ZION CROSSROADS — After evaluating alternatives, consultants for the James River Water Authority are still recommending a Monacan Indian Nation heritage site for a proposed raw water intake and pump station in Fluvanna County.
The authority board was presented with alternatives at its meeting Tuesday — which include 12 alternative project combinations, five alternative water sources and a no action scenario — for information and did not take a vote.
Ultimately the board will choose a preferred alternative at its March meeting to be submitted with application materials to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will go in-depth into all of the alternatives.
The current proposed and recommended site for the intake and pump station is near Point of Fork at the confluence of the Rivanna and James Rivers, which played a role in the Revolutionary War and also is known as Rassawek, the historic capital of the Monacan Indian Nation.
The tribe, and their attorneys, have fought the use of the site, citing its history and the potential for burial sites to be disturbed.
Justin Curtis, an attorney for JRWA, said one of the “major challenges” the authority has had is “based on the assumption that this is Rassawek.”
“What we’ve done is we’ve asked multiple times, ‘OK, if you don’t want the project here because you’re going to challenge it because it’s within the area you believe is Rassawek, tell us where Rassawek is and what the boundaries are, and we’ll see if we can go outside of that,’” he said. “To date, no one has been able to tell us that.”
The Rassawek portion of the project is part of a larger effort through the water authority to bring water to a water treatment facility in Louisa County that ultimately would serve the Zion Crossroads area in Fluvanna and Louisa.
A water treatment plant in Louisa has already been built, as has a raw waterline from the plant to Route 6 in Fluvanna, where a “T” connection exists for Fluvanna to connect an additional raw water line later. All of the alternative projects would connect a waterline from the pump station to the existing “T” connection.
Sites were considered along the James River from Bremo Bluff to just inside Goochland County limits, and were evaluated based on fulfilling the project purpose, construction logistics, site suitability, costs and environmental impacts, which includes historical and cultural resources.
Joe Hines, with Timmons Group, the consulting firm managing the project, said the group tried to suggest alternatives that were consistent and had similar features.
Total project costs ranged between about $24 million for the recommended site to $93.54 million for an alternative near Bremo Bluff, based on 2021 numbers.
All of the alternatives were determined to not be practicable in terms of cost, existing technology and logistics.
Timmons, along with other subcontractors, also considered alternative water sources — the Rivanna River, Lake Anna, Cobb’s Creek Reservoir, groundwater and purchasing water from neighboring communities. None matched the project’s proposed quantity, quality and costs.
After the authority finalizes and submits the materials, the Corps can come back for additional information requests and then a public comment period will open.
Curtis said since filing a lawsuit in Fluvanna County Circuit Court about a permit application from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the water authority and DHR have met with the attorney general’s office and a majority of the issues have been resolved.
“Most importantly, we have worked out with DHR what we see as a reasonable path forward and way to get to a final permit decision on that particular permit,” he said.
Curtis said the authority has to assume that there will be legal action taken if a corps permit is approved, since it has been stated publicly before.
“But just because you have a challenge to a permit does not necessarily mean construction stops,” he said, citing a Dominion Energy transmission line across the James River that has been allowed to stay in use while the corps conducts an environmental impact statement.
No members of the public spoke during the meeting’s public comment period.