Meherrin deserves recognition

Published 8:11 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Monday, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors formally requested that the state Department of Conservation & Recreation study and evaluate about 34 miles of the Nottoway River — from Carys Bridge to its confluence with the Blackwater River — for inclusion in the state’s scenic river system.

We applaud this move and would like to see another: a request for the DCR to study the tranquil Meherrin River.

The Meherrin is worthy of a scenic designation. After flowing through downtown Emporia, it meanders — literally — to the south and east and forms the natural boundary between Southampton and Greensville counties. It traverses wooded, low-lying areas. The view isn’t ruined by evidence of human activity and has only three crossings: Little Texas Road, Virginia Route 186 and the CSX Railroad, the last two being only a stone’s throw from the North Carolina state line.

The DCR’s Scenic Rivers Program would help ensure that the Meherrin is given a level of protection. Citizens would benefit because it would give them, riparian landowners, whose land borders navigable waters, and local governments a greater say in how federal and state projects might affect the river. Also, the state would be required to consider the scenic aesthetics of the river for planning and permitting purposes.

A scenic river designation would not affect a riparian landowner’s right to use the river or its banks for grazing, irrigation, hunting or fishing, nor would it impose any restrictions on hunting, fishing or boating on the river or adjacent lands. Industries would not be adversely affected either.

Southampton could make a joint request with Greensville asking the DCR to evaluate the Meherrin. The board has already cooperated with the cities of Franklin and Suffolk and Isle of Wight County in getting the Blackwater considered.

The Blackwater and the Nottoway are well on their way to being officially recognized for their beauty and protected. It’s time for the Meherrin to be recognized as well.