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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Chesapeake Bay Foundation to try to block King William Reservoir plan

Chesapeake Bay Foundation can now challenge a permit extension for Newport News.

By Sabine Hirschauer | 247-4536
November 20, 2008

NEWPORT NEWS - The Chesapeake Bay Foundation will be able to challenge the five-year extension of Newport News' 2006 state permit for the controversial King William Reservoir in court, foundation and city officials confirmed Wednesday.

The Foundation is one of several environmental groups that have opposed the reservoir for years, citing myriad environmental effects including the destruction of more than 430 acres of wetlands, according to the foundation.

Newport News Waterworks has plowed ahead for more than a decade with spending money to eventually build the 12.2-billion gallon reservoir to cover the future water needs of the Peninsula, city officials argue.

In December 2006 the city received the extension of a permit from the State Water Control Board, crucial to continuing to plan the reservoir.

Now in the new ruling, a three-judge panel of the State Appeals Court overturned an earlier Richmond Circuit Court decision that did not allow the Foundation to challenge the State Board's decision to extend the city's permit.

"It just means that they (the Foundation) are taking the matter back to the courts," said Ron Harris, Waterworks project manager for the reservoir. "We are not making any changes on our implementation of the project. We continue to support the state in defending their decision to extend the permit."

The city will appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court, said Allen Jackson, chief deputy city attorney Wednesday evening.

The Water Control Board originally granted the permit to Newport News in 1997. In 2006, Waterworks asked for a five-year extension. The Board initially rejected the extension and then three months later granted it.

This sudden reversal sparked an outcry among environmentalists.

"We protested," said Chuck Epes, a Foundation spokesman. "We said 'Where does it say you can do that?' There was no legal foundation for that."

The Foundation asked the Board for a hearing, which was denied. It then filed a lawsuit in 2007, arguing the Board did not have the authority to reverse its original denial.

The Richmond Circuit Court had ruled the Foundation lacked the legal right to challenge the Water Board's decision since the permit extension would not cause the Foundation any harm. The Foundation appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals, which has now ruled the permit extension did harm the Foundation and its members because it allowed Newport News to advance the project.

"Now we go back to Richmond Circuit Court to argue our case that the decision to reconsider the permit extension and the process used was arbitrary and not permitted by state law and lacked any form of process for public participation," Epes said. "Now we have our day in court and will put our case before a judge."

On Wednesday, the city awarded a $1.9 million design contract for the reservoir, dam, spillways and road relocations to a Newport News engineering firm. Also, archaeological work will start this winter, Harris said.

In 2012 the city will have to get yet another extension for its state permit.

So far, the city has set aside $101 million for the reservoir and has spent $33 million of that money. Estimates of how much the reservoir, which is still scheduled to come on line in 2019, will eventually cost the city range from $75 million in 1989 to $250 million in 2006 and $289 million at the end of 2007.

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