Concerning King William County Reservoir Permit Request

For Immediate Release: Mechanicsville, VA (7/14/06 3:36 PM) - In 1997, the Virginia Water Control Board issued a Virginia Water Protection Permit to the City of Newport News for the development of the proposed King William Reservoir project. The Reservoir is a proposed 1,526 acre public water storage impoundment on Cohoke Creek, a tributary of the Pamunkey River located between the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers in King William County. The proposal entailed pumping water from the Mattaponi River to the reservoir. The permit provided state approval for use of the Mattaponi River. Almost ten years later, this permit is about to expire while the King William Reservoir project continues to be bogged down and faces steadfast opposition. Over the past 10 years, new information regarding available alternatives, project need, and cultural and environmental impacts has surfaced. Many studies and other impact data is still in development and yet to return. And the project proposal itself has been revised substantially since issuance of the permit.

Accordingly the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) granted a public hearing for the Water Protection Permit’s extension so the design on a reservoir could continue. This hearing will take place on Thursday, July 20 at 7 PM the State Water Control Board located at James City County Gov’t Complex, Bldg F Board Room, 101 Mounts Bay Road, Williamsburg, VA. In light of numerous changes to originally permitted activities, I join those residents and my neighbors in King William, King and Queen and New Kent in my request to deny this transitional extension in favor of a full permit review for this ominous project.

Concerned residents have raised genuine and reasonable questions regarding the reservoir particularly a recent adoption of a water withdrawal hiatus by the Virginia Marine Resource Council (VMRC). On its face, this withdrawal scenario contradicts the basic reservoir design. Originally, plans held for water withdrawal to take place during the high flow annual flood which naturally occurs during the late winter and early spring. While this hiatus protects shad it maximizes other risks due to salinity increases and threatens botanicals, wetlands, trees, underwater grasses during the most critical periods of late spring, as the new plants come forward as well as other periods. Therefore, low-flow-only withdrawal may place the river’s habitat at greater risk. VRMC’s permit alteration is said to represent a pivotal design reversal and may negate previous years of study, considerable investment and many conclusions predicated on those previous designs.

The Reservoir project continues to be burdened with severe problems and the grave impacts not only to the environment but to the historical and cultural areas of the 97th district. Residents, property owners, tribal chiefs, state historic officials and state legislators have all expressed sadness that no alternative to Newport News’ water need has been supplied, including reasonable desalinization techniques. Again, on behalf of the residents of the 97th district, I request denial of this transitional extension request in favor of a full permit review where all relevant evidence can be considered.

Christopher K Peace Delegate 97 th District