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
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
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
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'
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
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
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