After a twenty year "David and Goliath" battle against what would be the largest permitted wetland destruction in the mid-Atlantic states, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia yesterday said "yes" to CBF's opposition to the King William reservoir project by saying "no" to the US Army Corps of Engineers' decision to issue a permit for construction. 

Construction of the proposed reservoir would destroy more than 430 acres of pristine wetlands, flood 21 miles of streams, inundate Native American cultural sites, and threaten the restoration of the American shad.
 
This ruling by the federal court is nothing short of precedent setting. 

After numerous state and federal agency and court hearings, repeated legislative maneuvers in Virginia's General Assembly, thousands of citizen comments, rallies and letters to the editor, and hundreds of newspaper articles and editorials, CBF and its partners have once again beaten back this ill-conceived, unnecessary, and environmentally destructive project.   

Here's the history.

In the late 80s, the City of Newport News proposed to construct a new regional reservoir, citing alleged water needs. The lead federal permit agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, rejected the proposal and recommended permit denial.

The Corps' original conclusion was that there were unacceptable environmental and cultural impacts as well as less damaging alternatives available.

With former VA Governor Gilmore playing gubernatorial politics and the recent Bush Administration retreating on wetlands protection across the nation, the Corps then reversed itself and issued the permit.

CBF and its partners—the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Alliance to Save the Mattaponi, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Mattaponi Tribe—fought back at every possible opportunity.  Yesterday, the court vindicated that fight.

CBF and its partners argued that the US Army Corps' decision to reverse itself and issue the permit to construct the reservoir and flood hundreds of acres of wetlands was "arbitrary and capricious."  Citing requirements in the Clean Water Act, the U.S. District Court agreed.

The Court said that the Corps had failed to establish that the reservoir was the least damaging alternative. It also said that the Corps had failed to show that the reservoir project would not cause substantial degradation to water quality—also a Clean Water Act requirement. Finally, the Court concluded that EPA also had acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" way in failing to follow the governing requirements of the Clean Water Act for EPA review of a Corps' decision.

For years, CBF and its partners have argued that there are other alternatives available, from conservation to smaller reservoirs; that Newport News had never legitimately established the need for the amount of water the huge reservoir would provide; and that the plan to mitigate the wetland destruction failed to compensate for the degraded and destroyed acres and functions of the wetlands.

Science and the rule of law prevailed. Political shenanigans failed. While political leaders and political power players at the state and federal level, from governors to highly-paid lobbyists, worked the system to promote the project for over two decades, CBF and its partners, along with two committed Virginia legislators—Delegate Albert Pollard and Delegate Harvey Morgan—relentlessly argued the facts in opposition to this environmentally disastrous project. 

The bottom line:  When it comes to protecting the resources of the Chesapeake Bay, CBF will not give up.  Whether it is a twenty year battle or a hundred year battle, we will continue to fight to Save the Bay.

But we cannot do it without you. It was the commitment of thousands of people over two decades that made this victory in the battle over the King William reservoir possible.  Thank you so very much. 

We would welcome hearing your thoughts on the battle over the King William reservoir.  Tell us your perspective and let us know if you would like to get more involved in the fight for clean water.

Thank you, again. - Will