DATE: Monday, October 13, 1997 TAG: 9710130073 SECTION: FRONT PAGE: A1 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: DECISION 97 SOURCE: BY KAREN WEINTRAUB, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: 114 lines
A Southside legislator who fought the Lake Gaston pipeline for years now says he can be trusted to represent Hampton Roads' interest if elected lieutenant governor.
Former Congressman L.F. Payne, a Democrat, said he opposed the pipeline because it hurt his Roanoke River Basin constituents. However, if elected to represent all of Virginia, Payne said, he could take a broader view of the project.
Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf said she believes him. Virginia Beach council member Louis R. Jones said he's not so sure.
``I'm not willing to risk that,'' Jones said. ``I wouldn't vote for him.''
The lieutenant governor wouldn't have much sway over the pipeline, which will be officially completed early next month despite lingering legal challenges.
But Payne says he would use his bully pulpit to fight for a broader view of statewide water resources that represents both urban and rural interests.
``How do we deal with urban areas that need the resources, and how do we transfer those from one area to the other so that as this happens again - and invariably it certainly will - there will be better ways to deal with this than we currently have in Virginia,'' he said Friday.
``I represented the people I was elected to represent well,'' Payne said of his years in Congress. ``Now, I'm seeking to represent the people of all of Virginia, and I intend to do that equally well.''
He said he would not try to undermine the water supply project if elected. In 1995, Payne held a news conference to attack a pipeline settlement Virginia Beach had reached with North Carolina. Payne said he opposed it because the settlement ran roughshod over the interests of the Southside, even establishing a commission that did not include residents of the Roanoke River Basin.
He said he has always favored a settlement that addressed the needs of all sides.
The 76-mile Lake Gaston pipeline will draw as much as 60 million gallons of water a day from the Roanoke River to South Hampton Roads. Virginia Beach would take as much as 48 million gallons a day, Chesapeake would be entitled to as much as 10 million gallons per day, and Isle of Wight and Suffolk could draw as much as 1 million gallons per day each.
John H. Hager, Payne's opponent, first came out in favor of the pipeline in 1992, when he ran for state party chairman against project opponent Patrick McSweeney. He said he would continue to support the 76-mile pipeline project if elected lieutenant governor.
``(Payne) fought the pipeline for years, and he cost Virginia Beach millions of dollars through the lawsuits and congressional actions.
``We're running a good campaign. He's a fine man. This is a very defining difference,'' Hager said.
All the other candidates for statewide office also are on record supporting the pipeline, and they all support a comprehensive look at the state's resources and needs. Two Republicans - state Sen. Mark L. Earley, who is running for attorney general, and James S. Gilmore III, who is running for governor - have played an active role to date.
Gilmore testified in federal court and filed numerous briefings in support of the pipeline during his tenure as state attorney general.
``Jim Gilmore fully supports the construction of the Lake Gaston pipeline,'' Gilmore spokesman Mark Miner said. ``That has been his position from when he became the attorney general, and it'll be his position when he becomes governor.''
Donald S. Beyer Jr.'s press secretary, Paige Boinest, said Friday that Beyer also would support the pipeline if elected.
Earley, whose senatorial district includes parts of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach - the two cities that will benefit most from the pipeline, said the project has been one of his top priorities during his 10 years in office. He promised to continue that commitment if elected attorney general.
``I think the attorney general, probably more than any of the other two statewide offices, will play the most critical role in the ongoing saga (of the pipeline),'' said Earley, a member of the state's water commission. Pipeline opponents are expected to advance their legal appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court next month and try to shut down the project in 2001 when the dam that creates Lake Gaston must be relicensed by the federal government.
Earley's opponent, William D. Dolan, said he also supports the pipeline and some kind of statewide perspective on water resources.
``(Dolan) thinks the object lesson in this whole debate is that we need to develop a statewide water plan that really gets proactive,'' Dolan press secretary George Twigg said. ``Because, certainly, a 13-year process is not very efficient and doesn't serve anyone well.''
Del. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, said no politician for statewide office would come out against the pipeline because ``they can count noses.'' There are more people in Hampton Roads who stand to benefit from the pipeline than residents of the Roanoke River Basin who say the pipeline will deprive them of their natural resource and, therefore, limit their future economic development.
Wagner said he thinks the Supreme Court appeal and the relicensing process still pose serious challenges to the pipeline, so the project needs as many friends as it can get.
``I want to know . . . that we have a team in Richmond that's going to support us 100 percent,'' Wagner said.
Oberndorf said she wouldn't hold Payne's past opposition to the pipeline against him.
``If he is to earn the job,'' Oberndorf said, ``I have confidence that he would not be as parochial in his approach to Gaston.''
Despite his promise to take a broader view of the project if elected lieutenant governor, Payne doesn't make pipeline opponents uncomfortable, said W. Ewell Barr, president of the Roanoke River Basin Association, which has led the pipeline fight in Virginia.
``We invited former Congressman Payne to visit with us and to express his position, and he stated that he thought the commonwealth should endeavor to find a solution to Virginia Beach's problem which would not be detrimental to anywhere else,'' Barr said. ``We understood him to say that he did not think that the pipeline satisfied those requirements. That position is consistent with that of the Roanoke River Basin Association.'' ILLUSTRATION: [Color Photo]
Former Congressman L.F. Payne originally opposed the pipeline. KEYWORDS: LIEUTENANT GOVERNORS RACE CANDIDATES ISSUE LAKE
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