James Riverkeeper Tom Dunlap

James Riverkeeper Tom Dunlap became the Riverkeeper in 2022. He a full-time on the water advocate protecting and defending the right to clean water. The James RIVERKEEPER® Program was launched in 2001. On any given day the Riverkeeper serves as a detective, an educator, a river ambassador or a scientist. The goal of this important core program is to maintain a constant vigil on the James River, monitoring its conditions, identifying problems and ensuring that solutions are executed properly.

Tom became the Riverkeeper after six years with the Colonial Soil & Water Conservation District. Tom worked with the agricultural community on on-the-ground conservation efforts, including running a three-year program on the promotion of precision agricultural techniques, to improve farm fertilizer use-efficiency and in turn, reduce nutrient loading impacts on our waterways. This work took place in nine localities in the Lower James River watershed with thousands of acres of best management practices implemented with a group of farm operators. Tom received a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied environmental science, and then focused on aquatic biogeochemistry as a graduate student; tracing the flow of nutrients and the carbon cycle in lakes, streams, and estuaries. Tom provides a voice for the James, bolsters people’s access to clean water in the watershed, and advocates for a fishable, swimmable, and safe river. Tom monitors the river, addressing issues that can impact its health, and works side by side with the rest of the James River Association advocacy team on issues across the watershed.

Jamie Brunkow was James Riverkeeper from 2012 to 2022.





The James Riverkeeper Program includes:

River Monitoring

James Riverkeeper monitors the length of the James River and its more than 15,000 miles of tributaries. You’ll find him and other program staff on the water in a jon boat, kayak, canoe or doing river reconnaissance on foot and by vehicle 2 to 3 days each week.

Citizen Water Quality Monitor

Many portions of the James River and tributaries are currently impaired due to excessive harmful bacteria. And for those who swim or recreate in the River, bacteria is an invisible pollutant that can pose serious health threats. One of the most common questions James Riverkeeper receives from the public is whether it is safe to swim in certain parts of the James River. James Riverkeeper launched a water quality monitoring initiative in 2013 across the James River watershed. James Riverkeeper uses volunteers as “citizen scientists”, collecting water samples and recording data to track the environmental health of the River. Sampling occurs weekly from May to September, and data is made available to the public on JRA’s James River Watch website . State of the James Report Card

RiverRats Program

The RiverRats are volunteers who patrol the James and its tributaries and take action to protect and restore the entire watershed. Whether walking a neighborhood stream, kayaking a local river, or boating the wide reaches of the lower James, RiverRats document potential pollution sources and their effects while also reporting natural patterns in river hydrology and wildlife sightings.


Sturgeon Restoration

The James Riverkeeper and other partners in the scientific community are working to monitor and restore the Atlantic sturgeon population in the James River. The James River’s sturgeon is often called “the fish that saved Jamestown” because this large fish was so numerous that it kept the early settlers from starving. By the first half of the 20th century, overfishing and pollution, particularly sedimentation had decimated their numbers. After almost a decade of tagging and monitoring the James’ sturgeon population, an ambitious program is underway to help increase the number of Atlantic sturgeon in the river. Through a partnership that includes the James River Association, up to three artificial spawning reefs will be constructed in the Lower James. These reefs reproduce the ideal spawning ground conditions that once existed in the river. The reefs and the river will continue to be monitored for the presence of eggs, juvenile fish and mature adults.

River Advocacy

The James River Association strives to provide a voice for the River on important policy issues. Through advocacy at the citizen, local, state and federal levels, JRA works to ensure the health of the James River. The James Riverkeeper is committed to ensuring that environmental regulations and laws under the Clean Water Act are followed, enforced and strengthened so that local waters are swimmable, fishable and accessible, and are clean and safe source of drinking water.

In Virginia, several Dominion Energy coal power plants fought to “cap in place” the toxic coal ash ponds along several rivers. For five years, James Riverkeeper organized impacted communities, legislators and other groups to fight this plan. In 2019, this hard fought campaign resulted in Virginia Safe Disposal of Coal Ash bill (SB 1355) that mandates the safe disposal of 28 million tons of toxic coal ash Dominion Energy now has stored on the banks of the Potomac, James and Elizabeth Rivers. This bill sets a national precedent for how to safely remove a legacy of toxic coal ash stored along our waterways in our region and across the nation.

More than 1,000 flood-exposed industrial facilities in Virginia that use, store, or discharge toxic chemicals are located in or near communities that are socially vulnerable to climate change and floods, according to  Toxic Floodwaters: The Threat of Climate-Driven Chemical Disaster in Virginia’s James River Watershed,

Citizen Advocacy

Through outreach, James Riverkeeper helps people see water resources in a new light and offer them a new prospective on protecting the James River. JRA and the Riverkeeper call upon citizens to help ensure that local and state lawmakers who make decisions on their behalf every day know their interests and natural resources are represented and protected. Sign Up to Be Part of JRAction Network

Local Advocacy

Urban stormwater represents the fastest growing source of pollution to the James River and if not controlled threatens to undermine the progress that has been made towards restoring the health of the river. The James River Association is working with local governments to increase the adoption of Low Impact Development (LID) requirements, and to implement cost-effective solutions for meeting stormwater pollution obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup.

State Advocacy

JRA’s main policy priority is to ensure that Virginia maintains its commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup effort and continues on the path towards restoring the James. To do so, adequate funding from the Virginia General Assembly and support from state agencies is imperative. Accordingly, JRA works closely with both of these audiences to ensure that the James River is a priority. In order to support continued progress in the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup, JRA released a study that will assist in the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup at the local level, by linking local water quality goals to those of the Bay.

A “Tire-less” James! 

JRA with other partners organize volunteers to remove tires — and only tires — from the James River during the annual Tire-less James event. Bridgestone Americas LLC is supporting JRA’s efforts by providing free hauling and recycling of all tires collected during the cleanup through its Tires4Ward program. This is a self-directed cleanup.