Riverkeeper Report: Trash expected along river after storm

Published 9:32 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

Well, the City of Franklin was spared a major flood this go-round.

The Blackwater crested at Burdette Wednesday at around 14.73. The reading was 6.49 on the new gauge at Franklin, but nobody seems to really know what to do with those readings.

I ask my friend at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration why the gauge was not used in the forecast modeling, and she said, “We do not have it on our maps because it’s not one of the gauges we have in our forecast model.”

“Also, the readings on it jump up and down so much that it’s not much use. I remember there was talk at one point of making that the forecast point instead of the gauge upstream near Burdette, but until the gauge is more reliable, I don’t know if that will happen.”

So if NOAA thinks that gauge is “not much use,” I’m wondering how much was spent on this gauge, and if it is not going to be used to forecast the river flood levels, what purpose is it serving?

I like it for its water temperature readings. I can get online, but that’s a mighty expensive thermometer I bet.

Anyway, another government fumble I guess.

This will be the ninth highest recorded river level. Though not as much water as with Isabelle’s 16.84, it’s still a lot of water in the river. Since there was not any major flooding in the city, I really do not expect there to be many pollution issues as in the past.

There will be a lot of trash for sure, but a lot of it will be deposited up in the woods.

After the Floyd flood, the river was in seriously bad shape from the floodwaters inundating the sewage treatment plant, the S.W. Rawls fuel depot, the mill and well, everywhere. The pollution was really bad, but expected, as there just is not much you can do about a flood like that.

What really got me after those floods were the big fish kills that followed. I was sure after the Floyd flood, the kill was caused by all that pollution, but I was wrong. Actually what happens is that when we have that kind of deluge, it washes so much plant matter into the rivers that the dissolved oxygen levels go down to fish-kill levels.

Decaying vegetation from all the swamps and freshly fallen leaves, grass, etc., all get washed into the river. When that stuff starts decaying it has a high biological oxygen demand and actually uses up oxygen in the river.

I have confirmed this with the equipment I now have that can test the oxygen in the rivers. I also check those findings against what my friends at the Department of Environmental Quality get when they do their water sampling on the river.

Seeing that many dead fish on the river is pretty hard to take. I saw bream bigger than I even thought lived in the river hanging up 6 feet in trees after Floyd. I reckon the raccoons and other critters really enjoyed it.

All I know is it really stunk, whew!! It’s hard to say whether there will be a fish-kill this time or not. That’s kinda like trying to predict how high the river will get.

In any event, each time a fish-kill has occurred, the fishing and river rebounded pretty quickly in my opinion. I guess it’s just one of the ways Mother Nature keeps things in balance on the two rivers we call the Blackwater and Nottoway.