Riverkeeper report: Logging the Assamoosic Swamp
Published 12:18 pm Saturday, April 23, 2016
Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 10th through the 11th, then the 14th through the 16th, on the Nottoway in the Courtland area. Water temps ranged between 54 and 57 degrees. Air temps from 36 to 70. The USGS gauge in Sebrell was averaging 7.26.
The reason for the split trip was that NOAA changed the weather forecast on me midway through the trip, plus I had a broken rib that was just killing me out there. I had broken the rib before I left on the first leg and thought I could handle it. That was a bad decision, as the ribs were in my back and that made for a pretty tough camp setup. In fact, it was so bad I left all my gear there on the river hoping to come back for the second leg and things would be better. Well, the second leg was not a whole lot better, but I made do. Actually as long as I was in the boat, it was not too bad. Everything else was not good! Anyway, first leg I got skunked with the fishing. Second leg I caught a lot of largemouth from 4 inches long to 2 pounds. All caught on a Mepps spinner or AC Shiner. Downriver from Courtland was better than upriver.
Trash on this trip was pretty bad, even after getting four bags only three weeks earlier from the same place. Once again, I also picked up lots of Styrofoam, and there is still a ton of it left. That’s right, I said a ton. Waterlogged Styro is heavy.
Speaking of bad stuff, I also saw the Assamoosic Swamp, where it comes into the Nottoway upriver from Courtland, has been logged. I think this was done about five years ago. This was the first time I had seen it. The entire area looks like a bomb exploded. No buffers, no nothing. Where once was a beautiful swamp you could paddle up into is now an unrecognizable tangle of leftover log debris. The creek is blocked and choked forever, or might as well be. Nobody alive today will ever be able to enjoy it like what was once there.
I just cannot believe the Virginia Department of Forestry allowed this to happen. It is also where a majority of the logs are coming from that are causing all the log jams. You should look at it on Google Earth; you can see what I am talking about. There were cypress trees in this cut that were taken which were hundreds of years old, and I saw one stump that was easily 400. Most cypress that old is hollow and pretty much useless for lumber. So I guess they ended up being ground up into mulch and used in some thoughtless person’s flowerbed.
I contacted the Virginia Dept of Forestry and was told, “One thing I can tell you that this is obviously outside the Chesapeake Bay Protection area. There is no requirement to leave a buffer on a stream outside of the Bay Area. Water quality must, however, be maintained.”
When are the powers that be going to understand that all of Virginia’s watersheds are just as important as the Chesapeake Bay’s?
This kind of unregulated exploitation is just one more cancer killing the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.
JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.