Riverkeepers announced for Potomac, Shenandoah

Dean Naujoks

For the first time in a decade, Shenandoah will have a riverkeeper not named Jeff Kelble.

Since taking over as president of the newly rebranded Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Kelble and his staff have been working on finding a replacement for that title.

This week, Potomac Riverkeeper Network launched a new website coinciding with the announcement of the hiring of new riverkeepers for both Shenandoah and Potomac.

Valley native Mark Frondorf will take over as the Shenandoah riverkeeper. The network has also brought on Dean Naujoks, formerly the Yadkin riverkeeper, as the Potomac riverkeeper.

On the hiring of Frondorf, Kelble said, “Mark has a long history with the [Shenandoah] River. He was one of the early presidents of the [Potomac River] Smallmouth Club, which is a really active fishing club in Vienna.”

Mark Frondorf

In addition, Frondorf has worked as a congressional staffer and, according to the network’s website, “was the principal investigator … government study that examined the ocean dumping of U.S. chemical weapons.”

Frondorf said, “I’m just really proud to be picking up the mantle of Shenandoah riverkeeper from Jeff.”

Naujoks noted that he has operated within the Waterkeeper Alliance for 20 years. From 2008 to 2014, he worked as riverkeeper and executive director of the Yadkin River in North Carolina.

Naujoks said that the problems affecting the Potomac River basin are similar to the problems he noticed in North Carolina.

“I have to learn the [Potomac] River basin, the regulations and regulatory programs for three states and the District of Columbia,” Naujoks added.

Naujoks said that he is excited to “get out and explore” the river as well as interact with the people around the river basin.

For his part, Frondorf also said that he wants to reach out to engage the public as well as area agencies and organizations such Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

In addition, Frondorf noted that the network’s new website and social media approach will be critical in terms of outreach.

“People are very busy in the valley and they may not have time to track these issues on their own,” Frondorf said.

Frondorf added, “A lot of our supporters are our eyes and ears on the river. It’s vital to our success.”

Along with this increased reliance on social media, Kelble noted that the website and subsequent rebranding is also an effort by the organization to clarify certain aspects of its operations.

“As the Shenandoah riverkeeper, I was working for an organization called Potomac Riverkeeper. It didn’t make sense,” he said, “It was like a riverkeeper working for a riverkeeper.”

The hope with the name Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Kelble said, is to “Immediately tell people that we are a network of riverkeepers within the Potomac drainage.”

In addition to Frondorf and Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper also brought on a legal director in Paul Musegaas, the former Hudson riverkeeper program director.

According to Kelble, Musegaas will be able to provide the riverkeepers “top legal advice” due to his 10-year experience directing the legal aspects of Hudson Riverkeeper in New York.

“I feel like we are at a point now where we’ve identified the threats that face the river. We’re not guessing at what the solutions are anymore,” Kelble said.

Both Frondorf and Naujoks said that they have goals of continuing to enforce clean water regulations in the state of Virginia.

Frondorf said that he wants to continue the organization’s efforts of getting the entire Shenandoah River on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s impaired waters list.

Frondorf said, “Collectively, we are all doing what we can to improve the quality of Chesapeake Bay and Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. “

The new website, Kelble said, will also be used to showcase the organization’s accomplishments in legislative activism.

“There are a tremendous number of things we do in our program … and we have not been historically good at advertising it,” Kelble said.

Displaying success, Kelble noted, can be difficult for the organization.

“It’s kind of complicated to measure success in some areas,” he said, “When we improve a regulation, we tell people what the regulatory language is and everyone kind of yawns and they don’t get what it means.”

Moving forward, Kelble said that he and his staff will be working on ways to explain “what that means on the ground in terms of a cleaner river.”

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