- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) — A state agency has breathed new life into a proposed $235 million reservoir in King William County, allowing the city of Newport News more time to conduct state-required studies.

The State Water Control Board’s 5-2 vote on Dec. 14 reversed a Sept. 6 vote that put the project 35 miles northeast of Richmond in jeopardy.

Newport News sells water to homes and businesses throughout the Peninsula and New Kent County.

It wants to turn a wooded valley in King William County into a 12.2 billion-gallon reservoir, which the city says it needs to ensure that the region has enough water in the 21st century.

But environmentalists and others contend that the reservoir isn’t needed and that too many wetlands would be destroyed.

Wetlands are ecologically important, biologists said, because swamps, bogs and marshes soak up floodwaters, filter out pollutants, and provide food and shelter to shellfish and waterfowl.

The Mattaponi Indians also have a stake in the issue, arguing that their native fishing grounds would be destroyed.

The extension would give Newport News time to finish studies to show how it would replace wetlands that would destroyed if the reservoir is built.

While Newport News has a federal permit to build the reservoir, it also needs a state permit.

“We hope over time we will demonstrate to these people who have doubts that their concerns were unfounded, and we will do the project properly,” Newport News Mayor Joe Frank said after the Water Control Board meeting on Dec. 14.

Board Chairman Shelton Miles stressed that the vote was not an endorsement of the project. Instead, he said, it simply extends a permit the city already has to develop the reservoir.

The city now has until the end of 2010 to complete all studies and plans. The Department of Environmental Quality then will have two years to review the plans.

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