City wants money for river steward - City to ask counties to help foot the bill for river steward
(Note: Many taxpaying citizens must feel like freshly washed laundry clipped to a clothesline on a breezy summer day: hung out to dry. Notice the conditional money The Nature Conservancy holds out like a carrot, never mentioning that TNC's money comes, in no small part, from taxpayer dollars via federal grant awards.)
By Emily Battle firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-374-5413
The Free Lance-Star
616 Amelia Street
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401
To submit a Letter to the Editor: email@example.com (250-word limit)
Fredericksburg, Virginia - Fredericksburg officials want their neighbors to help take care of the river land the city is putting under conservation easement.
The City Council members agreed Tuesday to move forward with hiring a city employee who can be on the river regularly and manage contacts with neighboring property owners, easement holders and the public.
The $90,533 it's estimated to cost to equip and pay this "river steward" for six months -- or until the next fiscal year starts -- would come out of the $1.6 million The Nature Conservancy is paying Fredericksburg for the easement.
That transaction is expected to close by the end of the year. The easement permanently restricts development on 4,232 acres that stretch 25 miles upstream on the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers. It includes allowances for possible future road plans.
With their vote Tuesday night, council members also asked City Manager Phillip Rodenberg to ask Culpeper, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties to contribute $18,700 apiece toward the river steward.
That sum includes each county's share of half of the steward costs for the next fiscal year, plus half of the $35,000 the city expects to spend this year to equip the steward.
Seven months ago, when council members approved the easement, they said that one of the main reasons for selling the development rights on the land was to give Fredericksburg some partners to help manage and monitor it.
In addition to The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation will also hold the easement.
During deliberations last spring, as residents and elected officials from Stafford and Spotsylvania counties lent their support to the easement, Mayor Tom Tomzak cautioned that he hoped the counties would back up their residents' words with a financial commitment.
The city plans to put the $1.6 million into an endowment, the beginning of a nest egg that would generate interest to pay for the river steward for years to come. The council agreed to spend no more than $200,000 off the top of that to get things going.
The city is now looking to add to its endowment, or otherwise supplement the money it has available to pay for the yearly costs of river management.
On Tuesday, Tomzak said he was disappointed that offers of help from the counties haven't come sooner.
"I am very disappointed that we have to be put in the position to lobby our surrounding counties," he said.
[Tomzak] said he had hoped the Friends of the Rappahannock, Sierra Club and county residents who spoke at the city's public hearing on the easement would do more to lobby their representatives to put money on the table.
Councilwoman Debby (Deborah L.) Girvan said she wants to see a detailed, long-range fundraising plan for the river endowment before she casts the second of the two votes required to approve spending money on the river steward. That vote should happen November 28.
In the two counties bordering Fredericksburg, leaders seem open to the possibility of contributing.
"When we discussed it before, that issue was left open. We always knew there would be a high likelihood that we would be discussing this again," said Stafford supervisors' Vice Chairman Jack Cavalier. "We have the river bordering our county; we have a definite interest in making sure everything goes well."
Spotsylvania supervisors Chairman Hap Connors said he's open to considering a contribution, but he added that the region should lobby the state and federal governments for funds.
Culpeper County officials registered their opposition to the easement last spring. County Administrator Frank Bossio said yesterday that he hasn't had any discussions with city officials since then, and hasn't seen the river steward proposal, but "That position hasn't changed."
Managing the river
Fredericksburg is lobbying the General Assembly for money for additional wardens in the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries who could spend time on the river.
Spotsylvania supervisors Chairman Henry "Hap" Connors, Jr., said the region should approach its federal representatives about helping out. Republican Sen. John Warner endorsed the easement in September 2005.
The Silver Cos. last spring pledged to contribute toward river management expenses, and Councilman Matt Kelly says he continues talks with them.
Nature Conservancy has said it will help Fredericksburg find additional
money once the land transaction happens.
That's expected by the end of the year.
Additional researched information:
Culpeper County Board of Supervisors
302 N. Main Street
Culpeper, Virginia 22701
Stafford supervisors' Vice Chairman Jack Cavalier
firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-659-7651
"Why am I involved in river easement? I believe in it. ...We would have gladly reviewed other alternatives that reached the same goals." - Henry "Hap" Connors, Spotsylvania, Virginia, Chairman, Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, February 13, 2006. http://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2006/022006/02132006/167271
Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors
P.O. Box 99
Spotsylvania, Virginia 22553
540-507-7010 or 650-548-4813 (h)
Fax: 540-507-7019 or 540-582-7656 (h)
Fredericksburg, Virginia, City Council Members