forming within the river.


The final report will analyze the Rockfish River in regard to public access.  These recommendations will include a discussion of the present conditions of public access points, whether they are truly “public” and improvements which can be made at these locations to enhance ease of use and river safety education, such as the addition of easily read river gauges that denote minimum and maximum flow levels for safe canoeing.


The report will also make recommendations of special considerations for specific segments of the river


The interns will be expected to interact with identified landowners to ascertain their willingness or reluctance to establish/replace riparian buffers.  They will also be asked to assist with a FORW sponsored field day in Schuyler, VA, to heighten awareness of our common watershed.


The report can include a preliminary analysis of the three existing dams on the Rockfish River if it is within the expertise of the interns.  FORW is interested in documenting the assets and liabilities for each dam in regard to its aesthetic appeal, plus the economic, environmental, and recreational impact of either dam retention or removal.  Recommendations will include potential development of signage and portages to minimize hazards associated with these river obstructions.


The final report will be published both as hard text and in electronic form, including graphs, charts and photographs in addition to textual information.  This will facilitate its inclusion on the FORW website,  Assistance will be provided by Dr. Roussos if necessary.



Finally, a preliminary draft of a Rockfish River “water trail” map is requested that will include an annotated mileage log.  Prepared materials will posted in the two FORW kiosks built in Nelson County.  These materials will also be used in the eventual preparation of a multicolor map/brochure, to be produced after the completion of the STEP internships this summer.