Scenic river resolution could return to BOS

A resolution of support for extending the designated scenic river segment of the Appomattox River may soon return to the Board of Supervisors.

Wayne Walton, chairman of Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR), said the organization has asked that the resolution, which was not adopted last year because the board had insufficient information, be added to a future supervisors’ agenda.

A segment of the Appomattox River bordering Chesterfield County was originally designated in 1977, said Lynn Crump, an environmental programs planner with the Department of Conservation and recreation. An extension was added in 1998. Now, the total length of the Appomattox designation is 6.2 miles, which runs from the base of the Lake Chesdin Dam to Route 36, she said.

“We’ve never had any complaints that I’ve been aware of, with problems of the designation” keeping property owners from doing what they want to do with their land, she said. “A lot of the fears have to do with government telling you what you can do with your property.”

The Scenic River Program is 40 years old, Crump said. According to information on DCR’s website, there were 24 river segments, totaling 529 miles, in the system as of May 2009.

“It’s a program that is recognition-based,” she said, “and communities have lots of different reasons why they want the scenic river designation.”

Localities have sought the designation to enhance economic development or the community’s quality of life, or gain an edge on certain grant applications, among other reasons, Crump said. The scenic river designation brings with it one restriction: A dam may not be built on a designated river without General Assembly approval.

According to DCR’s website, the designation does not allow public access to private land or give the state control over land use. “Instead, it gives riparian landowners and other local citizens a stronger voice in any government action or decisions that may impact ‘their’ river,” the site says.

The department can comment on plans for land with the designation, but “we won’t comment if it’s not brought to our attention,” she said, and there’s no requirement that plans be presented to DCR. “And any comments we do make are purely recommendations,” she said, and it’s up to the locality and landowner whether to follow them.

The original request to extend the river’s current designation to the confluence with the James River was made several years ago by the FOLAR, she said. The DCR finalized its study of the extension in 2009, she said.

Extending the river’s designation to the confluence with the James River would increase the river’s total designation to 19.2 miles, according to Crump. 

Prince George County and the Cities of Hopewell, Petersburg and Colonial Heights have passed resolutions of support, and letters of support have also been received from FOLAR, the Crater Planning District Commission, Scenic Virginia, the Scenic River Advisory Board and the National Park Service, Petersburg National Battlefield, according to Crump.

Walton said FOLAR’s mission is to conserve and protect the Appomattox River, and getting the additional scenic river designation fits in with that mission.

“I think it benefits everybody along the river,” he said, and the designation is not an impediment to landowners or businesses.

Last year, a resolution of support for the additional designation got to “Chesterfield County right at the last minute,” he said, and the board didn’t feel it had enough information to pass the resolution. Since then, there have been some concerns from a developer in the Bermuda district, he said, and the item hasn’t returned to the supervisors’ agenda. The parties involved are “trying to compromise on something right now to make it happen,” he said.

“I’m hoping and praying we can get these guys to maybe do this compromise,” he said. “It would, in essence, take the developer that’s concerned out of the picture.”

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