In 2019, the Northampton County Board of Supervisors brought the Eastern Shore Public Service Authority back to life. The last time the PSA met was in 2015. The current PSA is made up of the:
Town of Cape Charles, Town of Cheriton, Town of Nassawadox, and Town of Exmore.
Back in the day, the PSA (Public Service Authority) was made up of Northampton County and the towns of Cape Charles, Cheriton, Nassawadox, and Exmore. At the time, it was purported that the PSA would provide water/wastewater services to these entities. In 2013, PSA members voted unanimously to approve a $70,000 contract with the engineering firm Hurt & Proffitt to work out the details. At the core was a belief that a countywide sewer system might entice Riverside to keep the hospital in Nassawaddox.
Food Lion and Mcdonald’s both expressed interest in the Cape Charles PSA idea.
Due to public outcry, and the hospital moving up to Onley, the PSA was tabled until it was revived in 2019.
This is where things get interesting.
The potential sale of the Cape Charles water and wastewater utilities to Virginia American Water creates curious options. Whether the sale will be good or bad for Cape Charles is unknown, and it basically depends on your point of view.
Future growth in Cape Charles is extremely limited, and it seems reasonable to believe that VAW will eventually have to expand its capacity, and it will do that by moving pipes out to Route 13. The PSA may have buckled under the protest from pitchfork-wielding citizens in the past, but the Shore is a much different place now than it was then.
With the southern node (Cape Charles) in private hands, the PSA’s goal of expanding water and sewer services out into the county will be much easier to obtain. The Town of Cheriton in its Comprehensive Plan notes, “Work with Northampton County and the Public Service Authority to improve water quality and establish a wastewater treatment system for the town.” So, there’s also that.
Nobody will ever admit this, but the goal is expansion, mainly by concentrated development along the highway.
New hotels, expanded food and shopping to meet the needs of the massive tourist thoroughfare that is Lankford Highway is not that farfetched, especially when looking through the lens of a 2022 lower Eastern Shore.
Expansion and new development may also serve another purpose. It may relieve Bay Creek of its Annexation Agreement obligations. If the plant has to be expanded, but the expansion is due to servicing new development on the highway, does this give Bay Creek a legal out? We’ll let the lawyers work on that one.
Cape Charles in the summer is overcrowded and it’s only going to get worse. Space in the Historic District is extremely limited and it will get denser. Providing more options along the Rt. 13 corridor may relieve some of this pressure. More development in the county seems like a logical strategy–and there’s money to be made doing it. Is development along the highway good or bad? It depends on your point of view.
The privatization of the water and wastewater utilities, in tandem with the political will and backing of Northampton County and the PSA is creating a perfect storm for establishing a foothold for a county-wide utility system. It also opens the door for more development on the highway.
So it goes.
Paul Plante says
I thought I recalled reading in the Mirror some time back about the limited capacity of the groundwater supply to serve the wells.
So where will all this water come from to serve all these new developments?
Or is that a question not to be asked because it throws a wet blanket on someone’s development scheme?
Whomever controls access to water and sewer also controls the future of developmental growth.
Paul Plante says
That’s what the movie “Chinatown” was all about, where Jack Nicholson got his nose slit for sticking it in the wrong place.
That film was inspired by the real-life California water wars which were a series of disputes over southern California water at the beginning of the 20th century, by which Los Angeles interests secured water rights in the Owens Valley.
And now they have grown so much they are running out of water and don’t know where to get anymore from, which has them eying the Great Lakes.
Where is the Eastern Shore getting all this extra water from?
Paul Plante says
That should be, “don’t sell us!”
Ron Jordan says
The Hampton Roads Sanitation District Commission’s service jurisdiction was expanded to include Northampton and Accomack counties. They are currently working with several towns (including Nassawadox and Exmore) in both counties as well as with Accomack on sewer issues. In several areas this work has moved quite far along. I find it very curious there has been no discussion about joining HRSD in Cape Charles at a time when everyone else on the shore is moving in that direction.
Note: Cape Charles has been in discussion with HRSD, however, the District only provides wastewater (sewer) services, not water. The Cape Charles issue deals with both water and wastewater, so HRSD was not a good fit.