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May 15, 2008

Supervisors voice unanimous support for water plan

Reader comments (1) 20080514-BOS2 At the end of their evening meeting tonight, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors decided to send the leaders in the City of Charlottesville a message--they unanimously support the fifty-year Community Water Supply Plan and the idea of dredging to maintain the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  We have "a Board that is unanimously behind our fifty-year water plan as it is designed...and also is very supportive of looking at maintenance dredging at the Rivanna...in addition to that," said Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna).

Under other business, Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) reminded her colleagues that Charlottesville City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the water supply plan for Monday, May 19, 2008.  She asked if the Board might want to communicate to Council a position in advance of that meeting and the City's vote on the water plan which is scheduled for June 2, 2008.

In the discussion, each Supervisor indicated their current support for the Community Water Supply Plan which was developed by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) and unanimously endorsed by the Board and City Council in 2006.  Supervisors also voiced their appreciation for the new information and questions being raised about the feasibility of dredging, but none saw dredging as something that should hold up the final permitting process for the overall water supply plan.  That plan involves two major components, building a new taller dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir (at a total height of 112' feet which raises the pool elevation by 45') and building a new pipeline connecting Ragged Mountain to South Fork such that the enlarged reservoir can be filled from South Fork.

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Summary of key comments

Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller)
- "My sense has been that this Board remains as supportive of the water supply plan as we were when we wrote our letter to [the Department of Environmental Quality] some months ago...it was a nice strong statement....My question that I am going to ask everyone is whether we want to say anything to encourage City Council because they have some new members that didn't go through this at the time [it was under review in 2005-06]."

"[The plan] has so many good elements to it...but each one of them can be a target to somebody's criticism....I think that maintenance of the...South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is something that we have been hearing community interest in and that we can, I think, as a community, work on that....But I don't want us to hold up the water supply plan...to deal with the...South Fork Reservoir....The dollars don't come out to say that [dredging] is the cheaper alternative, but I think that our community wants us to maintain that reservoir..."

David Slutzky (Rio)
- "I am 100% committed to the existing water plan that we have already agreed to. I think that it makes sense.  It went through lots of public process and there was a good conclusion. We came up with a plan that uses our water....There's always been details around the edges that were imperfect about that water plan, and there always will be with any consensus outcome like that....There's lots of other reasons why we ought to be dredging the Rivanna, but I think they are separate issues.  I think that there's the water plan that we have approved, and we should continue down that path, get the permits, and plan to build it for all of the reasons that we agreed to do it in the first place.  But separate from that I am very interested in the idea of exploring maintenance dredging....If it became very inexpensive to dredge the Rivanna I still wouldn't want to back off of what we have already committed to doing because there still wouldn't be enough water to supply our needs out fifty years if we just dredged the Rivanna."

Ann Mallek (White Hall) – "Before we start to dredge need to figure out what the reasons are and that determines how much we take out and what our projected costs might be..." When asked by Boyd if she was "solidly behind the fifty year plan" Mallek answered, "Yes, absolutely."  Later in the discussion, Mallek observed that, "One thing that voters said during the campaign last year said was, 'Why doesn't the County plan ahead? Why don't they get ahead on these roads and these things?'  So this is one case where we are actually doing what we are asked to do, which is plan ahead and do things in an orderly way."

Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) – "I am solidly behind the plan and pursuing the permits to get that plan.  It does not require you to build anything when you get the permits.  I don't think any of us would put our heads in the sand and say, if something came up that made it a lot less expensive...or a lot more environmentally sound...that we shouldn't look at it later.  The plan can be amended.  I don't think we should ever completely say well we made the decision and we will never make a change in the plan..."

"I think it's very important that we don't unravel the plan that we have gotten approved and that we get the permit that allows us to do each of the components of this plan.  That being said, I think several of us expressed throughout this process, that we wanted some kind of dredging seriously looked at to maintain the health and some of the capacity of South Fork....I think we should pursue looking at dredging....Also, when we went through this process, there were some pretty big numbers put on dredging. It is not as easy as some of the other options because it has lots of moving parts to it [that impact costs]. What is in the reservoir, how can it be taken out, where can it be placed, can it be sold, etc....There were reports in The Hook, for example, that Dock Doctors could quote "do the job" for $21 million.  Well I met with Dock Doctors, and the job they were talking about doing did not include all the pieces."

Lindsay Dorrier (Scottsville)
– "I don't have anything [to add]."  Boyd then asks Dorrier if he is committed to the existing fifty year plan.  Dorrier responds, "Oh yes, oh yes."

Ken Boyd (Rivanna) – "I think certainly we should pursue maintenance dredging, but I have not seen any evidence that our fifty year plan as is currently out there, [that] we shouldn’t move forward with that, getting the additional permitting, and look at the dredging as a maintenance issue, as an entirely separate item, not as part of the water supply plan..."

Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett)  – "As this process was gone through, there were a lot of questions raised about various parts of Gannett Fleming's study....Ultimately, the response to [those questions about water demand and population estimates], was, 'Well if we are wrong...maybe we have a sixty year supply instead of a fifty year supply.'  It's hard to argue with the fact that they should be conservative....You can try and pick apart some of the underpinnings...but at the end of the day, I didn't hear many people in the public attacking the underpinnings of those projections at the public hearings."

Brian Wheeler

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