Water board open to collaboration with tribe

The James River Water Authority is considering working more closely with the Monacan Indian Nation on a solution to the conflict over the tribe’s historical capital city, Rassawek.

Justin Curtis, JRWA’s attorney, said at a June 10 meeting that a possible next step is to work with the Monacans on a cultural resources study of the Forsyth site, located two miles upstream from the planned water pump station location. The study would cost an estimated $100 to $150,000. 

But Curtis advised the JRWA not to pursue that option yet. First, he asked members to consider re-routing the water pipeline from the pump station on an alternate path across the Rivanna River. He said this route would address concerns the Monacans have about the current proposed Rivanna crossing. The tribe says human remains and artifacts were found during an archeological dig in that area during the early 1980s.

By digging under the river closer to the town of Columbia, engineers could reduce the negative impact on the ground.

“We would confine almost all the impact within the pump station area itself,” Curtis said. “You get down below any archeological deposits and stay in the bedrock, so there’s no surface disturbance.”

However, the alternative would not change the location of the pump station, which has been the Monacans’ biggest concern.

In written comments submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between April and June, thousands of individuals and organizations advised federal officials not to give the authority a permit to build the pump station.   

Cultural Heritage Partners, the law firm representing the tribe, released a list on June 8 of some of the 12,000 individuals and groups that contacted the Army Corps. The Army Corps had set June 7 as the deadline for public input.

Among those submitting comments were the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc., the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes and the National Congress of American Indians, a 75-year-old organization that represents tribal governments and communities. The latter issued the following statement:

“In light of previous archaeological findings, the historic and cultural significance of Rassawek to the Monacan Indian Nation and to the United States, and the potential impacts the proposed project will have on those resources, NCAI requests that [the Army Corps] conduct an [environmental impact statement], including full consideration of the “Forsyth Alternative,” as requested by the Monacan Indian Nation.” 

The Monacans proposed in March to shift the pump station site upstream two miles to the Forsyth site, owned by Richard and Julia Rose. The water authority, formed by Louisa and Fluvanna counties to administer the project, rejected the Forsyth site as impractical because of an expected $10 million or more in additional development costs. 

The entire water project, including a pipeline to the Ferncliff water treatment plant and to Zion Crossroads, was priced at about $50 million in 2015, not including the cost of paying interest on debt.

 No comments were submitted to the Army Corps in support of the James River Water Authority, according to Cultural Heritage Partners.

The law firm claims Timmons Group, the water authority’s consultant, should not have prepared the alternatives analysis sent to the Army Corps in March, because it has a “direct financial interest” in the outcome of the project.

The Army Corps must now decide whether to require an environmental impact statement, which would involve significant additional review of the water project. 

The water authority’s June 10 meeting was held at the Kents Store ARC Community Center in Fluvanna County. Several members of the public criticized the authority at its March meeting for holding a public meeting inside Spring Creek subdivision, a gated community.

Recommended for you