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Judge rejects plans for King William Reservoir

A federal judge has rejected plans for the King William Reservoir.

On March 31, U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr., sided with several environmental groups that opposed the reservoir. On the big points, Kennedy found several of the U.S. Army Corps’ and EPA’s decisions leading up to permitting the reservoir to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

The decision was another legal setback for the City of Newport News, which began its efforts to construct a reservoir in 1993 when it first applied for permits.

Newport News had planned to have the $289 million reservoir online by 2020, when it would start supplying water to its Peninsula customers. The City of Williamsburg recently signed a contract to be one of the customers, since the Waller Mill Reservoir’s capabilities are considered inadequate for future needs.

Judge Kennedy agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that the Corps had inadequate explanations for not addressing the opposition and concerns expressed repeatedly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Before determining that a project that would flood 403 acres of functioning wetlands is the least-damaging practicable alternative, the Corps must do more than give vague explanations about the potential adverse effects of or potential political opposition to other alternatives. It must explain fully, based an analysis adequate to the task, why other alternatives are either impracticable or more damaging,” Judge Kennedy wrote in his 33-page ruling.

The City of Newport News have 60 days to file an appeal of the judge’s ruling.

The Corps issued the federal construction  permit for the reservoir in November 2005. The lawsuit challenging the permit was filed in 2006 by  the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Alliance to Save the Mattaponi, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Mattaponi Tribe.

posted 04.13.2009

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