Delegate Peace Speaks at DEQ Public a Hearing

For Immediate Release Mechanicsville, VA – Attendance at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality public hearing held last night in James City County on Newport News’ request to extend a state-issued permit was high. Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Mechanicsville) joined a capacity crowd as he spoke to the State Water Control Board in opposition to the permit extension.

Sixty-four individuals spoke. The vast majority, 47, comprised of both public officials and private citizens, spoke against the measure. In contrast, a mere 17, mostly city officials from surrounding localities, spoke in favor of the five-year extension. Among opponents of the permit extension were Delegate Peace, Delegate Harvey Morgan, Congressional Representative Jo Ann Davis, Chief Carl "Lone Eagle" Custalow of the Mattaponi Tribe, Gene Besa of the Sierra Club, and Joe Tannery of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

In 1997, the Virginia Water Control Board issued a Virginia Water Protection Permit (VWP) to the City of Newport News for the development of the proposed King William Reservoir project. At that time, the King William County Board of Supervisors approved a preliminary land acquisition plan and the County began purchasing land. 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 entails pumping water from the Mattaponi River to the reservoir. The VWP permit provided state approval for use of the Mattaponi River. Almost ten years later, this permit is about to expire.

In his remarks, Peace urged the Board not to grant the five-year permit extension request, citing major modifications to the reservoir project which should negate such consideration. Delegate Peace further stated, “There are numerous outstanding questions regarding this reservoir that warrant a full and timely review of the project. By denying Newport News’ permit extension, the city would have to reapply for its VWP permit which is due to expire in 2007. The renewal and reapplication process would provide the State Water Control Board an opportunity to review and secure answers to the continued questions and concerns.”

Denial of the extension of the VWP permit could become a major set back for proponents of the reservoir in the face of the project’s most recent milestone. On November 16, 2005, General William T. Grisoli, Commander of the North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New York City announced the issuance of the Section 404 permit, which was the final permit needed to begin this regional water supply project. The design and implementation phase is underway and project staff is developing a comprehensive eco-monitoring plan, establish a site management team, and continue historic resources and mitigation work.

Tyla Matteson, lead volunteer in the campaign to stop the King William Reservoir said, "We were delighted that 125 people came to the hearing last night (July 20) to support the 10-year fight to stop the proposed reservoir and to save the Mattaponi. This shows the continuing and increasing involvement of citizens, weighing in on the injustice of the project. We trust this will be of significance to the State Water Control Board members, when they take up the issue. The fact that this project has taken so long to go through its permits shows, I believe that justice will prevail in the end, and the project will not go forward."

"Tonight the public process was at its finest. The voice of the everyday Virginian was given a chance to speak. That voice was loud and clear this evening and simply asked for all the facts before this project goes any further. The take home message for the Board was that if a permitee has not completed all necessary studies and doesn't have all the facts at this time, then it does not deserve a permit until can do so,” asserted Joe Tannery of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Additional environmental, historical and cultural issues have arisen in other areas of the 97th district. Peace recently drafted legislation for the 2007 session to address issues of concern surrounding landfill proposals in New Kent and looks forward to meeting with UNITED, which is a local New Kent group of business people fighting to preserve the character of the county. Peace continues to monitor water quality and supply issues in Caroline county as well as participating in on-going discussions with Friends of Lake Anna, a citizen group concerned over the safety of the Lake, DEQ, the Department of Health and Dominion Power. Peace considers these district issues to be of great importance.

Delegate Christopher K. Peace was elected to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates on January 24, 2006 in a Special Election in which Peace won 4 of 7 counties and 65% of the District’s precincts. As the representative for the 97th District, Delegate Peace serves parts of Hanover, Caroline, King William, King and Queen, Henrico, Spotsylvania Counties and all of New Kent County. Peace now sits on the prominent House Courts of Justice, Health Welfare and Institutions, and Science and Technology Committees.