Counties may join forces in protecting Blackwater

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2007

FRANKLIN—A special joint meeting of the Southampton and Isle of Wight boards of supervisors Nov. 20 at the Workforce Development Center will explore ways to protect and promote the Blackwater River.

The boards will hear a presentation from representatives of Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, who will explain the steps involved in having a portion of the Blackwater declared a State Scenic River.

The Virginia Scenic Rivers program recognizes the &uot;natural, scenic, historic and recreational values of some of Virginia’s most valuable riverine resources, and provides them with a measure of protection not afforded other rivers,&uot; according to the DCR.

The program is also designed to give &uot;riparian landowners and other local citizens a stronger voice in any government action or decisions that have the potential to impact ‘their’ river.&uot;

During the 7 p.m. meeting later this month, Lynn Crump, environmental programs planner for DCR, will present an overview of the program and answer questions from those attending.

Since the program was started in 1970, more than 20 river segments — including portions of the Nottoway and Meherrin — have been designated as Scenic Rivers. The Blackwater River was one of 29 waterways on the original list of potential candidates in 1970, according to Woodie L. Walker, administrator of Isle of Wight’s soil and sediment control program.

The current effort is aimed at getting the designation for the Blackwater from the point where it enters Southampton and Isle of Wight all the way to where it enters Franklin.

If the boards of supervisors decide to pursue the designation, they must both hold public hearings, then make official requests to the DCR, which then would perform a survey and field evaluation and prepare a report on the river.

If the review shows that the river qualifies for the designation based on defined criteria, the General Assembly would be called on to pass the necessary legislation, which would then await the governor’s signature.

The DCR has more information about the program on its Web site at planning/srmain.shtml.