Newport News Waterworks, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) have collaborated to protect 550 acres of city-owned open space and wetlands in York County. This land is owned by Newport News Waterworks and, prior to this partnership, had only been protected by City Council Resolutions, the department’s Reservoir Protection Ordinance and federal regulations for wetlands. This property now has an historic preservation easement, which ensures that source water entering drinking water reservoirs is protected for future generations while also preserving numerous historic and environmentally significant sites.
The easement protects 550 acres fronting Beaverdam Creek, McCaulay Run and Harwood’s Mill Reservoir, which together help supply the drinking water provided to over 400,000 customers in Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson, York County and part of James City County. In addition to archaeological features associated with the site, the acreage has multiple prehistoric and historic locations. It also contains abundant natural resources and wildlife habitats and lies within the study and core areas of the Yorktown Battlefield.
The project began in 2017, when Newport News Waterworks reached out to DCR about expanding the Source Water Protection Program (SWPP). The SWPP program uses a variety of studies, policies, infrastructure controls, treatment methods, forest management and regulations to ensure the department’s source water supply can safely be converted to potable water at the treatment facilities. Waterworks and DCR were awarded a $3.3 million grant from Dominion Energy’s Surry-Skiffes Creek–Whealton Transmission Line mitigation fund in support of their plans.
“Thanks to the persistence and collaboration of a talented team, the Virginia Peninsula will benefit from enhanced resource conservation and drinking water protection for generations,” said Yann Le Gouellec, Director of Newport News Waterworks. “In addition to the newly-protected 550 acres, Newport News Waterworks also received $2.7 million through this grant, which will allow us to purchase additional land for protection.”
This grant was administered by the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), which paid for a preservation easement that adds DHR as a partner in managing the land and prohibits significant changes in the property’s character and resources. The easement for the 550 acres is now held by DHR’s Board of Historic Resources, which holds preservation easements on more than 700 historically significant properties across the Commonwealth.
“Conservation of this acreage will protect irreplaceable historic resources representing hundreds, if not thousands, of years of Virginia history,” stated DHR director Julie V. Langan. “The easement also shows what local and state officials can achieve as partners working together to fulfill the vital needs of Virginians now and in the future.”
Newport News Waterworks and DCR thoroughly reviewed land parcels and considered water-quality buffers, forest management tracts, wetland inventories, natural and historic resource assets before selecting the property.
“Wetlands and conserved open space provide invaluable benefits, from fish and wildlife habitat to flood control and water quality improvement,” said DCR Director Clyde Cristman. “The protection of these 550 acres on the Virginia Peninsula supports Governor Northam’s ConserveVirginia land conservation strategy, with the protection of lands identified for natural habitat and ecosystem diversity, and protected landscape resilience. DCR is proud to be a partner in this successful project.”
Newport News Waterworks owns and manages approximately 8,000 acres of watershed property on Virginia’s Lower Peninsula. For more information, visit www.nnva.gov/waterworks.