Virginian-Pilot OBJECTION! Reservoir opposition deserves kudos

Letter to the Editor: Reservoir opposition deserves kudos08-10-06

Your July 23 editorial characterizes opposition to the King William Reservoir as a “lost cause” and says that continued opposition from environmental and other groups “looks more like obsession than principle.”

Well, you’ve got the right word but the wrong party. As your editorial accurately points out, the reservoir is “a project that’s been on the drawing boards for 20 years, with costs spiraling toward $30 million and with little to show for it.”

To illustrate how long this tortured process has been, I was in fifth grade when it started and, although I am a relative newcomer to this fight, I can plainly see how costly delays are largely a result of Newport News’ rejection of the best scientific and water planning analyses on top of an insistence to build a fundamentally flawed project in spite of tremendous negative consequences.

Exhaustive research and analysis conducted in 1999 by the Army Corps of Engineers uncovered the fact that Newport News had greatly inflated its water supply needs and that the proposed project was simply not needed. In the words of the Corps’ Norfolk district colonel, Allan B. Carroll, building the King William Reservoir was “contrary to the public interest.”

Newport News chose to use political avenues instead of admit defeat after the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted in 2004 to deny a needed state permit for the reservoir.

Rather than accept the decision of fisheries scientists on the matter, the city introduced legislation in the General Assembly that would end-run the VMRC decision and demanded a new hearing. The city ultimately got its VMRC permit on a 5-3 vote, contrary to the recommendations of VMRC scientists and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Newport News continues to refuse accepting the concerns of those most directly affected by the reservoir project, which are many of the citizens of the 97th district. Moreover, the Mattaponi Tribe has consistently and unequivocally opposed the reservoir from day one, concerned about the reservoir’s effect on water quality and quantity in the Mattaponi River; the river’s shad fishery, on which the tribe depends; the loss of tribal cultural and historic sites, and on violations of treaties signed with the tribe centuries ago.

Newport News’ actions will add yet another sorrowful chapter in the history of Virginia’s Native Americans by demanding that the city’s economic interests trump the quality of life of our residents and the Mattaponi Tribe.

If built, the King William Reservoir will result in the destruction of more than 400 acres of wetlands, the largest authorized destruction of wetlands in the mid-Atlantic region since the enactment of the Clean Water Act.

Instead of chastising conservation and tribal advocacy groups for their consistent opposition to the King William Reservoir, we should instead applaud their continual battle to get the objective truth to the people of Virginia about the King William Reservoir. After all, we are a commonwealth.

Del. Chris Peace 97th House District Richmond