The 104 Fluvanna County landowners whose properties will be directly impacted by the pipeline had the opportunity to meet with county representatives from Fluvanna and Louisa as well as the agencies and businesses involved in designing and constructing the proposed pipeline to learn more about the project, and to express their concerns.

The meeting, held at the Kents Store ARC by the Louisa County Water Authority and Timmons Group, an engineering firm based in Charlottesville,  was attended by  numerous county officials from both Fluvanna and Louisa, including both county administrators, and several members of Fluvanna’s and Louisa’s Boards of Supervisors.

Fluvanna landowners who will be compelled to sell easements for the construction of the pipeline on their properties expressed concerns about the impacts the construction will have on their homes.  David Beckman of Covered Bridge Road was concerned that he would lose access to his home; Randy Wishon was concerned that fences that contain his livestock would need to be moved; Mary Smith explained that the pipeline would likely not fit between her house and a nearby pond.

Mel Sheridan, Fluvanna County Commissioner of the Revenue, who lives in Kents Store where many properties would be impacted, pointed out that these landowners have already been asked to “consider the greater good” and sell commercial rights-of-way through their properties more than once.  He urged those in charge of the process to be respectful and considerate of the affected landowners.

Ultimately, if an individual landowner cannot come to an agreement about the sale of an easement, the county can condemn that property and take it from them under imminent domain.

Joe Hines of Timmons Group emphasized that the design and construction process will be “transparent,” and added that they hope they can be “good neighbors and partners.”  Agreements between the two counties, the agencies involved, and the engineering and construction firms should be finalized in January 2015, and construction could begin as soon as the summer or fall of 2015; the project is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

The counties have already agreed to split the cost of the water intake and pumping station near Columbia; Louisa will bear the cost of the construction of the pipeline itself and the water treatment facility at Ferncliff.  The total cost of the project is estimated to be $40-$45 million dollars.

While Fluvanna will not immediately be using water from this pipeline, the county will have the right to half of the water pumped from the James; the county can either build its own water treatment facility and lay its own pipelines in the future, or can pay Louisa for treated water at Ferncliff.

Fluvanna County Administrator and member of the James River Water Authority Board Steve Nichols said that he thought it was “important to get this straw in the river” while the opportunity is there.  He pointed to the recent rapid growth of Pantops in Charlottesville as illustrative of the fact that commercial growth will happen when infrastructure – like water – is present.   Nichols emphasized that making commercial development possible in parts of the county designated as growth areas will enable the rural parts of the county to be preserved unspoiled.

Mel Sheridan pointed out, “For a rural preservation district, this part of the county is becoming a utility corridor.”

Betty McGehee  expressed her concerns about the site of the pump station, and asked if those in charge were aware of the historical significance of Point of Fork, which contained an arsenal during the Revolutionary War, and was the site of a skirmish – or Rassawek, the capital of the Monacan Nation.  She also pointed out that the pipeline would cross two significant early canal structures.

Christian Goodwin, county administrator of Louisa, and also a member of the James River Water Authority, emphasized that Louisa needs a good relationship with Fluvanna, because they need access to the James River to supply growing development in the southern part of Louisa County.  He added, “We are very aware that we need to make sure now that we do things that lay the ground work for a positive relationship going forward.”

Some who spoke at the meeting seemed frustrated by the lack of any specific information – such as which side of the existing utility right-of-way the pipeline will run along.  “I think the people in this room deserve some specific answers,” said Sheridan.  “I really thought we would get answers to simple questions tonight.  We really need to know when we can expect the answers to some of these questions,” he added.

Hines pointed out that until surveys have been completed and designs formalized, those questions will not have answers.  He assured attendees that another public information meeting will be scheduled for the first quarter of 2015, when more information will be available.

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