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WaterFluvanna’s Zion Crossroads area will not have water from the James River this year after all.

A necessary permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the James River Water Authority (JRWA) project has not arrived. The expected completion date of the project has now shifted back a year from the end of 2018 to the end of 2019, said County Administrator Steve Nichols. 

The JRWA project, a joint venture between Fluvanna and Louisa Counties, consists of a water intake facility on the Point of Fork where the James and Rivanna Rivers meet near Columbia, and a raw water pipeline stretching a little over a mile to Route 6.

From that point, the Louisa County Water Authority will construct its own pipeline at its own expense to funnel water northwest through Fluvanna to Louisa County. Louisa has agreed to “make all reasonable efforts” to provide up to 400,000 gallons of treated water per day to Fluvanna’s Zion Crossroads area by the end of 2018.

But the historic nature of Point of Fork, on which the intake facility will be built, has complicated the issue and delayed the issuance of a permit necessary for construction.
Point of Fork housed Rassawek, the capital city of the Monacan Indians, and a Revolutionary War arsenal. Several Fluvanna residents have expressed the belief that Native American artifacts will be disturbed or destroyed by construction on the site.

Point of Fork’s history has necessitated a so-called Section 106 review before USACE can issue a permit for construction of the water intake facility.
“Section 106 of the historic resources federal law basically states that we have to evaluate any impact to historic resources if there’s a federal undertaking, and that includes if there’s a federal permit,” said Patrick Bloodgood, USACE spokesperson.

“They are going through what they call a Phase 1 archaeological investigation on the project site to see what exactly is out there that they’re going to encounter,” Bloodgood said. “We are working in coordination with the historical preservation office as well as different consulting parties.” 

Right now no one knows for sure what historic artifacts will be found at Point of Fork. Archaeologists consulting on the project have been conducting an investigation at Point of Fork, said Randy Jones, public information officer for the Department of Historic Resources (DHR).

“We haven’t received the final report on the investigations being pursued there,” Jones said. “Any human remains that might be found would probably come under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. We would be working with tribes in terms of determining what would become of any human remains that might be uncovered.”

Once the report comes in, DHR will provide its feedback to USACE. USACE, not DHR, will determine whether to grant the permit, Jones said.

Finding historic artifacts at Point of Fork will not necessarily keep the permit from being issued. “If USACE and DHR determine there is a potential adverse impact, then you issue a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on exactly how to handle any artifacts or human remains, so if we unearth some human remains, we’ll know exactly what to do,” said Nichols.

He predicted that once the MOU is in place, the permit would follow “in short order.”

The JRWA project has not encountered any pushback from DHR, Nichols said. “It’s just due diligence – it just takes time,” he said. “They are consulting tribes and local residents. They all just want to make sure the process is handled properly. You’ll always have people who say they don’t want a project in a certain location, but that’s not coming from DHR.” 

Historic impacts aren’t the only factors USACE takes into account when deciding whether to issue a permit. “We identify any potential impacts to endangered species, any impacts to environmental conditions, wetlands impacts and such. Then it goes into the decision-making process whether to grant or deny the permit,” Bloodgood said.

There is no timeline as to when a decision will be reached.

There are no particular problems holding up the process, Bloodgood said. “When we do a thorough review of projects that have these types of impacts, especially when you’re looking at historic impacts, it can take a little while to go through that and make sure that we are doing right by the environment as well as doing right by the entity that wants to build in those particular areas,” he said.

The JRWA project, which will cost Fluvanna between $4 million and $5 million, also needed permits from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Department of Environmental Quality. Both permits have been issued, Nichols said.

County staff did not expect to need the 400,000 gallons of James River water at Zion Crossroads by the end of this year, so the delay does not cause problems for Fluvanna’s water supply.
Fluvanna is moving forward with a separate water system, the $8 million to $10 million Zion Crossroads water system, which will connect to the promised water supply when the need arises.

The Zion Crossroads water system will pump up to 75,000 gallons of water per day from the women’s prison on Route 250. It will also route between 100,000 and 125,000 gallons per day of sewage back to the prison for treatment. 

The 75,000 gallons of water per day is enough to meet the short-term needs of the area. The JRWA project is still projected to be complete before Fluvanna needs more water at Zion Crossroads.