View of the Clinch River in summer.
CLINCH RIVER We're working to protect the waters of the Clinch River, monitoring populations of rare freshwater mussels, and encouraging people to enjoy this natural resource. © Alex Novak / TNC

Stories in Virginia

How We Work: Rivers and Bays

Protecting clean water from the Clinch River to the Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia’s rivers and bays connect with streams and wetlands to form a vast circulatory system—like the veins, arteries and hearts that transport your blood. We're working to protect clean, abundant water, which is the lifeblood that enriches habitats, grows our food and powers the engines of our economy.

Hands holding freshwater mussels
Freshwater mussels Virginia's Clinch River harbors the nation’s highest concentrations of globally rare and imperiled fish and freshwater mussels. © Jon Golden

Our Clinch Valley Program is spearheading a $4.5 million public-private initiative to improve agricultural practices across southwestern Virginia’s Lee, Scott and Russell counties and Tennessee’s Hancock and Claiborne counties. This five-county area encompasses more than 4,000 farms and 350 miles of impaired streams, and it hosts some of the most diverse and imperiled aquatic wildlife in the nation.

We’re helping steer conservation investments toward farms that can make the greatest impact on water quality.  Helping farmers improve their productivity and the health of streams running through their farms benefits local economies and our rivers at the same time.

Collaborative Dialogue

We have been deeply engaged in efforts to avoid and minimize impacts to natural resources from proposed natural gas pipelines. While pipelines have generated much public debate, collaborative dialogue between the industry, regulators and conservationists has been rare—until now.

In 2017, nine energy companies signed on to a roundtable organized by TNC.  The aim was to focus on reducing threats to clean water and wildlife habitat in our streams and rivers. Participants included Dominion and EQT, the companies behind the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects, respectively. Representatives from regulatory and public-land agencies and other resource conservation groups were also invited.

By coming together we seek to focus on solutions and new industry standards that may lead to safer energy production and safeguards for clean water.

Sorting oysters by hand for commercial sale
Sorting Oysters Young watermen are redefining the character and approach to working the Chesapeake Bay. © Jason Houston
Aquaculture by Design

One oyster can filter 50 gallons of water every day. But with oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay hovering at roughly 1% of historical levels, the bay’s natural filtering system barely exists.

In addition to oyster restoration, we're engaged in research designed to measure benefits to water quality from oyster aquaculture. Our partners include the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and four aquaculture companies spanning from Virginia Beach to the Rappahannock River.

As part of our global Aquaculture by Design strategy we want to see if oyster aquaculture can accelerate restoration efforts—that is, can aquaculture make the bay cleaner faster?

Aquaculture by Design Can oyster aquaculture help make the Chesapeake Bay cleaner, faster?