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Town Banks On Re-Bored Wells

FARMVILLE – Well, well, well.

The Town of Farmville has no plans to seek Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permission to release water from Mottley Lake into the Appomattox River, according to Town Manager Gerald Spates.

The Town is not going to release water from Mottley Lake to supplement the drought-slammed Appomattox River-at least not now.

And, even if it were, the town manager doubts permission is required.

Spates revealed to The Herald on Friday that Farmville believes it can get all the water it needs, regardless of drought conditions, from revamped wells on Town property at the water treatment plant.

There are no plans, either, to discuss the Sandy River Reservoir with Prince Edward County, which renewed that invitation last week.

“We are installing the first well, re-boring a well that we already have out there that's producing 100 gallons a minute,” Spates said. “We have two wells we put in there in 2002. The information we have, this one well…can produce up to 500 gallons per minute, so we're getting that well bored out now. And we've got another well we're looking at and also we have a geo-technical person coming in, so we're going to have enough water in the wells in the event of low flow in the river to take care of our plant.”

Friday's comments by Spates were the first made publicly by the Town about its water supply plans.

Last Wednesday, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors met in a called special meeting and voted to give the Town permission to withdraw water from Mottley Lake to supplement the Appomattox River, which last Tuesday recorded the lowest ever July 31st flow in Farmville in 86 years.

In a letter to the Town granting that permission through the end of the year, the County again extended an invitation to develop the Sandy River Reservoir as “a drought-proof resource for the entire community.” The reservoir, however, is not in Farmville's plans.

The County cited the Code of Virginia to justify its position that the Town needed the County's Mottley Lake withdrawal permission, which was granted through December 31, said Board Chairman William G. “Buckie” Fore, as “proactive action so the Town of Farmville doesn't run out of water.”

The County's permission, Fore noted, allows the Town to seek permission from DEQ.

DEQ's director of the Office of Water Supply, Scott Kudlas, was at the Board of Supervisors meeting and told Supervisors, “your action today will ensure that process can go forward.”

But it won't go forward because the Town is not going to seek permission. Mottley Lake is not now needed, Spates said.

In fact, Spates clearly believes that neither Prince Edward County's nor DEQ's permission are necessarily required before the Town can release water from Mottley Lake, which was purchased by the Town specifically for a drought emergency supplement for the Appomattox River.

“And I'm not throwing away the idea of Mottley Lake. I think Mottley Lake-I don't agree with the law. That's just my opinion,” Spates said, regarding any required County and state permission and approval.

“You look at it from this standpoint: Okay, if the river got low and I had plenty of water and a farmer downstream asked me if I could release water. I mean that doesn't make sense. The water goes in there anyway. Why would I have to get somebody's permission to dump water in there that always went in there?”

Spates also believes there is a legal, historical use precedent.

“Plus, our plant was in operation prior to 1976 and Mottley Lake was built in 1968. I think Mottley Lake, itself, classifies as a water supply because they had 18 (residential) units on that property and it was furnishing water to those units, that were approved by the health department,” he said.

The town manager doesn't want to engage in mouth-to-mouth combat but he also disagrees with the approach taken by the Board of Supervisors.

“I'm not going to get into an argument with the County over whose got the right to do what,” he continued. “If the County feels that that's their prerogative, if I'd been in the County's position I would have said, 'Hey, you can use Mottley Lake any time you want to, just take care of it with DEQ.' I wouldn't have made them say, 'Okay, well I'm going to approve it this year. Let's wait until you have a problem.' I mean, what's the deal, is what I don't understand.”

So the Town has no plans to use Mottley Lake now and no plans to seek DEQ permission?

“No, I'm not going to pursue Mottley Lake right now,” Spates answered, before adding, “but we will in the future.”

And apparently without asking Prince Edward County or the state of Virginia for permission.

Prince Edward County bases its belief that permission is required on 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.”

Kudlas told the Board of Supervisors last week that permission must be obtained from the state to withdraw water because Mottley Lake, like every reservoir, lake or even farm pond or lake (depending on the volume of water withdrawal), is “waters of the state.”

Not water of the person, entity or locality that actually owns it.

Spates disagrees.

The Town, in any case, is going to heal its water supply by getting well.

Or getting wells.