By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff
May 25, 2012
City officials scrambled on Friday to decide on their next move after the Army Corps of Engineers at least temporarily ended their plan to sell the city’s water system to the highest bidder.
The Corps did that via a legal opinion issued May 17 and affirmed on Thursday arguing that the Washington Aqueduct, which supplies Falls Church’s system with water, is not authorized to sell that water to an investor-owned utility but only a governmental body.
That reversed a legal opinion issued by the Corps March 8, which the City had relied on, stating that the Aqueduct could sell water to an investor-owned utility.
The flurry of events and the dead end that the City appears to have found itself in may cause reevaluation of the decision to sell the system. But that is unclear at this point. As of Friday morning, City officials still hadn’t even seen a copy of the legal opinion, and it isn’t clear if the legal opinion is the last word on the subject.
Also unanswered is why the Corps released a legal opinion two months ago that allowed not only City officials, but officials of the 10 interested parties to go ahead and submit bids for the system, only to step in at the 11th hour and change its mind.
Asked about this strange turn of events, Christopher Augsburger, a spokesman for the Corps, said he would provide some answers by the end of Friday. The Times also asked for a copy of the legal opinion and why the earlier opinion was released publicly if it wasn’t final.
Mr. Augsburger ultimately referred the Times’ request to another spokesman, Gene Pawlik, who said he was authorized to release only
this statement: “The Chief Counsel for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on 17 May issued a final opinion concerning the authority of USACE to potentially deliver water from the Washington Aqueduct to an investment-owned utility. Based upon a review of the applicable statutes and consistent with a 1963 opinion issued by the USACE Baltimore District counsel, the Chief Counsel found that USACE's authority to deliver water is only to governmental authorities and does not extend to delivery to non-public entities. The final opinion reverses – after additional research into the issue – an initial preliminary opinion that indicated USACE might be authorized to deliver water to a non-governmental agency.”
While some may fault the City for relying on the earlier legal opinion, at least one Northern Virginia government official not connected to Falls Church City said privately that the reversal made the Corps look bad, suggesting they have “egg on their faces.”
In addition to the Corps’ refusal to explain why the earlier decision was released publicly, the statement provided by Mr. Pawlik appears to inaccurately quote that earlier decision.
The statement says the “initial preliminary opinion” indicated the Corps “might” be authorized to deliver water to an investor-owned utility, but the March decision, from senior counsel Susan Greenwood, instead is much stronger.
Ms. Greenwood wrote: “I believe that the statute governing the provision of water from the Washington Aqueduct to the City would permit the provision of water to an IOU [investor-owned utility] or governmental water authority for the purpose of providing water for the use of the City of Falls Church.”
May 25, 2012 by Kathleen Nixon · Comments Off
It was a gorgeous spring morning and Chef Bertrand Chemel was answering the question he would be answering all morning: “What is pimento de la verra?” It is Spanish Paprika which is more smoky than regular paprika and adds just the right amount of spice to a dish without over powering it. This was the theme for the morning: understanding the delicate nuances of Chef Bertrand’s cooking style.
This was chef’s third time as part of the Falls Church Farmers Market program and there was a definite difference between this time and previous times. Chef Bertrand has always created innovative dishes using local ingredients such as his Butternut Squash Ravioli with Smoked Savoy Cabbage or Roasted Beet Salad with Quince Confit topped with foure d’Ambert marshmallow, but this morning’s dish and chef’s demonstration of it were indicative of the new restaurant: approachable, enjoyable and delicious.
Over the morning more 700 tastings of Honey Glazed Eggplant and Roasted Peppers Basquaise were served to many delighted patrons – adults and kids alike. One would think that most would shy away or turn up their nose at eggplant, but just the opposite was true. “It’s eggplant? I love eggplant!” Others were willing to try it and blown away with the savory and sweet combination of the honey with the rosemary and pimento de la verra. The crowd appreciated of creative vegetarian dish that features ingredients that will come into season soon and a recipe to prepare eggplant and peppers. This is further indicative of the cuisine of Chef Bertrand Chemel bringing the subtleties of his French cooking to our local community. The dish was from the Basque region of France which features grilled meats and fish frequently seasoned with paprika. Basquaise is a type of dish prepared in the style of Basque cuisine that often includes tomatoes and sweet or hot red peppers.
It was hard staying away from demonstration because of the aromas of roasting spices which were then caramelized with local honey (Howie’s Honey) and deglazed with dry sherry. Chef shared that you wanted to deglaze the eggplant with dry sherry rather than white wine because the white wine would be too acidic for the eggplant and turn your dish bitter. Throughout the morning, chef grabbed from local sprigs of herb – sage, thyme and rosemary provided by Homestead Farms to show that the dish could be customized the dish throughout the season to accommodate what was fresh. It was great hearing how Bertrand incorporated the honey into the dish to bring a slight sweetness to it as he has teaching his kids about different food and sometimes has found a little honey makes all the difference.