Mattaponi River Saved - Lannan Foundation expresses its solidarity with the Mattaponi Tribe of Virginia in its courageous struggle to protect its ecological, historical and cultural resources for future generations.
The Mattaponi Tribe of Virginia recently celebrated a decision by a U.S. District Court to revoke a permit that had been granted to the City of Newport News to create a 13 billion gallon reservoir that would have threatened the Mattaponi River, which the tribe calls the lifeblood of the Mattaponi people. The permit had been granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Not only were ecological sites under threat, but cultural and historical sites and a shad hatchery the tribe operates on the river were also endangered by the reservoir.
The tribe has engaged in several legal battles over the years to stop the proposed King William Reservoir. Lannan Foundation has supported the tribe with grants for legal assistance since 1998. In the most recent legal action, the tribe joined with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Alliance to Save the Mattaponi, and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club by filing a lawsuit in 2006 opposing the permit. In late March of 2009, a U.S. District Court ruled that the Corps had acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it granted a permit for the reservoir in 2005.
To support its growing population, the City of Newport News had planned to flood 1,500 acres around Cohoke Creek in King William County and keep the reservoir full by drawing water from the Mattaponi River. The tribe is located in King William County, which is about 35 miles northeast of Richmond. The Mattaponi, a state-recognized tribe, traces its history back to the Powhatan Confederation of tribes led by Chief Powhatan.
In June 2009 the U.S. Justice Department said it will not appeal the Corps decision to revoke the permit. For now the City of Newport News has halted all work on the reservoir project. Although the City has not indicated whether it will appeal the decision revoking the permit, several city leaders have expressed doubt that the reservoir project will be able to move forward.
The Mattaponi Heritage Foundation was established in December 1995, although the tribe inhabits one of the two oldest reservations in the nation. Non-federally recognized, but state recognized, the tribe traces its history back to Chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, who ruled most of Tidewater Virginia when Europeans arrived in 1607. The reservation encompasses 150 acres in King William County, Virginia, near Richmond. The reservation today sits on the banks of the Mattaponi River, one of the last pristine rivers in the eastern United States.