The James River Water Authority this week will start the process of evaluating an alternative site for a water intake station that had been planned for Point of Fork, the location of Rassawek, the historic capitol of the Monacan Nation.
An archaeological resources survey will soon begin at the site in Fluvanna County.
The James River Water Authority will be sending letters over the next week to property owners near the James River to seek permission to dig on their land as part of the survey.
Last fall, authority board members voted to allow a consultant to move forward with the archaeological survey of a potential alternative site for the controversial project.
At the authority’s meeting on Wednesday, its attorney told members that the work plan by consultants Gray & Pape will be developed soon, and if additional funds are needed above the budgeted $155,000 the board will need to approve more.
“We have committed to the Monacan Indian Nation that we would sit down and discuss [the work plan] with them — they asked for input and we agreed and that was part of the letter that I shared with you at the last meeting,” said Justin Curtis, an attorney for JRWA.
In January, the tribe made formal commitments to the authority if it ultimately decides to move the water project away from the Point of Fork area. Part of the agreement includes the Monacans reviewing the testing plans.
Curtis said the work plan development will take about two weeks, and then another 30 day for review by the tribe and they also plan to have it reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
He said the authority is starting to ask for land owner’s permission for the survey.
“The initial tests that we need the permission for, primarily, are shovel tests, so that’s … three, four folks out in the field with shovels digging a small pit, recording what they find if anything, and then covering it back up, and they do those I believe every 50 feet or so,” Curtis said.
More extensive work will need to be done closer to the river.
“We’ve been in contact with communications with the owner of the property down near the James River,” Curtis said. “They’ve been very receptive and easy to work with and good to talk to, so we’re gonna need to make sure that we inform the owner exactly where those pits are going to be and make sure we’ve got their permission to be out there and to do those surveys.”
The fieldwork itself is estimated to take about 30 days.
One board member asked when they needed to work with the state on an anticipatory burial permit, which Curtis said wasn’t necessary at this time.
“The Forsyth alternative site, we selected it because it’s where the folks who were in consultation and talking to us said it’s much less likely that we’re going to encounter any burials,” he said.
At least for the initial phase of work, Curtis said, they’re not planning on filing a permit.
“If anything is found that suggests that during construction that there’s a possibility — again the goal is that hopefully that doesn’t happen, and we have a site that does not have any expectation of finding burials — at that stage, we would determine in consultation with DHR and some of the other consulting parties whether or not we need to apply for an anticipatory burial permit for the actual construction,” he said.