James River Water Authority

ANDREW SHURTLEFF/THE DAILY PROGRESS

Earl Evans, of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, voices his opposition to the James River Water Authority’s efforts to construct a water intake and pump station at Rassawek, the historic capital of the Monacan Indian Nation, during the authority’s meeting Tuesday. Find more photos at DailyProgress.com.

{child_flags:top_story}Monacan tribe pushes back against

water project

{child_byline}By ALLISON WRABEL

awrabel@dailyprogress.com | (434) 978-7261 {/child_byline}

ZION CROSSROADS — Monacan Indian Nation members and their supporters spoke out Tuesday against a planned water project in Fluvanna County.

Point of Fork, also known as Rassawek, the historic capital of the Monacan Indian Nation, is the planned site for the water intake and pump station for the project.

The water intake and pump station are part of a larger project through the James River Water Authority to bring water from the James River to a water treatment facility in Louisa County, and ultimately would serve the Zion Crossroads area in Fluvanna and Louisa.

At the water authority’s meeting Tuesday, Monacan Nation members, as well as supporters from other tribes and the community, spoke out against the project.

Monacan Chief Kenneth Branham said no one at the meeting would like to see their ancestors’ remains dug up and removed.

“I’ve done that once before and I do not want to go through it again,” he said. “I don’t think any of you gentleman would like to see your grandparents and great-grandparents dug up and removed, so I’m asking you to do the same thing that you would do if you were in my place, you would fight it. That’s why we’re here.”

The project has been in the works for years, and has received push back from residents, and elected officials have expressed hesitations before.

The water authority is waiting on a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw water.

Marion Werkheiser, managing attorney of Cultural Heritage Partners, representing the Monacan Indian Nation, said the tribe has been engaged in conversations with the authority and other agencies since 2017.

“Now the tribe has decided to go public because we need public support to show these government agencies that it is not in the public’s interest to move forward with this project,” she said.

Werkheiser said the tribe has been hesitant to go public with the locations of their burials because there have been problems with looters in the past.

“We ask the public to respect the location as we’re trying to save it,” she said.

Chief Frank Adams of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe and Chief Robert Gray of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe both spoke against the project.

Gray said the cost has been cited as a reason for this location on the James.

“Allow me to point out that such cost might be miniscule to the cost incurred with continued opposition in the courts by high-price lawyers and on the ground by thousands of Native Americans and others who are angry and will do the utmost to see that the Preservation Act is regarded as Congress intended,” he said.

Jeffrey Hantman, a professor of anthropology at the University of Virginia, said he has spent 25 to 30 years working collaboratively with the Monacans.

“In my opinion, no amount of proposed mitigation can balance the destructive effects on this historic site and this sacred site,” he said.

George Bialkowski, a Fluvanna resident, said he has tried to educate members of every commission, including the water authority board, about the significance of this property.

“The right thing to do is move this pumping station back to Bremo Road or somewhere else that’s not as significant as this,” he said. “To say it’s the only place in Fluvanna County is ridiculous. The entire southern half of the county borders the James River. It’s not the only place.”

The board did not ask any questions of staff or consultants after the public hearing or an update on the permit application.

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