No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No (But Yes To Our Own Pipeline Before It's Too Late)

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Ni hea.


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In whatever language you wish, Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors, say No.

Now and forever, No.

Do not allow the Appomattox River Water Authority to perform a test release of 30 to 50 millions of gallons of water, or even one gallon, to Lake Chesdin from the Sandy River Reservoir to determine if our reservoir could be used to fill sinks, tubs, and glasses in Petersburg, Hopewell, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George.

The only Prince that should be served by this drought-proof water supply is named Edward.

Nobody should be surprised that a downstream community is interested in the Sandy River Reservoir. Many voices, including ours, have warned of that eventuality if this community did not stake its claim to the reservoir constructed specifically to be our drought-proof water supply.

Nobody was crying wolf. The day has come. And it will not be the only day. This is just the first knock on our door.

I do not blame the Appomattox River Water Authority. On the contrary, I deeply respect its obvious commitment to provide the people of its community with a drought-proof water supply. The Authority is acting in the very best interests of its community's future.

My concern, however, is for this community's future and once we let anyone stick their big toe in the Sandy River Reservoir, ankles, legs, and backsides will follow.

We must not allow that to happen. Or, we must do our best to prevent, or at least delay, it from happening.

If push ever came to shove, a downstream urban-suburban community would wield considerably more political power than Prince Edward County. Look at the General Assembly strength of the communities served by the Appomattox River Water Authority as an example. It is considerable.

I don't mean to suggest the Authority would attempt to use legal or legislative means to acquire water from the Sandy River Reservoir if Prince Edward County says No. But were a downstream community intent on using our water, the political leverage they could bring to bear on state government would exceed ours.

We'd be pushed and we'd be shoved. If legislation were needed, that legislation would pass.

That's not crying wolf, either. It is political fact. As this editorial was being written I received an email from Del. Kirk Cox, of Colonial Heights, he and Senator Steve Martin, of Chesterfield, praising and justifying $5 million in state funding to increase the capacity of Lake Chesdin by 20 percent, or an additional 1.9 billion gallons.

“The viability and health of Lake Chesdin is crucial to numerous counties and to the health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of Virginia citizens,” Sen. Martin said. “Something must be done to address the water level and reserves.”

Think how much water Lake Chesdin will be able to hold from the Sandy River Reservoir once this project is complete, and the same political clout will be available for any additional legislative needs the Authority might need.

When was the last time the General Assembly expressed so much concern and spent so much money on the health and welfare of our citizens? Our own House of Delegates member, James Edmunds, a Republican, has repeatedly said most political wars are waged in the General Assembly between rural and urban legislators, not between political parties. The urban politicians will stick together on water and we will lose.

A downstream community will, at this point, have a compelling argument in its favor-the Prince Edward County community, despite recurring droughts, is not using the Sandy River Reservoir and there are no active plans to do so. Why, then, a downstream community would ask, should they be prevented from using a vital water resource now sitting idle, used only by ducks, geese, and fish?

Prince Edward County must say No to the Appomattox River Water Authority to maintain, for as long as it can, relative control (as much as the Department of Environmental Quality will allow) over the reservoir. Granting permission for a test release would, it could easily be argued, amount to an admission that the reservoir's water is for sale. If you're not selling your car, you don't let somebody take it for a test drive or they may conclude you don't need transportation.

The very same point was made in the General Assembly debate over uranium mining. The state's ban was maintained this year but advocates of uranium mining knew exactly what they were doing in asking the governor to appoint a commission to develop state mining regulations, despite the ban. Those opposed to uranium mining battled that proposal just as hard as they did lifting the actual ban, knowing that nobody develops regulations for something that's going to remain illegal.

We must not let the Authority test what we should never let them do. We cannot allow the nose of that camel into our tent, a Bactrian camel with two humps, able to carry off so much water.

If the Prince Edward County community ever wanted to fully stake its claim to the Sandy River Reservoir, the best time to do so has passed. Were a Prince Edward County pipeline in place already, the water in use, saying No to the Appomattox River Water Authority would stand up to scrutiny far more strongly. But there is still time to stake as large a claim as we can.

The Appomattox River Water Authority knows the Sandy River Reservoir is a drought-proof guarantee and, to its great credit, is willing to act on that belief, to take the reservoir out for a test drive and see if its water should be parked in its garage-the Chesdin Reservoir-when needed in times of dire drought to supplement the Appomattox River.

What are we willing to act upon?

The Authority is interested in studying two test releases of between 30 and 50 million gallons of water per day to determine the impact on Lake Chesdin.

How long could the Sandy River Reservoir impact the Prince Edward County community?

The Town of Farmville generally requires less than one million gallons of drinking water per day and the Sandy River Reservoir contains approximately 3.2 billion gallons of water.

Forever, that's how long, the reservoir could positively impact this community, even when more and more of Prince Edward County will need to depend on the Sandy River Reservoir for water in the coming decades.

But forever needs to begin soon, or forever may be how long the Prince Edward County community regrets letting the Sandy River Reservoir slip through its hands.

Arguments will continue being made against Prince Edward County using the Sandy River Reservoir, of course, just as arguments were made against the notion of our having to fear losing reservoir water to a downstream community.

Amid the opinions and arguments, one thing is certain-history will judge whether using the water or losing it was in this community's best interest.