The potential for Henricus Historical Park to be closed for 15 years is a possibility as the state deals with a solution for coal... Henricus closure questioned, but Dominion says access will remain open

The potential for Henricus Historical Park to be closed for 15 years is a possibility as the state deals with a solution for coal ash at the Chesterfield Power Station, according to a Chesterfield County supervisor. However, a Dominion Energy official said access to the area will remain open.

A Jan. 24 email from supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle asked constituents to contact House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, to express concern about pending legislation and potential closure of the historical park, boat ramp and adjacent trails.

“There has been absolutely no local input on this deal,” Jaeckle said.

Dominion spokesman Dan Genest said the utility will not close access to the park and boat ramp. “We intend to be a good neighbor to these two very popular sites,” he said Friday. “The public will not be denied access….”

Jaeckle said a deal was being worked on between Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam and Cox that could end up closing Henricus and an adjacent boat ramp for 15 years unless a new access road is built before coal ash removal starts.

The James River Association supports the deal and commended Northam and leaders in the General Assembly for their work on Senate Bill 1533, which the association called a consensus to ensure the long-term closure of Dominion’s coal ash “ponds.”

In Jan. 24 email sent to his constituents, Cox announced a plan to close the coal ash ponds in an environmentally safe and fiscally prudent manner.

“The coal ash in Chesterfield will be moved into state-of-the-art, lined landfills built on site that will protect the environment and minimize truck traffic in the community,” Cox said. He noted that Dominion is committed to ensuring access to the Henricus boat ramp through either the existing entrance or a new entrance. “This was an important issue to the community, and I’m glad our resolution guarantees access to the Henricus boat ramp,” he said.

“Dominion will transfer coal ash from the first pond into a newly constructed, lined landfill on site at the power station. The now old, empty pond will be retrofitted and lined so that coal ash from the second pond can be transferred into that landfill,” he said. “This, in my opinion, is the best option for our community.”

Cox said that the overriding concern he’s heard from residents was about potential truck traffic from a proposed plan to recycle the coal ash.

“The recycling plan would require 300 trucks per day for 15 years to haul the coal ash from the ponds in Eastern Chesterfield to the recycling location in Amelia. That’s 300 trucks per day on Route 10, I-95, Route 288 and Route 360 (Hull Street Road),” Cox said.

“Our plan minimizes truck traffic by ensuring that the coal ash at Chesterfield stays on site while still being secured in an environmentally-responsible way,” he said.

Cox said the recycling plan would have cost $6 billion, but the proposal will cost about half of that. The plan also protects ratepayers by capping the annual costs that can be passed on to ratepayers to $250 million per year statewide. Customers all across the state benefited from the power generated by the coal ash and its fair that everyone across the state share in the cost of handling the coal ash that resulted from it, he said.

Cox was joined at a Jan. 24 announcement by Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, Del. Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell, and others.

“Now is the time to act to resolve this issue and I am glad we were able to reach an agreement,” Cox said.

He believes the plan would prevent seepage into the James River and other waterways.

“The most important part of this plan is that it strictly prohibits the use of cap and close in place methods,” Chase said. “This is a plan that protects ratepayers, our environment, and the communities that we live and raise a family in.”

Coal ash is a hot topic in the Legislature as state delegates and senators try to decide how to deal with the energy byproduct, which contains arsenic, lead and mercury.

Some 14.9 million cubic yards of coal ash is at the Chesterfield Power Station, which represents 54.6 percent of the company’s coal ash at four power plants in the state. 

According to a report that Dominion submitted to the Legislature in November, it would take 13 to 15 years to transport the product to market or waste to landfills by truck, rail or barge at a cost of several billion dollars.