Monday, August 22, 2011

Episode 76 (August 22, 2011): Jackson River Stream Rights Court Case

Click to listen to episode (2:23).

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of August 22, 2011.

This week we feature another series of mystery sounds.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds, and see if you can guess how these four sounds relate to a current controversy with a pre-Revolutionary War origin.

What connects the sounds of streamflow, paddling, reeling in a fishing line, and a judge’s gavel?  A lawsuit over stream fishing rights.  In the Alleghany County Circuit Court case of North South Development v. Garden, several property owners in the River’s Edge development along the Jackson River near Covington are suing two paddlers who waded and fished in the river section bordered by the property-owners’ land.  The property owners claim to have a “king’s grant” dating back to Virginia’s colonial period that gives them the right to restrict wading and fishing in that river section.  In the 1996 Kraft v. Burr decision, the Virginia Supreme Court held that property owners may claim such rights—even in navigable waters—if the property has a valid king’s grant that includes authority over the stream bottom.  The defendants claim that Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries maps identify the river section as open to public fishing, and that the Commonwealth should defend that designation.  On July 25, the Circuit Court judge refused the defendants’ motion to include the Commonwealth in the case, and the Virginia attorney general has refused to become involved.  As of August 18, no further court date had yet been scheduled.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

Acknowledgments:  The fishing-line sound was from “Bass Fisherman’s Reel” on the 2004 CD “Virginia Wildlife,” copyright Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.
More information: The more complete case name is North South Development LLC, et al., v. Garden, et al., and the Alleghany County Circuit Court Case number is CL11000043.  The plaintiffs are seeking $10,000 in alleged damages from actions by the defendants in June 2010 and an injunction to prevent fishing in the disputed river section.  The lawsuit follows a criminal trespassing charge that was dropped in General District Court.  The Jackson River is a James River tributary.   

Sources used and for more information:
The defendants’ Web site (which includes court documents), .  This site is longer available as of 8/2/16; see instead
Plaintiffs’ Web site (no longer online at of August 2, 2016).

Troubled waters: Landowners, angler wrangle over access to Va. river, Washington Post, 8/19/12;

Murky waters on the Jackson River: The Jackson River is again the center of an access fight between landowners and anglers, Roanoke Times, July 31, 2011 (no longer online as of Aug. 2, 2016).

Virginia Anglers Sued for Fishing on Property Deemed “Public” by Game Dept., MidCurrent, 6/28/11.

Virginia Water Center reports on recreational rights in Virginia waters:
Inland Recreational Fishing Rights in Virginia: Implications of the Virginia Supreme Court Case Kraft v. Burr, 1999, online at

Public Recreational Rights on Virginia’s Inland Streams,
1980, online at

Recent Virginia Water News
            For news relevant to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, available online at

Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and  Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.