Manassas Journal Messenger | Land agreement hems in Occoquan land owners

When Grover Cleveland Russell died in 1966, he left behind 583 acres of land that extends to the Occoquan Reservoir shoreline.

The property follows Wolf Run Shoals Road to the water’s edge and completely surrounds Simpson’s Branch, a tributary to the Occoquan Reservoir.

In 2003, there are hundreds of houses on the lots that Russell and his neighbors owned in the 1950s.

And today, some of these shoreline lot owners are wondering why their deeds don’t tell them about an agreement that Russell and his neighbors made with the Alexandria Water Company almost 50 years ago.

In 1950 the Alexandria Water Company purchased land surrounding Occoquan Creek. The water company built the Occoquan Dam, which created the reservoir in 1957.

In 1958, the water company drew up plans for a 1.4-acre easement on Russell’s land.

According to the easement language referenced on Russell’s deed, the water company or its successor – now the Fairfax County Water Authority which bought the Alexandria company in 1967 – has “exclusive possession, use, occupancy and control for public water supply purposes.”

The easement allows property owners to walk on the easement to access the reservoir “at their own risk for the purposes of fishing and boating and for the construction and maintenance of piers or floats in connection therewith; all subject to reasonable restrictions.”

Ask some residents along the water what “reasonable restrictions” are, and their definition might not echo the Fairfax County Water Authority’s definition.

The water authority has proposed changes to its easement policy, which would limit much of the piers and stairs that residents have installed along the reservoir over the years. The authority held a public hearing in July and its water quality committee meets Wednesday to cull public input on the proposed easement changes.

Changes in locations of easements are not proposed – the proposed policy would prohibit many structures that are already in place.

It would prohibit sea walls and piers made of tires, tree trunks or creosote rail ties. If approved, the policy would limit the size and type of piers and floats.

According to Jeanne Bailey, spokeswoman for the water authority, the change in policy would protect the reservoir, which supplies drinking water for 1.2 million people throughout Northern Virginia.

At a meeting organized by Delegate Michele McQuigg, R-51st, residents were angry when the Fairfax County Water Authority could not produce easement language or maps. Authority officials told the teeming crowd that they’d have to do some tedious research to find any details.

Bailey said the water authority can research for residents, but it wouldn’t be able to produce the records as fast as they would like.

The Bull Run tributary feeds into the reservoir, which begins at Lake Jackson Dam. The Occoquan Dam is the reservoir’s eastern boundary.

Waterfront homes that could be affected by the easements include River Bend, Mallard Landing, Rivers Edge, Palisades Pointe, The Point at Riverview, Waterford, Occoquan River Hills, Ravenwood, Occoquan Forest and Ballantre Estates subdivisions.

Occoquan Oaks, Cannon Bluff, Occoquan Overlook, Ridgeleigh, Meades Parish, Brookmeade, Waterside, The Landings, Fairfield Green, Broad Run, Cascades, Laurel Ridge, The Manors, The Knolls, Pinewood Forest and The Point developments are also close enough to be included into the easement.

Staff writer Lillian Kafka can be reached at (703) 878-8091.

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