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Lafayette Improves!

  • Seahorse found! - The Lafayette Improves!

A long-awaited state report says the Lafayette branch of the Elizabeth is no longer “impaired” for bacteria. Now that’s a wonderful holiday gift for the many partners, donors and River Stars who brought us this far!

From Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, Executive Director, Elizabeth RiverProject, December 15, 2014

Lafayette Now Meets State Standards

The Lafayette now meets state water quality standards for bacteria, according to a draft state report released Dec. 15, 2014. The state defines this as “supporting recreational use.” Elizabeth River Project’s community-wide plan defined the goal early-on as "swimmable." In fact, that's a health dept. call, and you should read our Safety First precautions (HERE).  But a thousand cheers for improved water quality, and a thousand thanks to our many donors and partners.

The state report comes with a caveat that bacteria levels may be high after heavy rains, also part of our Safety First precautions. Virtually all urban rivers are unsafe after significant rains due to the challenges of urban runoff. The Draft 2014 305(b)/303 (d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report is available online from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality at

Many partners as well as homes, schools and businesses have worked together since 2011 to restore the Lafayette. Together we've substantially achieved or greatly exceeded all 2014 goals in our community-wide plan for restoring the Lafayette! There's much left to do but congratulations to all:

Some of the progress achieved to carry out our Lafayette plan:

  • The 2014 goal for wetlands was to restore 10 acres. Looks like 15 were achieved and seven more are funded, with City of Norfolk leading the region in this!

  •  Oyster goals are also about to be exceeded. The 2014 goal was 10 new acres of oyster habitat; we've achieved more than that with 9.5 acres of new reef plus two more funded, plusmore than 800 "oyster reef balls." Best of all - a whopping 13 million young oysters were grown for the Lafayette by Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

  • Public involvement in restoring the Lafayette is over the top and expected to take a giant leap even further with new education and recruiting efforts at Virginia Zoo. The initial goals included 1,000 River Star Homes - we're at 2300 with 1200 of them in the Lafayette area (sign up today if you haven't!) And we're so excited that Virginia Zoo has agreed to become our official recruiting station for River Star Homes with the goal to sign up all their members

  • Best of all for engaging the public, the zoo will open "Seahorses of the Living Lafayette" exhibit with us in 2016, celebrating life returning and inviting continued involvement.

  • More than half the Lafayette now meets state bacteria criteria for harvest of oysters, meeting our "fishable" goal which was for all practical reaches. But, big caution, its still an urban river and there's no change in the ban yet while the state looks at other important factors.

Our Lafayette plan also set 2020 goals including getting further than we have with reducing a large algae bloom appearing in the Lafayette each summer.

Congratulations to winners of our Living Lafayette 2014 award to leading partners with us in this effort: City of Norfolk, HRSD, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District and Lafayette Wetlands Parnership.

Living Lafayette 2014 Living Lafayette 2014 Living Lafayette 2014 award

We invite you to find your role with restoring the Lafayette and other branches of the Elizabeth:

River Star Homes 
River Star Schools 
River Star Businesses