Threatened Sensitive Joint Vetch as found in area of proposed KWR Intake on Mattaponi River, further endangered by King William Reservoir Project
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Page 4A  News                  The Virginia Gazette                         February 14, 2009           

Council balks at

reservoir support

City wants water, but hedges

on specific source


By Steve Vaughan

WILLIAMSBURG City Council delayed approval of a long-term water deal with Newport News

Thursday not because the terms of the pact are unfavorable, but because at least three members dislike a clause that puts council on record as supporting the controversial King William Reservoir.


Vice Mayor Clyde Haulman and council members Judy Knudson and Paul Freiling all want Article 12.1 of the agreement either deleted or changed. It states “The governing body of Williamsburg will continue

to support state and federal permit renewals and support final design efforts and local permits pertaining to the Project.”


A separate clause defines “the project” as the King William Reservoir.


The clause somewhat negates city officials’ arguments that the deal with Newport News doesn’t rely on completion of the reservoir, currently entangled in both state and federal lawsuits.


“The reservoir is the project at the moment. There isn’t a Plan B,” city manager Jack Tuttle said Thursday.


That’s a problem for some of the council members.


“I’m against the King William Reservoir,” Haulman said. “I’ve voted against it before.”


He said whether he votes against it again will depend on what changes can be negotiated in the language.


“We’ll have to see,” he said.


He said Friday he expected that Newport News would agree to the changes some council members want

before the issue comes up again at next month’s meeting.


Knudson said she’s also against the reservoir.


Freiling proposed the delay to try to work out different language.


He asked city attorney Joe Phillips why the agreement couldn’t say that the city supported attempts to

find alternative sources of water without specifically referencing the reservoir.


Phillips said that Newport News insisted on the language.


“I offered alternatives. They were not amenable to that,” he said.


Council heard from public works director Dan Clayton that the city needs the 2 million gallons per day

that it would get from Newport News, at the cost of $25 million over the next 15 years, because the yield of the city’s Waller Mill Reservoir is insufficient during times of drought.


The city currently buys extra water from Newport News when it’s needed.


But Tuttle said that situation can’t continue.


“It would be nice if we could continue to buy the water when we needed it and not be responsible for any of the expense incurred, but not realistic,” he said.


M ayor Jeanne Zeidler wasn’t bothered by the language supporting thereservoir.


“I just read that as we won’t oppose it,” she said.


Councilman Bobby Braxton said he supported the King William Reservoir.


He was definitely in the minority in the council chamber Thursday.


At a public hearing on the city’s possible issuance of bonds to pay the bulk of the initial $12.5 million payment to Newport News, opponents of the plan predominated.


They characterized the reservoir as not needed.


They said the city would be better served by water conservation measures and limits on growth.

Louis Catron said proposing the plan while the economy is “a train wreck” was “questionable.”


Others warned that if future water demand doesn’t meet expectations, city taxpayers will be saddled with

even higher water bills than now anticipated.


Water rates have increased by double digits each of the last two years, and Tuttle said increases of between 5% and 8% annually for the next five years will get the city “where we

need to be,” to pay for more expensive water.


The bonds under discussion would pay $10 million of the initial cost. The $2.5 million balance would be

paid from a surplus in the city’s utility fund.


In 2024, the city would be expected to pay another $12.5 million, or its draw from the reservoir would be

reduced to 1 million gallons per day.

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