New riverkeepers on horizon for area’s waterways

For the first time in its history, Potomac Riverkeeper Inc. — the umbrella organization for the Shenandoah and Potomac Riverkeepers — will be hiring two new riverkeepers.

This development comes as a result of a new budget approved by the organization’s board of directors, said Jeff Kelble, current Shenandoah riverkeeper and president of Potomac Riverkeeper Inc.

The $864,000 budget, Kelble said, creates the opportunity for the organization to have three riverkeepers with “no other duties.”

Kelble said the start date for the new riverkeepers would be in March when the budget takes effect.

He said he has received a “verbal commitment” from a candidate for the Potomac riverkeeper. While Kelble did not provide a name, he said the candidate is a “seasoned riverkeeper.”

“I was not originally seeking a person for that position, but someone came forward out of the pool for the Shenandoah riverkeeper,” he said.

With that verbal commitment in place, Kelble and his staff will now look to select his replacement from a group of six remaining candidates.

This list was narrowed from around 60 applicants, according to Kelble.

“We had a most interesting group of people from all walks of life come forward,” Kelble said.

This candidate pool included lawyers, doctors and people with experience working in national security, Kelble said.

He said he is looking to choose his successor in the coming week.

“I want to first make a decision on who I want to place [in that position] and then work out a contract for that person,” Kelble said.

With the capacity to hire two riverkeepers, Kelble said this will mean the organization can have “more people that can do work on the rivers and out in the community.”

That work, Kelble said, includes “identifying what the most important problems in the river are” as well as “figuring out what the river needs … and out how to provide those needs.”

This is done through a number of ways, such as community outreach and scientifically documenting the status of the rivers.

Kelble explained that the organization’s goal is to simply “have the rivers be as clean as possible.”

He said a key factor leading to this development was the growing interest in the work of Riverkeeper Inc.

“We have a very active membership of close to 2,000 [and] they are people that join because they feel that we represent their interest and desire to protect the rivers,” Kelble said.

Due to this newfound hiring capacity and growing membership, Kelble said, “We think this move is going to help us grow even more.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com