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Supes sink reservoir bonds for the time
City asked to stop land acquisitions
Staff Writer
Tidewater Review 11/21/2007

KING WILLIAM — Supervisors decided last week to hold off on using $20 million worth of revenue bonds to purchase land for the reservoir project, pleasing opponents who still believe the water source is unmerited.

“We're very pleased King William took the right step,” said Glen Besa, Regional Director of the Sierra Club Appalachian Region. “The reason this project has had so many difficulties is that it has no merit. The water is not needed, the project is destructive, and it's time for Newport News to reevaluate its position.”

One day prior to the deadline, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to not join a fall pooled-bond program during a special called meeting after having tabled action on the decision twice in the past two months. The board had previously stated it believed its best option for financing the real property for the King William Reservoir project to lease to Newport News was through a pooled revenue bond, which would include $10 million this fall and $10 million some time next year.

“There were just too many uncertainties in the project,” said Supervisor Eugene Rivara, who made the motion to not get into the pool right now. “We also agreed to draft a letter to Waterworks respectfully requesting them to cease the acquisition of property until all permits are in hand.”

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.

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

“We do have all our permits in hand so we don't need to wait,” said Newport News Waterworks Project Manager Ron Harris.

At the public hearing held in September, several citizens raised concerns over the unknown urgency of the financial move and questioned the stability of the project, 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.

“We didn't see a reason to purchase property for the reservoir so early in the permitting process,” said Supervisor Frank Adams.

Citizens were hoping the board would choose to use a general obligation bond, which needs approval from voters through a referendum, instead of the revenue bonds, which do not need voter approval and were surprised by its decision to hold off completely last week.

“No one can answer the question what would happen to all that land if the project is not approved,” Besa said. “It was very prudent of King William not to buy that land at this time.”

Newport News has spent millions of dollars battling opponents of the reservoir, which it believes will satisfy the future water needs of 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 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. Construction on the project was expected to begin in 2012.

“You've got to believe. We just have to believe against all odds we are going to win,” Besa said.

*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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