The Monacan Nation says it will drop claims of wrongdoing on the James River Water Project if its preferred consultant is hired and testing reveals few signs of human remains at an alternative site.
In a letter presented to the James River Water Authority on Jan. 13, tribal attorney Marion Werkheiser wrote that the Monacans will still collaborate on plans to relocate the water pump station and pipeline upstream from the Rassawek site at Point of Fork, “even if [testing] indicates that other types of tribal cultural resources will be impacted, as expected.”
The authority agreed in October to study the so-called Forsyth site, two miles from the current project location, but has not hired a consultant to do archeological fieldwork. The Monacans want Richmond-based Gray & Pape, Inc. to be hired.
Before fieldwork can start, a bathymetric study is needed to make sure there’s room in the river bottom next to the alternative site to construct a water intake. That study has been delayed by weather and river conditions, said Justin Curtis, an attorney for the authority.
Werkheiser wrote that if their two conditions are met, the Monacans will “waive all objections to what it alleges are prior failures of the Army Corps of Engineers and/or JRWA to comply with legal requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 or the National Environmental Policy Act or any other federal law, and waives all other claims that, if advanced, may delay the project.”
The Monacans also committed to support “expeditious approvals” for permits the authority needs before it can start construction. The tribe said it would help buy land the authority purchased at Point of Fork for the pump station, or to work with partner third parties to acquire the property.
Werkheiser said that as an archeological treatment plan is prepared for one of the alternative locations, the tribe will not demand financial mitigation for harms to cultural resources. However, the Monacans will ask landowners to turn over any artifacts that are found.
“It’s a helpful letter,” Curtis told the authority members. “I think it’s in our interest and there are no red flags.”
Werkheiser said she had discussed the commitments in the letter with Curtis in April 2020, when the authority was still publicly committed to the Point of Fork site. More than 100 people attended the authority’s March 2020 meeting to denounce plans to build at Rassawek, where the tribe’s ancestral capital city was located.
The authority held its meeting on Zoom, after the Fluvanna County Library, the venue for several recent meetings, was closed to the public due to rising COVID-19 cases in the region.
Note: This article has been edited since the print edition went to press to clarify that at this time the Forsyth site is the only alternative site being considered.