Putting the environment first
After 85 years of being impounded, Kimages Creek is once again a free-flowing stream, representing completion of a critical stage of a significant wetland and stream restoration along the lower James River in Charles City County.
Earlier today, Virginia Commonwealth University, together with The Nature Conservancy, state government officials, board members and supporters of the center, celebrated the efforts of the Wetland and Stream Restoration Project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the VCU Rice Center.
Six years ago, VCU and The Nature Conservancy partnered to remove a dam on Kimages Creek and restore associated tidal wetlands and the stream at the VCU Rice Center. Removing the dam reestablishes the natural connection between the James River and Kimages Creek and allows for the restoration of 20 acres of tidal wetlands, 50 acres of non-tidal wetlands and more than a mile and a half of the formerly submerged channel of Kimages Creek.
The wetland and stream restoration project allows fish to migrate again from the James River into Kimages Creek and creates habitat for waterfowl and wetland-dependent migratory birds. Additional restoration efforts include plantings to help reestablish native wetland plant communities.
“VCU is among the leaders in the area of sustainability, and this is among our crown jewels of sustainability at VCU,” said Thomas F. Huff, Ph.D., vice provost for VCU Life Sciences.
As the environmental field station for VCU, the Rice Center is committed to its mission of understanding and preserving the environment. Critical to that mission is environmental stewardship, education and informing public policy related to river ecosystems, their watersheds and conservation of species that inhabit those watersheds.
“The project is significant for the ecosystem and the wildlife that use that area,” said Leonard A. Smock, Ph.D., director of the VCU Rice Center. “The project is good for the people of the Commonwealth, good for the environment, good for the James River and good for the research mission of the Rice Center - we are pleased to be a part of it.”
According to Smock, there are already more than 15 graduate students engaged in wetland ecology and wetland restoration projects, contributing significantly to the Rice Center’s research mission. Further, the project will lend to the education and community outreach efforts directed to middle- and high-schoolers, who will be able to see first-hand the importance of wetlands in an ecosystem.
“Virginia streams and rivers support a large part of Virginia’s history and culture and the James River is an example of this,” said Michael L. Lipford, Virginia executive director of The Nature Conservancy. “Aquatic resources are in peril and many of our mistakes end up in our water. We need to do a better job of protecting it in the future.”
Additional remarks were made by Anthony Moore, Virginia Assistant Secretary of Natural Resources, and W. Tayloe Murphy Jr., former Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources and a member of the Rice Center Board of Trustees.
The project, supported by the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and American Rivers, was conducted jointly by the VCU Rice Center and The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Top right: Fredrick Fisher, left, and Harrison Tyler lead Inger Rice, center, down to where the dam on Kimages Creek once stood for the ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of a critical stage of a wetland and stream restoration project at the Rice Center. Middle left: Kimages Creek after the removal of a dam to restore tidal wetlands and a stream at the VCU Rice Center. Bottom right: Michael L. Lipford,Virginia executive director of the Nature Conservancy, left, Anthony Moore, Virginia Assistant Secretary of Natural Resources, and Leonard Smock, Ph.D., director of the VCU Rice Center, cut the ribbon at the former site of a dam on Kimages Creek to celebrate the completion of a critical stage in the wetland and stream restoration project at the VCU Rice Center.