Kaine hears plan for dredging Appomattox River
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Jul 8, 2014, 14:19
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT U.S. Senator Tim Kaine met with Petersburg mayor Brian Moore, city manager William Johnson III and director of economic development Vandy Jones to discuss the economic redevelopment of Petersburg.
PETERSBURG — U.S. Senator Tim Kaine met with Petersburg officials on Thursday morning to discuss an ongoing, multi-million dollar dredging and economic redevelopment project along the Appomattox River and to get a firsthand view of the area’s geography.
“It’s a regional concept, and we’ve seen the value of it in what we’ve done up in Richmond. So many cities, Richmond, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, D.C., kind of turned their backs on the river, and now realized redevelopment along the river is a great economic development strategy, and Richmond is really successful,” Kaine said, stressing the benefits and models for success that have been seen along river communities.
Petersburg has been working for decades to revitalize the downtown area, purchasing 20 acres on Pocahontas Island and taking steps to make developments possible on the river, which is a big factor in harnessing this economic revitalization, said Petersburg City Manager William Johnson.
Kaine said that much work has already been done to remove contaminated soil from the Appomattox River area, including original dredging back in the 1990s, and now it’s a matter of finding the funding to dredge the remaining mile of river just east of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge, a project with a price tag estimated at $15 million.
“What we now need to do is to get the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] to prioritize the dredging of the last 5,000 feet. It was dredged to within a mile of here from the confluence at City Point up the Appomattox River,” Kaine said. “We’ve just got to figure out a way to dredge that last stretch.”
If the dredging were completed, Johnson said he hopes to attract a plethora of developments to the harbor area including retail stores, movie theaters, hotels, restaurants, housing, and the availability to build a marina.
Kaine supported the idea of a marina in Petersburg, stating that there would be many benefits not only just for Petersburg, but the state as a whole.
“Folks that are pleasure boating could come up the Appomattox and dock here and spend money in this community, that could be a helpful thing. If you go to the Kingsmill marina, just look at where the boats are from. They’re not just from five miles away, they come from all over, so this could be an attraction certainly,” Kaine said.
Kaine said this is about more than just Petersburg, drawing the support of many surrounding localities including Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Fort Lee, who understand the regional benefits.
Kaine added that downtown Petersburg’s proximity to a highly trafficked interstate is another factor in this development.
“Within a stone’s throw from here, that I-95/I-85 intersection is significant. So to be able to have amenities like walking and riding trails right near the interstate is important,” Kaine said, mentioning Waynesboro as a community that has seen recent success with an attractive trail way system just off of Interstate 64.
Wayne Walton, chairman of the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River, stressed Rockett’s Landing, a riverside housing and business development on the east end of Richmond, as a model for the types of developments that could exist along the Appomattox River in Petersburg.
“This fits right in to everything that we’ve been doing” with FOLAR, Walton said, emphasizing the work they have done with river trails and other projects to attract people to the river in the region.
Kaine said that Petersburg has been coming to state congressman each year with updates on the project, but he said that seeing it in person would give him a tangible grasp on better advocating for it.
In hopes of developing a thriving riverside community, 5,000 feet of the Appomattox River leading into Petersburg must be dredged at an estimated cost of $15 million.
“The city has done a great job of briefing me on this project in my office, but I learned long ago, somebody can give you the picture, give you the briefing, but there’s no substitute for sort of seeing how it is and then how the site connects with the other development that is going on downtown,” Kaine said.
In addition to the hopeful dredging of the final 5,000 feet of the Appomattox River leading into Petersburg, demolition started on the Harvell Dam located on the opposite side of the MLK Memorial Bridge.
Because the hydropower facility at the dam no longer functions, and the fish way is not maintained, the dam is being demolished to allow for fish passage up the river, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.