A water intake and pump station project in Fluvanna County has taken another step toward being moved away from the historic capital of the Monacan Indian Nation.
The James River Water Authority Board on Wednesday voted to have a contractor prepare a new or modified application for the project on an alternative site along the James River away from Rassawek, the historic capital of the Monacan Indian Nation.
After years of pushback, the tribe asked that the authority consider the alternative site — about 2.3 miles upstream — due to potential burials around Rassawek.
“This has been a long road — a lot of pain, distrust and disagreement,” Monacan Tribal Chief Kenneth Branham said at the authority’s meeting. “We are glad to be moving forward in a spirit of cooperation to ensure the citizens that they get their drinking water and our sacred capital Rassawek and the burials of our ancestors are all protected.”
Board chairman D.D. Watson said it has always been the intent of the board to make both counties proud of the work it’s doing.
“We all know that mistakes can be made, but they’re not final until you leave them,” he said. “We chose not to leave the mistakes that we made.”
The water intake and pump station is part of a larger project through the JRWA to bring water from the James River to a water treatment facility in Louisa County. The water ultimately will serve the Zion Crossroads area.
The JRWA is a joint entity of Fluvanna and Louisa that was formed in 2009 to manage the overall project.
The tribe has been engaged in conversations with the authority and other agencies involved in the project since 2017, but came out publicly against the water intake and pump station in 2019 because they thought burials possibly happened at that site.
In 2020, the authority board decided to pause a pending U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit application to study a potential alternative site, known as the 1C Forsyth alternative. The Monacans had urged the board to consider the potential alternative, which is about 2.3 miles upstream from the original recommended and proposed site.
The tribe made formal commitments to the authority in January 2021 to “collaborate fully and expeditiously” on an agreement if the board moved the water project away from the Point of Fork area and testing indicates no presence of human remains or burials on that alternative location.
An archaeological resources survey on the alternative site was completed in December. Consultants said they found “fewer artifacts than were expected,” as the site is in a floodplain. The archaeologists found no evidence of any actual or potential burials.