Friday, August 12, 2011

Water water everywhere?

As Goochland gropes for a strategy to both define and plan for appropriate growth in the county, one vital component for growth—water—receives little attention.

Two items on the Board of Supervisors’ August 2 agenda touched on water issues.

The first matter was the application filed by Powhatan County for removal of up to 10 million gallons per day of water from the James River.
A large delegation from Powhatan County government attended the meeting to present additional information about the water intake facility it plans to build.

Powhatan County Administrator Carolyn Bishop told our board that Goochland property owners opposite the site received letters notifying them that a permit application has been filed with various regulatory agencies including the Army Corps (some say corpse) of Engineers.

Some of those letters, dated August 1, received them well after the board meeting. The letters also informed property owners in Goochland opposite the site in question that a public notice about the filing of the application for the permit appeared in the July 24, 2011 Richmond Times-Dispatch. It gives no indication about the location.

The facility, located on the south bank of the James below Solomon’s Creek will consist of an intake mechanism including a concrete bunker 140 feet long and about 15 feet high extending about 20 feet into the river. It will ultimately remove 10 million gallons per day to support economic development in the area.

Should the river be running low, the Powhatan folks explained, an amount equal to that removed will be replaced by the Cobbs Creek reservoir in Cumberland.

As Goochland, by virtue of its association with Henrico in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, is part of the regional water plan that includes this reservoir, we should not worry about water, they said.

Questions posed by citizens included concerns about low flow and visual impact on the pristine condition of the riverbank.

No member of the Powhatan delegation, which included engineers and consultants as well as members of the Powhatan Board of Supervisors, seemed to know that gallonage of average daily flow down the James in the area of the proposed facility.

They insisted that the Cobbs Creek Reservoir, which will capture water during times of high flow or even flood, will contain ample water to compensate for low flow during dry times. The fact that Powhatan plans to begin taking water from the river before the reservoir is completed was glossed over.

What happens if the reservoir goes dry? Given the strange weather patterns that are becoming the norm, that scenario should be addressed somewhere, somehow.

While the engineers seemed somewhat receptive to discussing alternate designs to mitigate the blight on the view shed, their attitude was that it will be hard to see from land on the Goochland side because it is higher and it’s out in the back of beyond, so who cares?

No one addressed the amount of noise that the pumping station, to be located a few hundred feet from the river will make.

The bottom line seems to be that Powhatan is going to do what it wants to here.

A small delegation from Goochland met with Powhatan officials a few weeks ago to discuss the matter.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall during that session. The Powhatan folks probably told the Goochlanders that they have some nerve begrudging Powhatan water when they have locked in rights to take huge amounts of water from the James both at the Department of Corrections facility just east of Courthouse Village and in partnership with Henrico through the Tuckahoe Creek Service District.

Unlike Goochland, Powhatan seems to have a strategic plan for economic development in place. That fact should have been instructive for our supervisors, but they just seemed confused and board by the whole discussion.

Later in the afternoon, after the attention span of the board had been exhausted by Powhatan and the Verizon kerfuffle, the preliminary version of the Goochland County Water Supply Plan, the result of yet another state mandate, was presented.

In 2003, the state decided that all jurisdictions needed to investigate available water resources. Reports are due to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality by November 2011. The board voted to allocate funds for this study in 2006. Guess the former county engineer was so busy stuffing checks in drawers that this report went on the back burner.

It is part of a regional water supply plan, which makes sense given the cross pollination among jurisdictions about water supply, especially water taken from the James River.

According to the report, Goochland will have enough water mostly from the James River, to meet expected demand for the next fifty years. There seems to be little information about ground water in the summary report.
The report indicates that development in Oilville can be supplied by groundwater, which could be augmented by its inclusion in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District.

When the county was pretending to seriously seek water supplies for Oilville, connection to the TCSD was rejected as an option because its governing ordinance reportedly requires any property added to the TCSD must be contiguous to the existing district. This clearly excludes Oilville.

Little attention seems to have been paid to identifying and quantifying ground water supplies throughout the county. Each time land comes up for rezoning from agricultural to residential developers trot out environmental engineers to explain that there is lots of water under the property in question. Planning commissioners and supervisors have no way to know if those reports are meaningful. This report was supposed to provide an impartial resource for county officials to use in making land use decisions.

The entire report will be available before the public hearing scheduled for the October 4 supervisors’ meeting. Hopefully, it will either be posted on the county website in its entirety or by a link to read the whole document.

This is an important subject.

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