PE Sups OK Mottley Lake Withdrawal

Published 4:32 pm Thursday, February 14, 2013

FARMVILLE – The Town of Farmville can release water from Mottley Lake, as far as the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors is concerned.

Supervisors voted 5-2 on Tuesday night to approve the Town's request for a two-year extension of the permission granted last summer through the end of 2012.

Board Chairman William G. “Buckie” Fore, of the Buffalo District, and Vice Chairman Howard Simpson, of the Farmville District, voted against the permission-granting motion.

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During its February monthly meeting the following evening, Town Council tasked Town Manager Gerald Spates with writing Simpson for an explanation of his No vote.

Contacted by The Herald on Thursday morning and offered the chance to explain, Simpson said, “I'd rather get myself together and get my thoughts together before I go making any hasty statements on anything,” though he did wonder aloud why, if the Town had a question, someone hadn't simply called and asked him.

The letter to Simpson was suggested by Spates, who told Town Council “one thing kind of bothered me about what happened last night was that our representative, Mr. Simpson, voted against us getting the two-year extension on the water. And I think it would be good for this body to instruct me to write him a letter to find out what his reasons were behind voting against allowing us to withdraw water out of Mottley Lake. I just can't understand what the reasoning would be.”

The vote to write the letter was unanimous.

The County's permission is required by state law, which also stipulates the Department of Environmental Quality must grant its own subsequent approval because Mottley Lake, like all bodies of water in Virginia, is considered to be “waters of the state.”

State Code section 15.2-5122 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.”

The General Assembly effectively killed a bill brought forward at the Town's request by Delegate James Edmunds that would have granted an exemption for “an existing water system purchased by a town and located in the county in which the impoundment facility is totally or partially located, or for the orderly expansion of such water supply system.”

Mottley Lake, purchased by the Town as a drought relief water supply, is in Prince Edward County, several miles west of the Town's corporate limits. Some water runs from the lake into the Appomattox River year-round but a special siphon system would be used in times of severe drought to provide Farmville with enough water, Town officials believe, to effectively counteract the drought effect. The Town has also upgraded the well system at its water treatment plant as an additional insurance policy against the impact of a severe drought.

Prince Edward County's Board of Supervisors had taken proactive action in August, granting approval for the release of water from Mottley Lake, without the Town seeking it, at a time when the Appomattox River had seen its lowest July 31 level in 86 years. In 86 years, the river had never seen such a low flow on any of those other July 31sts.

The Town sought the two-year extension, granted this week by the Supervisors' vote, to avoid having to go back to the County for permission each year.

The permission was sought as a fallback position were Del. Edmunds' legislation fail to the pass the House. The legislation, in fact, died in sub-committee, never reaching the House floor for a vote.

The August 2012 letter from the Board Chairman Fore to Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr. and Town Council members cited the State Code permission requirement and granted the Board of Supervisors' permission to use the water of Mottley Lake “as a temporary emergency water supply for the Town of Farmville from August 1, 2012 until December 31, 2012.

“Such action is being taken to ensure an adequate water supply exists to allow the Town to meet water supply demands at a time of extremely low flow in the Appomattox River,” the letter explained. “The Board of Supervisors is acting now to allow adequate time for the Town to obtain all necessary permits prior to the opening of the Prince Edward Public Schools, Fuqua School, and Longwood University which will increase the water demands on the Appomattox River.”