Thursday, February 2, 2023

Partnership proposes Toano pond as water source for JCC

Cranston Mill Pond. (Courtesy Cranston Mill Pond, LLC.)
Cranston Mill Pond. (Courtesy Cranston Mill Pond, LLC.)

As James City County searches for a sustainable water supply, two organizations hope their partnership will be able to contribute to the solution.

Brent Fultz of Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Land Trust, LLC., and Jeff Corbin of Restorations Systems, LLC., have partnered on a project called Cranstons Mill Pond, LLC. 

The team jointly owns Cranston Mill Pond and believe that the project will help to ease the strain on the county’s supply of potable water.

“If not here, then where?” Corbin said.  “We’re going to need an alternative source…we are located right in the middle of James City County. If we can’t make that work, shame on us.”

The pond is located at 6616 Cranston Mill Pond Road in Toano and is able to provide 8 million gallons of fresh water per day on average, according to Corbin. James City County currently draws 5.4 million gallons per day from underground aquifers, but the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has indicated it may issue a permit that curtails the amount by more than half. As a result, the county is considering other sources of water for drinking and industrial purposes.

The team is currently applying for a joint permit that would allow them to begin drawing water from Cranstons Mill Pond. The permit must be approved by both VDEQ and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

Fultz said he purchased the pond in 2009, and constructed a new concrete dam to replace an earthen dam that had been breached during Hurricane Ernesto in 2006. When he purchased the land the pond was only one square acre, but has swelled to roughly 55 square acres since building the new dam.

The pond has existed since the 1800s and currently operates as a Nutrient Offset Facility, which means that it captures environmentally-damaging phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment from its watershed and prevents them from reaching the Chesapeake Bay.

Cranston Mill Pond's spillway allows an average of 8 million gallons of water to pass into Yarmout Creek and the Chickahominy River. (Courtesy Cranston Mill Pond, LLC.)
Cranston Mill Pond’s spillway allows an average of 8 million gallons of water to pass into Yarmouth Creek and the Chickahominy River. (Courtesy Cranston Mill Pond, LLC.)

According to Corbin, Cranston Mill Pond is replenished by clean fresh water from the watershed, as well as underground aquifers that are separate from and smaller than the Potomac Groundwater Aquifer that the county draws from.

They hope to use four 16-inch steel pipes to capture water that exits over the spillway to provide potable water for the county.

“For me, once we lose that water, it’s lost forever. It’s an easy principle to understand,” said Fultz.

Fultz and Cranston hosted a public hearing Monday night at the James City County Library, but not everyone in attendance agreed that Cranston Mill Pond would be a net gain for the community.

Toano resident Bob Cruichshanks said that his biggest concern is that removing water that had been flowing out of the pond may have negative consequences for the Yarmouth Creek, Chickahominy River and James River ecosystems.

“I believe that the lack of discharge will change the whole ecosystem downstream,” said Cruichshanks. “The salinity will be changed and that will impact flora and fauna.”

Fultz maintained that the proposal wouldn’t harm the ecosystem. He added that Cranston Mill Pond, LLC was not required to host the public hearing but did so in the interest of informing the community.

“When you’re helping the environment, people should be skeptical,” said Fultz.  “You always have to let people express their concerns.”

During the meeting, Corbin said that drawing eight million gallons a day would have “little to no” impact on the watershed, as the tidal forces at play downstream flush hundreds of millions of gallons of fresh water into the Chickahominy and Yarmouth systems each cycle.

“It’s a freshwater tidal system. There’s a lot more water coming in than we’re going to take,” said Corbin. “It’s just not that much water. If it’s going to have an impact, we won’t be allowed to do it.”

Corbin says he hopes to have the application accepted within six months.

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