James River Water Project costs could top $35 million

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors closed out its final meeting of 2022 with an update on the James River Water Project, including a new cost estimate of around $35 million.

Designed to pump water from the James River near Columbia to Zion Crossroads in Louisa, the project has made steady progress since 2020, when opposition from the Monacan Indian Nation over the original location of the pumping station led the James River Water Authority (JRWA) to look at a new location a short distance upriver.

The Monacans objected to the original site at Point of Fork, which they believed to be their historical capital of Rassawek. Bone fragments and pottery shards found during an archaeological survey in 2018 found evidence of human settlement at the site dating back to 1200 BCE.

The move added several miles to the pipeline carrying the water to a treatment plant in Ferncliff. JRWA originally estimated the cost of the project in the new location at around $23 million. 

But between the need to develop an entirely new construction plan and the rising costs of labor and materials, County Administrator Eric Dahl said the current projected cost of design and construction of the water intake and pumping station is around $35 million. 

The final number, he added, could be slightly closer to $40 million. 

Because this is a joint project with Louisa County, the bill will be split 50-50 between the counties. Dahl believes Fluvanna’s portion could come in at around $17.5 million. 

However, the county wouldn’t be on the hook for the entire amount, thanks to a $10 million proffer from Dominion Energy as part of the agreement to build the new coal ash landfill at Bremo Bluff. Dominion proffered the money to help bring more municipal water into the Fork Union area. 

This would leave around $7.5 million in potential costs for Fluvanna.

The project – which was originally planned to be operational mid-2019 at a cost of around $15 million – is still years from completion. If all goes well with approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and no issues arise in the final Phase III archaeological survey or permitting, Dahl said construction could begin in January 2024 and be finished in January 2026.

Once operational, the pipeline will bring a stable water supply to the Zion Crossroads area, which is considered vital to the economic development of both counties.

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