Collaborative Partnership Preserves 550 Acres Within City Watershed

State grant protects historic sites and natural resources  
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.
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.