James River Water Authority wins key permit

James River Water Authority wins key permit

By Heather Michon

The James River Water Project cleared a major hurdle in late April, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) issued a permit critical to moving the project forward.

The permit will allow work to proceed on the construction of a pumping station on the James River near Columbia and a four-mile-long pipeline that will carry the raw water to a treatment plant in Ferncliff. 

News of the ACOE approval was first reported by the ‘Engage Louisa’ Substack newsletter on April 22.

In an email to ‘Engage Louisa’ editor Tammy Purcell, Louisa County Administrator Christian Goodwin said the permit marked a “significant milestone” in the project and would “ensure that our region can rely on a much needed and sustainable source of water for citizens.”

A secure water supply at Zion Crossroads and surrounding communities is expected to spur business development on both sides of the Fluvanna-Louisa County line. Water is currently supplied by private wells that cannot sustain continued growth.

The idea of pumping water from the James to the Zion Crossroads area was first proposed in the 1990s and has faced significant challenges over the past decade. 

As the development of a pumping station seemed poised to get underway in 2018, the Monacan Indian Nation raised concerns that the proposed site was on top of their historical capital of Rassawek after an archeological survey found evidence of a past settlement on the site. 

After more than a year of pressure from multiple interest groups, the James River Water Authority (JRWA) abandoned the original site and selected a new location farther up the river. 

JRWA submitted the new ACOE permit application in 2022.

Last September, Fluvanna County Administrator Eric Dahl told the Board of Supervisors that the final cost of the pumping station and pipeline could go as high as $45.6 million. Under its agreement with Louisa County, Fluvanna would be responsible for half the costs.

Much of the funding has already been earmarked for the project, with some of it coming from the millions of dollars in proffers paid to the county by Dominion Energy for the construction of a landfill to contain the coal ash at the now-decommissioned Bremo Power Plant.

Construction of the pumping station and pipeline are expected to take up to two years to complete.

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