Department of the Interior

Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release:
June 2, 2006
Joan Moody (DOI) 202-208-6416
Bridgett Costanzo 804-693-6694 ext. 125
Steve Hill (413) 253-8614
Kathi Bangert (413) 253-8325
Deputy Secretary Scarlett Heralds New Virginia Watershed Conservation Initiative
Initiative will debut at Saturday’s Pigg River Ramble

A new Virginia watershed conservation initiative will be heralded with presentations by initiative partners and remarks from Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett on Saturday, June 3, at Franklin County’s Pigg River Ramble in Rocky Mount, Va.

Dubbed VA RACER for Virginia Rural Area Conservation and Economic Restoration, the initiative provides a framework for its partners to work with landowners, communities and local government to improve watershed management and reduce sediment, bacteria and chemicals in the Pigg and other rivers in the upper Roanoke drainage.

“I want to congratulate all of the VA RACER partners for their foresight, creativity and dedication to conservation,” said Scarlett. “This partnership is a great example of cooperative conservation.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a member of the partnership that will work to restore fish, wildlife and habitat in the Roanoke River watershed.

VA RACER’s first project will be removal of the Rocky Mount Power Dam, a 20-foot-high and 200-foot-long dam constructed in the early 1900s. Dam removal will serve several purposes: increase Pigg River habitat for the Roanoke logperch, a fish protected by the Endangered Species Act; increase canoe and kayak recreational opportunities in Franklin County; and remove residents’ concerns about the structure’s integrity.

In coming months, initiative partners plan to announce additional landowner partnerships and projects with local communities to improve the health and the economy of the watershed.

VA RACER partners include the Town of Rocky Mount and Franklin County, Virginia; Blue Ridge Soil and Water Conservation District; Dan River Association; FishAmerica Foundation; Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation; The Nature Conservancy, Virginia Chapter; Trout Unlimited; American Rivers; Conservation Management Institute, Virginia Tech; Western Virginia Land Trust; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency in the Department of the Interior; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Pigg River Ramble and VA RACER’s debut coincide with the opening of National Fish and Boating Week, an annual celebration of water sports. A canoe and kayak will be auctioned at the Saturday event to raise funds for conservation on the Pigg River.