Water permit

On Dec. 2 supervisors froze the James River water project, which would withdraw water from the James River and pipe it through Fluvanna to Louisa, then to Zion Crossroads, by voting 2-2 to deny the JRWA’s original SUP.

Louisa County responded by entering the mediation process, a contractually-mandated precursor to suing for breach of contract.  Fluvanna, Louisa, the JRWA, and the Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA) signed an agreement in 2013 binding them to the water project, including any future zoning needs.

Five days after their initial vote supervisors reconsidered and decided that, if the JRWA submitted a new SUP, preferably with a different intake location, they would hold another public hearing and vote on Jan. 20.

At the meeting, County Administrator Steve Nichols explained recent events to the rest of the JRWA Board, which includes three members from Fluvanna and three from Louisa.  “My belief is some of the reason for denial had to do with the location in a particularly sensitive area of our county,” he said.  “I believe there is an expectation that the site [of the intake facility] would be changed, but this [JRWA] body has to vote.”

“Do you feel like this would be a wise move for the JRWA Board in terms of assuaging concerns in Fluvanna?” asked Louisa County Administrator Christian Goodwin, another Board member.

“I do not think so,” Nichols responded, to the obvious surprise of some of Louisa’s JRWA members.

Board member D. D. Watson, a Louisa supervisor, asked whether Nichols expected the new SUP to pass on Jan. 20.

“That’s too hard to read,” Nichols said.  “Every time I’ve thought I knew which way the Board was going to go on any vote – heck, you never know.  Depends on who the last person is somebody talked to or the last piece of information they received or how good a job the staff did on explaining things, or sometimes whether the moon is full or not.”

Board member Joe Chesser, former Fluvanna supervisor, pointed out that Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch’s term expires at the end of the year, leaving incoming Supervisor Trish Eager to vote on the matter.

When Watson asked if Eager would vote to pass the SUPs, Chesser said he didn’t know.  “One side of me says Ms. Eager is a very intelligent lady who really thinks things through, and once she understands it, will vote for the cause of Fluvanna,” he said.  But he pointed out that Eager voted against the SUP when it came before her in the Planning Commission.

Eager has declined to comment on how she plans to vote.

Chesser said he didn’t know whether moving the intake location would increase the SUP’s chance of approval.  Seay has “raised so much angst” against having the intake station on her land that, though the “public cry” may still exist with the new location, it may not be as intense, he said.

But he stated that Supervisor Don Weaver will “never vote positive for this project, period.”

Supervisor Mike Sheridan may not vote on the project, given health concerns and the fact that the proposed pipeline’s path crosses his land.  The SUP needs three votes to pass.

“The question was asked, do I think [moving the intake location] will make a difference to those that were against it before, and no, I don’t,” said Nichols.  “That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be moved if that’s the will of this body. I think that’s certainly the expectation from my Board [of Supervisors, but] they know this body has to vote on it.  Are the people who are against having this pump station on Point of Fork going to be less against it if it’s moved to a property to the west of it, 100 or 200 yards?  No, I don’t think that will change their minds at all.”

“Aside from the people whose parcels would be directly affected,” said Goodwin.

“Indeed,” Nichols said, but noted that the previous location’s “real benefit” was that “it affected the fewest landowners that could possibly be found.”  The new location’s route will affect more landowners, he said.

The Board moved to closed session to decide what to do next.  When open session reconvened, Chesser moved to resubmit the SUP to Fluvanna supervisors, moving the intake location to the adjacent property owned by Hammond.  The motion passed 5-0, with Board member Erick Gomez of Fluvanna absent.

After the meeting Goodwin told the Fluvanna Review that Louisa hopes the new location will assuage concerns in Fluvanna.  He confirmed that Louisa is continuing to move forward with the legal mediation process.

Nichols declined to speak for Hammond when asked whether the landowner approves of the use of his land for the intake facility.

Other locations for the intake facility could be considered before Dec. 31 if the JRWA Board were to meet again and adjust the SUP request.  By the beginning of the new year, however, the JRWA needs to legally advertise the SUP in its final form and could not make a change without re-advertising – a process which takes time.  The vote could not be held Jan. 20 if that were to happen.

If the SUP is approved Jan. 20 the project could make a crucial financing deadline.  A delay would cause the project to miss the deadline.

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