Dominion Energy and Chesterfield County officials met with some local residents of the neighborhoods close to the utility’s power station and Henricus Historical Park on Nov. 14.
The purpose of the meeting was to provide residents with an update about plans to recycle coal ash, including options for relocating a boat ramp from Dutch Gap to the James River Conservation Area near Falling Creek Ironworks Park and creating two bridges that would provide access to Henricus and the Dutch Gap Conservation Area.
Dominion and county officials stressed that the plans are conceptual at this point. Some will come into fruition within the next 15 years due to Senate Bill 1355 that passed earlier this year, which required the recycling of coal ash or its relocation to lined landfills, and a memorandum of understanding that the utility and county reached in August to provide continued access to the two county parks.
One of the bridges would extend from a new road at Meadowville Technology Park that travels under Interstate 295 and over the James River to Henricus. A rough estimate of the cost is $55 million. It would include 1.5 miles of road and 1,400 feet of bridge and require property to be purchased east of the river.
Three men who said they live at Rivers Bend seemed generally to be against the bridge.
“We we’re told that Rivers Bend Boulevard wouldn’t be used for traffic,” one man said. “It’s a nightmare getting in and out,” he said, adding that the closure of the area golf course several years ago resulted in a drop in property values.
“I already lost my horse. I don’t want to lose my barn,” another man said, noting there are about 1,000 homes in the Rivers Bend subdivision.
The men were concerned that coal ash would be transported across the bridge, but Dominion officials said they would not do that. However, county officials said it would be built to handle school buses and fire trucks, for example. Students are among some 500,000 people who visit the park every year.
Chesterfield’s assistant transportation director Brent Epps said two bridge crossings from the Meadowville area are being considered at this point. Each would include two lanes and a multi-use trail.
Dominion officials expect a coal ash transportation plan to be finalized by March, with another neighborhood meeting scheduled for April or May. The company believes that the coal ash would most likely be transported on railway for recycling, although sending it up the James River on a barge is a possibility.
The rest would be transported by truck from the current ash “ponds” to a new lined landfill west of the power station on Reymet Road.
Dominion hopes to begin removing coal ash in late 2020 or early 2021. A new water treatment plant would be built at the site of the current coal ash ponds, according to Spencer Adkins, the utility’s director of generation projects. Adkins noted that coal ash could be recycled and used in cement when making concrete.
Shane Young, the company’s station director, noted that access to the boat ramps at Dutch Gap would continue to be open in the next year or two while the ash is being moved.
Plans also call for a new 650-foot pedestrian bridge to be built into Dutch Gap from Coyote Drive, located east of Old Stage Road, where a 100-car parking lot would be built. An additional 1,000 feet of walking path would be constructed. That portion of the project would cost an estimated $5 million with engineering taking two years and construction two years.