Threatened Sensitive Joint Vetch as found in area of proposed KWR Intake on Mattaponi River, further endangered by King William Reservoir Project
King William Reservoir Opposition, Alliance To Save The Mattaponi, P.O. Box 150 Mattaponi, VA 23110-0150
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Supes urged not to use revenue bonds for reservoir


Staff Writer

KING WILLIAM – Referring to the City of Newport News as a “predatory entity,” Kelly Place, a representative of the Waterman’s Association, joined a dozen other citizens Monday night asking the Board of Supervisors to hold off on using $20 million worth of revenue bonds to purchase reservoir land.

Newport News has worked to acquire pieces of the 3,000 acres in over 100 parcels of land needed for the King William Reservoir pool on and off for the past few years. The city acquired 10 parcels in 1999, but had to put the process on hold because of permitting issues.

“We’ve been told to hurry and do this for some unknown reason.  There is no urgency to move forward with this purchase,” said Tom Rubino of the Alliance to Save the Mattaponi.

Besides the unknown urgency, several citizens voiced concern over the stability of the project at the board meeting, suggesting that King William County would wind up stuck with thousands of acres of property and no way to pay back a loan if the land is purchased now.  Speakers at the public hearing mentioned how the project is currently involved in multiple legal battles and is expected to receive a full review by the State Water Control Board in 2012, at which time the state agency could revoke the project’s permit for construction.

“Unless there is a critical timeline or date with this, let’s not put our neck in another noose and obligate us to something that isn’t necessary,” Bob Ehrhart told the board.

Arthur Anderson, legal counsel from McGuire Woods LLP law firm in Richmond, told the board Monday night that its best option for financing the real property for lease to Newport News was through a pooled revenue bond, which would include $10 million this fall and $10 million some time next year.  The revenue bond would not exceed a 31-year period and would have an interest rate of six percent.  The bond will be paid back through the lease payments from the city.

“I don’t see how this county can even borrow that kind of money and pay it back.  If this thing goes through, let Newport News use their money not ours because we don’t have it,” Danny Wright told the board.

The Board of Supervisors was asked to fund the purchase of the property based on the King William Reservoir Project Development Agreement signed on November 13, 1990.  The board that signed 17 years ago obligated future boards to live up to the terms of the agreement.

“We’re obligated to honor the contract,” said Supervisor Frank Adams, who tabled the board’s decision until the October 22 meeting.  “We will use 30 days to get as much information in the citizens hands before we meet again.”

Citizens are hoping the board will come back next month with further options, including the possibility of a general obligation bond, which needs approval from voters through a referendum, instead of the revenue bonds, which do not need voter approval.

“Let the citizens of King William County decide where bonds should be used,” said Tyla Matteson, chair of the York River group of the Sierra Club.

According to County Administrator Frank Pleva, based on the contract with the city, the land acquisition will get financed one way or another and the revenue bonds are the most cost effective for the county.  He said Newport News could finance the project itself only if the county cannot find reasonable financing, which is hard to prove.

“You can’t go against it, which I think is stupid,” said citizen Steven Green.  “Let Newport News do it.  It’s their reservoir.  We don’t want it.”

Last year, the State Water Control Board reversed a previous decision to deny the city’s request for an extension of its Virginia Water Protection (VWP) permit set to expire in December of this year.  Newport News now has three years to finish any required studies, including the extensive wetlands mitigation plan. 

The city must file for a permit renewal by December 2010, at which time the board will execute a complete project review.  The SWCB did tell Newport News to acquire land at its own risk.

Newport News has spent millions of dollars battling opponents of the reservoir, which it believes will satisfy the future water needs to the Peninsula. The city received its state permit in August 2004 and its federal permit in July 2005 after previous denials from both agencies. 

The price of the entire reservoir project was estimated to cost $230 million in late 2005, a $100 million increase from original estimates.  Recently, Newport News announced that the project’s price tag was closer to $289 million with a built-in $30 million contingency.

The city says the permitting delays have caused actual water withdrawal dates to be pushed back to 2017.  Construction on the project was expected to begin in 2012.

The site for the reservoir pool is located near Cohoke Creek, between Routes 30, 626, and 633.  A dam will run along West Rose Garden Road, parts of which will be rerouted.

Courtesy the Tidewater Review.  The Tidewater Review is a newspaper in West Point, Virginia and has been in publication for 118 years, covering the counties of King William, King & Queen, New Kent, and the Town of West Point.

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