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Wilck Raises State Water Issue

FARMVILLE – Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors member Jim Wilck invited Town Council to the Board's October 23 Legislative lunch and offered food for thought that wasn't hard to swallow.

“This might be a good time,” Wilck told council members during their October monthly meeting last week, “to suggest to legislators that they make it a lot easier to get water (releases) approved.”

Particularly during times of drought.

Town officials readily concurred and will pursue the issue with legislators.

“I'm speaking of places like Mottley Lake, Wilck's Lake, places up the Buffalo and what-not,” Wilck said of local impoundments and waterways.

State law-which regards all such water as “waters of the state”-requires the Town of Farmville to obtain approval from Prince Edward County to release water from the Town-owned Mottley Lake as a necessary first step to then seek state permission to send that water on its way into the Appomattox River toward Farmville's water treatment plant.

Towns and counties, Wilck said during the public comments portion of Town Council's meeting, should not be forced to “jump through quite as many hoops.”

Support for such an effort in the General Assembly, reasoned Wilck, should be widespread because “this is a problem all over the state.”

Among the legislators expected to attend are Delegate James Edmunds, who represents Prince Edward County and Farmville, and Virginia State Senator Tommy Garrett, who also has the town and county within his district. Congressman Robert Hurt has also been invited.

Wilck told Town Council that he would like to see the state approve such applications for water withdrawal more quickly and “not be quite so onerous and perhaps approve it for a longer period of time.”

Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates totally agrees.

“It's kind of odd. I mean the water (from Mottley Lake) is already going into the river (over the spillway) so why do I have to have permission to continue, or put a little bit more in there when the river gets low,” Spates told The Herald. “It's not like you're flooding the river. You're adding water to it when it gets dry and when you've got an impoundment that's not even dropped, the water level never dropped. It was always going over the overflow during the worst part of the drought.

“Why not take advantage of that? It seems kind of odd that the County's got to give us permission (and then the state). What if they said 'No'?” he wondered.

“I asked an attorney what would happen and he said you'd have to go to court. It opened up a lot of people's eyes,” he said of the state controlling every lake in Virginia. “…I had no idea. So what if Chesterfield went and wanted to get some more water from Sandy River (Reservoir)?”

Supervisor Wilck's suggestion, and the Town's eager embrace, comes just two months after the Board of Supervisors held a special meeting, attended by the Department of Environmental Quality's director of the Office of Water Supply, Scott Kudlas, and voted to give the Town permission to release water from Mottley Lake.

Just days earlier the Appomattox River experienced its lowest July 31 flow level in 86 years and DEQ had issued a Drought Watch for the Appomattox River basin and its communities, including the town and county. The Drought Watch would subsequently be raised to the Drought Warning level, which is still in effect.

Late August and early September rains mitigated the situation but at the time the Town was eyeing Mottley Lake's waters, though now Farmville has greatly increased the capacity of its emergency wells at the water treatment plant-the use of which does not require waiting for anyone's permission.

In August, the Board of Supervisors had wanted to clear the way for the Town by granting approval, even though Farmville had not asked for Prince Edward's nod over Mottley Lake.

The course of that meeting demonstrated some of the hoops localities must leap over and which Wilck suggests should be made less onerous.

DEQ's Kudlas spoke at the Supervisors' meeting, verifying the process and affirming Prince Edward County's action as necessary to Farmville's plan to supplement the flow of the Appomattox River.

The Town of Farmville owns Mottley Lake, located a few miles west of town upstream from its water treatment plant, and purchased it specifically for such use during a drought.

One option, Kudlas said then, was an emergency permit for a drought emergency. Certain conditions have to be met up front and when those conditions are met DEQ has seven days to turn around the permit.

“Your action today will ensure that process can go forward,” Kudlas said in August. “But once that happens, however, the applicant must, within 14 days, apply for a new…permit to deal with that additional storage over the long-term so the situation can be avoided, as best they can, in the future.”

Under that scenario, DEQ would have to evaluate Mottley Lake and “how far it could be drawn down…

“Under the emergency scenario we would still look at that but most of it would be cursory and we will hold until a later date that additional evaluation,” Kudlas said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman William G. “Buckie” Fore confirmed with Kudlasduring the meeting that the Board of Supervisors' letter giving Farmville the County's permission to withdraw water from Mottley Lake is part of that DEQ application for a permit.

“Yes, sir, this would be a part of the application file,” Kudlas replied.

DEQ's permit would “be good for a year, or until the (drought) condition goes away,” Kudlas said, “or a new permit” is issued.

And Prince Edward County's formal approval for long-term withdrawal permission would be needed again, according to Kudlas.

“That's correct,” he said. “Based on the wording in the action you've taken today, I would say, yes, we would, once we got that formal application (from the Town) we would then ask that you consent again (for) long-term…”

DEQ's study would include an evaluation of how much water is actually available in Mottley Lake, and then how much of that water could be drawn down.

Supervisor Don Gantt said he was “surprised” the Town of Farmville would have to get a permit to withdraw water from an impoundment it owns, and Supervisor

Mottley Lake and Wilcks Lake, like the Sandy River Reservoir, require a DEQ permit, for withdrawal.

“It's waters of the state, so that's why they would need a permit,” Kudlas told Gantt, who seemed incredulous.

“It's waters of the state?” the supervisor asked.

“Correct,” Kudlas answered.

“That's why they need a permit from the state,” Gantt persisted in asking.

“To use water,” Kudlas affirmed.

“…It's been that way for some time…Since 1989,” he added, about the required permission to withdraw water, regardless of ownership. “Not everybody knows the rules.”

As Supervisor Howard Simpson pointed out, Prince Edward County is in the same position with the Sandy River Reservoir-the County needed to apply for, and received, a permit.

“The County owns Sandy River Reservoir but we can't withdraw water unless we get a permit,” Simpson noted.

"Right, you needed a permit,” Kudlas confirmed. “You have one.”

The section of the State Code cited for Farmville's need of Prince Edward County's permission is Section 15.2-5122 of the Code of Virginia which states, “No locality or authority shall construct, provide or operate outside its boundaries any water supply impoundment system without first obtaining the consent of the governing body of the locality in which such system is located.”

And that is a section of State Code that Wilck and Town Council wish to see changed.