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James River Water Authority finds no wrongdoing by consultant

Attorneys for the authority in charge of a controversial Fluvanna County water project on Wednesday said allegations against a consultant on the project were not credible.

Representatives of the James River Water Authority said the findings followed an internal investigation into accusations of unethical practices against archaeologist Carol Tyrer and her company, Circa. Tyrer was a consultant on a project to build a water intake and pump station that eventually would serve Zion Crossroads and Fluvanna and Louisa Counties and include a treatment facility in Louisa County.

The site for the intake and pump station is 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.

On Wednesday, attorneys disputed the findings of the JRWA investigation and reiterated earlier calls for an independent look into the accusations.

“JRWA investigated itself and found itself innocent. We are not shocked,” said Greg Werkheiser of Cultural Heritage Partners, counsel for the Monacan Indian Nation. “This reads more like a bad defense brief than a legitimate attempt to find facts. The Monacan Indian Nation reiterates its call for a legitimate independent investigation.”

A former employee brought the accusations against Tyrer last year, and JRWA pledged to investigate.

In a 35-page memo to the JRWA board, attorney Justin Curtis said that the declaration from Eric Mai, a former employee of Circa, Tyrer’s company, contained statements “irreconcilably inconsistent with contemporaneous documents associated with the study or other statements by Mai,” and that the allegations “appear to deliberately misleading and exaggerated,” and “others appear to be false.”

“In conclusion, counsel does not find any specific allegations in the Mai Declaration sufficiently credible to justify a recommendation of further action by the board with respect to Circa or Tyrer,” Curtis wrote. “Nevertheless, there are outstanding questions about Circa and Tyrer’s qualifications that remain pending in other appropriate fora, namely circuit courts and the relevant state and federal agencies.”

The memo states attorneys interviewed Tyrer, a new project archaeology firm, GAI Consultants, Inc., Timmons Group project manager Joe Hines and a foreman with Faulconer Construction Co., a sub-contractor on the project, with Faulconer’s attorney present. They also reviewed documents related to the project.

In a declaration, Mai stated that he believed Circa was engaging in “illegal, unethical, unprofessional and unscientific practices” with the JRWA project and generally.

Mai wrote that those practices included “lying to government officials, assigning unqualified and untrained personnel to perform sensitive investigations, failing to supervise unqualified personnel,” among other things.

Curtis’s memo states that the evidence that Tyrer directed staff to lie to officials is “fairly characterized as inconclusive, with no reliable evidence to support or rebut the witness statements about the circumstances.”

Curtis recommended in the memo that the JRWA board retain Circa as a consultant on a “limited on-call basis” going forward so that JRWA “does not lose the benefit of Circa’s knowledge of the site and previous field studies” and that it proceeds with the ongoing review of Circa’s prior work.

Timmons Group, which is managing the project, is also currently conducting an evaluation of various alternatives for the water intake and pump, Curits said in an email.

“The analysis includes alternative intake locations, variations on the potential water line routes, and different sources of water that do not involve a withdrawal from the James River,” he said.

Technical/engineering feasibility, cost and environmental/historic resources impacts will be evaluated for each potentially viable alternative.

“The alternatives analysis remains in progress and will be submitted to the US Army Corps of Engineers when it is complete,” Curtis said.

Werkeheiser said the tribe would like to have input on alternative locations.

“The Monacans would welcome the opportunity to have input on JRWA’s alternatives analysis, because we are confident that both a new water supply and the preservation of Rassawek are achievable,” Werkheiser said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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