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Officials ponder strategies / April 22, 2010
The 50,000-acre stored water supply of Buggs Island (Kerr) Lake is moving to the forefront of a debate over how Virginia and North Carolina should allocate water resources. On Monday evening John Feild, chairman of the Roanoke River Basin Bi-State Commission, alerted Halifax County supervisors and town councils of South Boston and Halifax of ownership issues looming over the water.

“Water,” Feild said, “is the fuel for the economic engine for Southside Virginia. When business or industry wants to locate, they want a commitment of a sufficient water supply.”

Feild said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has charged the Bi-State Commission with conducting a study of how the water supply should be dealt with in order to prevent “water wars” between North Carolina and Virginia.

Already, Feild noted that the North Carolina communities of Raleigh, Durham and Cary have indicated a willingness to purchase 95 percent of the stored water in the reservoir — a request valued at some $11,567,177.15.

Feild said the Bi-State Commission has 30 days to gather comment from Southside officials before its May meeting in Clarksville. In June, the commission will meet with North Carolina representatives before taking a vote in August on a recommendation to the Corps.

Feild listed five options for dealing with the stored water, the first of which is simply to allow the Corps to continue to make the allocation decisions. He said that could result in the transfer of water out of state.

Option 2 would keep the current system in place, but enable the states to consult back and forth and give input to the Corps. Field explained that option would not guarantee the availability of water for Southside communities.

Option 3 calls for each state (Virginia and North Carolina) to purchase one-half of the available water and to assume responsibility for allocating it. Feild said that option puts allocation and management decisions in the realm of the states’ authority. He explained, however, that option comes with a high price tag — more than $5 million for each state.

Option 4 calls for the creation of an interstate compact to outline a process for managing the river basin’s water resources, with a commission created to handle planning and oversight responsibilities.

Option 5 simply allows for the purchase of the stored water allocation by a third party.

ED1 Supervisor J. T. Davis was quick to respond to Feild’s message. “We cannot take this thing lightly,” Davis said, “water’s going to get like gold. For us to transfer water to Raleigh is just crazy. The status quo is not going to work and we must look at the best interest for Halifax County’s future.”

Halifax Councilman Jack Dunavant said Halifax County is very lucky to have four rivers but “we have to guard this well.” Dunavant said he felt the county and towns should study the matter and get back to Feild with some recommendations before the 30 days for study elapses.

In other business, Board members named ED4 Supervisor Doug Bowman to work with Halifax Councilmen Jack Dunavant and Bill Confroy, Dixie Youth officials, Raymond Duffer and Randy Moore and Recreation Director Brad Ballou to see if a solution can be found to the settle the controversy of Dixie Youth’s use of the Halifax ballfield. Supervisors Chairman William I. Fitzgerald said starting the dialogue might lead to a window of opportunity for improvement, but in the meantime the Town of Halifax should not tell Dixie they have to go elsewhere to play their games.

Supervisors also agreed to support the Town of Halifax in its request for the donation of the Kings Bridge Road right-of-way from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy explained that the Town wants the land to use for its Gateway Project which will include parking and access to a wayside non-motorized boat landing near the new bridge which is under construction.

South Boston Town Clerk Jane Jones advised Supervisors and Council members that the Virginia Municipal League wants to hold a free workshop sometimes during the summer months to address conflict management and community engagement.

Following the joint session of the Supervisors and Town Council members, Supervisors approved the GA/Forestall District Ordinances, which now begin on April 20, and continue for the next eight years through Dec. 31. The 69 districts are comprised of over 53,000 acres of land. Due to the eligibility of those lands contained in the districts to automatically qualify for an agricultural or forestall use-value assessment, the County will see a loss of some $103,000 annually in real estate tax revenues.

Supervisors also gave their final approval to the FY 2010-11 school budget of $57,693,025, which represents an 8.4 percent decrease from the current year’s $63,007,330 school budget. By approving the budget, Supervisors said school officials are now in a position to send out teacher contracts for the coming school year.

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