Update on the Brandy Station Situation

I received a welcome note today regarding Brandy Station and the Fleetwood Hill / Flat Run construction (mentioned on Friday).  The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) shut down the operation.  MOST WELCOME NEWS!

You can read the full text of the USACE message over at Eric’s blog.  I’ve decided not to reprint it over here, as the land owner’s name appears too often for me to mask that out.  I’ve only met the land owner once, and even then was not properly introduced.  I know others have their opinions, but for now I don’t know the individual well enough to say anything.  So please respect my position.

I will draw attention towards two parts of this story.  First off, I know many will start milling the line about interference with property owners’ rights.  Read the letter closely:

Please be advised that the unauthorized discharge of fill material in Flat run is in direct violation of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1344), which requires a Department of the Army permit prior to initiating work in the waters of the United States.

And further:

In accordance with Corps regulations 33 CFR 320-330, no work can be authorized in waters of the United States which may affect historic properties listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places unless and until the Norfolk District has complied with the provisions of 33 CFR 325, Appendix C.

The letter alludes to but does not name regulations outside the scope of the Engineer’s enforcement, namely Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.   This is ground protected by the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP).  Specifically, the ground on Fleetwood Hill falls under “core battlefield area” where combatants actually fought.

Those are the governing regulations.  As I mentioned on Friday, if you live in an area covered under those regulations, you must abide by those regulations.  The codes and laws exist because the American people asked for them.  I’m not trying to give a civics lesson here.  Just pointing out that anyone who pleads “property rights” here is distracting from the true facts of the matter.  Property ownership comes with rights, responsibilities, and restrictions.  In this case, the latter two apply.

The second point that must be made here is regarding the involvement of the preservationists within the community.  I wrote on Friday, calling for the Brandy Station Foundation to take action – sooner rather than later.  But it was not the Brandy Station Foundation that took steps to inform the authorities of the issue.  No, for the most part, it was individuals working outside (and in some ways around) the foundation – notably, Bud Hall, the foundation’s former president, at the fore.

If you look at the Brandy Station Foundation’s web site today, you’ll find the organization’s mission statement that reads:

The Brandy Station Foundation is a 501(c)-3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the natural and historic resources of the Brandy Station area of Culpeper County, Virginia. While our focus is toward the Civil War history of the Brandy Station vicinity, our efforts are not limited to that time period or by any geographic boundaries.  We have been instrumental in the preservation of significant tracts of land related to the Battle of Brandy Station (June 9, 1863) and Kelly’s Ford (March 17, 1863).  We operate the Graffiti House, which serves as our visitor center and museum.  Our goal is to ensure the history and heritage of the area is not “paved over” in our rush to progress.

I’m a member of the organization.  I joined because I believe the mission stated above is an important cause.   I didn’t join in order to rub elbows at some social tea or to impress someone with credentials.  Nor did I join so that the organization would sit idly by while slices of the battlefield are torn away.  I want my resources used in accordance with that mission.

In my view, this should have been a no-brainer.  The foundation HAD to say something when the president first gained knowledge of the situation.  At a minimum the foundation should have issued a statement of concern and called public attention to the matter.  That is what the organization was formed to do.   Sure, I’d expect more, but at least that would have been a small action in the spirit of the mission (if not whole body).

So I will ask if anyone on the Brandy Station Foundation Board of Directors would like to reconcile the two weeks of vacillation without any public statements, against the mission statement above.   Consider this a request from a member in good standing in accordance with the by-laws.