Firing the latest salvo in the battle over Louisa County’s future public water supply, the Monacan Indian Nation asked the Louisa and Fluvanna county boards of supervisors to hire a third party to investigate the actions of the James River Water Authority.
The tribe’s Dec. 18 letter to Louisa supervisors Chairman Toni Williams (Jackson district) and John Sheridan, his counterpart in Fluvanna, says that the authority cannot be trusted to get to the bottom of alleged wrongdoing by its cultural resources subcontractor, Circa Cultural Resource Management LLC.
“Documents have now revealed that JRWA itself was fully aware of some of Circa’s practices and paid for them knowingly, including Circa’s use of untrained, unqualified, unsupervised construction workers to conduct sensitive archaeological testing instead of archaeology field technicians,” wrote the Monacans’ attorney, Marion Werkheiser.
She made the same allegation in a separate Dec. 16 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for issuing a permit to allow the water project to proceed.
As evidence, the Monacans presented daily field reports filed by Faulconer Construction Company, the contractor the JRWA hired to build a pump station at the James River and a pipeline to carry water from there to Louisa County.
The reports, dating from December 2017 and January 2018, are signed by Carol Tyrer, Circa’s president. The forms list Joe Hines, engineer for Timmons Group, which is managing the water project for the JRWA, as having authorized the work. The Monacans say the JRWA subsequently paid Faulconer for its labor.
Justin Curtis, a JRWA spokesman and attorney, said there was nothing unusual about the fact Faulconer employees assisted with the archeological work, operating heavy machinery at the site and other tasks on behalf of Circa.
“It is not uncommon or improper for construction workers or other laborers to assist them,” Curtis said. “The question is, what activities were appropriate and were they properly supervised?”
A former Circa employee, Eric Mai, said in a statement submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers in October that he observed the company use inexperienced staff during the archeological dig on the James River. Mai also alleged the company reported misleading information about Indian artifacts that were found.
In response, the authority and Fluvanna County issued statements in which they vowed to investigate Mai’s claims. The authority also said a different company, GAI Consultants Inc., would be its lead cultural resources consultant going forward.
Louisa County Administrator Christian Goodwin and Supervisor Troy Wade (Louisa district) are JRWA members. D.D. Watson, a Louisa County business owner, is the authority’s chairman.
“At the conclusion of [the] investigation, JRWA will take any necessary and appropriate action to protect the public’s investment in this water supply project,” the authority’s statement reads.
Virginia Department of Historic Resources Director Julie Langan said in September that Tyrer did not have the academic record necessary to manage an archeological project. Since issuing its statement in October, the JRWA’s only public action has been to file an appeal in Fluvanna Circuit Court in which it defends Tyrer’s qualifications.
“This approach struck our client as unusual until we saw [Faulconer’s field reports], which make clear that Tyrer was doing ‘her job’ with JRWA’s full approval,” Werkheiser wrote in her letter to the Army Corps of Engineers.
In its Nov. 4 appeal, the JRWA said Langan was wrong to disqualify Tyrer, citing state code requirements for archeological work. The authority also claims Langan unjustly denied an anticipatory burial permit needed for the next phase of archeological work. Langan has said that she did not deny the permit, but would not issue it unless Tyrer is replaced as the lead cultural consultant.
Curtis said the authority may provide a response to Mai’s claims at its January meeting.
“The allegations merit a full and fair review, and that takes time,” he said. “To ask for an independent investigation at this point is grossly premature.”