Albemarle Supervisors to be asked to support reintroduction of James Spineymussel 

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is working on a plan to restore an endangered freshwater mollusk back into the James River watershed from which it has perished. 

On Wednesday, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution giving their support to efforts to introduce the James Spineymussel into the Rivanna River as well as the James River. 

“Existing JSM populations have been augmented in six streams in Amherst, Bath, Buckingham, Botetourt, and Nelson Counties, but to truly recover this endangered species, the mussel also needs to be reintroduced to waterbodies from which it has been lost,” reads the staff report.

According to a staff report, there are over 300 species of freshwater mussels and many of them are located in the southeastern United States. They provide filtering of water with each individual able to process as many as 12 gallons a day in a single day. 

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources have been working on a recovery plan for decades and have raised James Spineymussel at the Virginia Fisheries and Aquatic Wildlife Center at the Harrison Lake National Hatchery. The species has been on the federal endangered list since July 22, 1988. 

The sighting of James Spineymussel has been enough to stop infrastructure projects in the past. At one point, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority was considering a reservoir in northwestern Albemarle County, but the potential presence of the James Spineymussel eliminated that from further consideration. 

The lifecycle of a typical freshwater mussel from the 39-page recovery plan (download) (Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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