Water projects

While Supervisor Don Weaver has often said the county should “crawl before it walks, and walk before it flies” – a metaphor that explains his dislike of launching into the million-gallon James River project before trying a milder approach – Nichols said that the two projects are actually designed to work in tandem with each other.

“The whole purpose of the Zion Crossroads water project is to build the infrastructure so that we can feed it with bulk capacity water over the long term,” Nichols said.

At a cost of between $8 million to $10 million, the Zion Crossroads water project will pull 75,000 gallons of water per day from the Department of Corrections (DOC) facility on Rt. 250 and pump it to the intersection of Rt. 250 and Rt. 15 at Zion Crossroads, then possibly shortly down Rt. 15.

At a cost of between $4 million to $5 million, the James River water project will have 400,000 gallons of treated water at Zion Crossroads by the end of 2018.

“You have to have the pipes in the ground, treated water, sewer pipes, the water tower for fire flows, and a pump station to send the water up to the tower,” said Nichols. “You have to have those pipes in the ground before you can feed them from any source, whether it’s groundwater” or James River water, Nichols said.

Sewer treatment will be an issue down the road, Nichols admitted. While the DOC can treat between 100,000 and 125,000 gallons per day of sewage, eventually the needs at Zion Crossroads could outpace that capacity. “Long-term sewer treatment issues are going to be one of the most confounding problems for any locality across the nation,” he said.

As supervisors and the Planning Commission jointly peered into whether to approve the James River water project, they examined where exactly along the river to place the project’s intake facility.

In the past the James River Water Authority (JRWA) sought permission to construct the facility on Fluvanna resident Barbara Seay’s land at the Point of Fork. After strong opposition surfaced and supervisors denied the permit, the JRWA amended its request to an adjacent parcel of land, still on the Point of Fork, owned by William Hammond. Hammond has not publicly stated his opinion of the project.

The Planning Commission recommended that supervisors approve the Hammond site, and supervisors did so in a 4-0 vote (Chairman Mike Sheridan absent).

Commissioner Ed Zimmer asked Nichols if there was a reason, given that the Point of Fork is such a “focal point of opposition,” why the investigation into intake locations was limited to three sites.

Nichols said that the three considered sites were selected because of their contractually-mandated proximity to Columbia and their nearness to existing easements.

Commissioner Barry Bibb asked for clarification on the plan in place if workers encounter an archaeological artifact on the Point of Fork during the construction process. Nichols said that if some such artifact were found, activities would cease. There would be testing to see whether construction could continue or if the project needed to move to a new site.

As conversation drew to a close, Zimmer took issue with the idea of water as a “bad” or “significant” gamble for the county. “Water is getting more scarce,” he said. “If there is anything we can do as a county as a good gamble, then water is one of those… I think water overall is as good a gamble as we’re going to find. In the future having control over whatever amount of water we’re going to have control over is going to be a valuable asset for this county.’

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