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June 06, 2008

Supervisors to vote on dredging and water conservation resolution

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The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have agreed to place a resolution on their June 11, 2008 consent agenda which, if approved, would direct the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) to investigate the “viability and merits” of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and to increase the County’s water conservation efforts. The text of the resolution is virtually identical to the two amendments added by Mayor Dave Norris to the City Council resolution approved on Monday reaffirming Council’s support for the 50-year Community Water Supply Plan.

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Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) corresponded with members of City Council and Mayor Norris after the June 2, 2008 City Council meeting, thanking them for their work on the water supply and detailing her hopes for a joint effort between the Board and the Council. During the “other business” portion of the Supervisors’ June 4, 2008 meeting, Thomas proposed to the Board that they partner with the City and others to discuss the prospect of dredging South Fork Reservoir. She felt that before RWSA investigated the “how” of dredging, the community first needed to fully explore the “why.”

“First you have to figure out why you’re doing any dredging, and I don’t think our community has done that, we’re a long ways from having done that yet,” said Thomas.  She pointed out that there are a wide range of uses for the South Fork reservoir, including recreation and education, and proposed the creation of a visioning group that would meet 2-3 times to ensure that all these uses were being taken into account.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) was not sure that the visioning process advocated by Thomas would be effective at coming up with a financially viable solution, and suggested that they pass a resolution aligning the Board with the City Council on the dredging request and conservation efforts. Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) expressed concern about the visioning process, imagining that “a former city councilor might, for example, raise the idea that the reason for doing this is so we can interdict the process of implementing the [existing] water plan,” and proposed that instead the Board reach out to City Council on the dredging issue, independent of the implementation of the Community Water Supply Plan.

Thomas disagreed, saying, “Well I’m not sure I want to dredge at all…I think we need to have a community discussion about that…is dredging at any part necessary in order to keep it at as a robust part of our water system?”  Slutzky responded “I think it is; if it eventually silts in…”

“There’s a lot of time between now and eventually,” said Thomas.  “If we’re going to spend even as little as $23 million dollars, we ought to be far more clear about what we’re doing and why.”

The issue of who would pay for the dredging if it occurred also came up, with Thomas asking, “Do you really want the water rate users paying for it if it’s the rowing club that’s the main driver, and the neighbors?” Rooker stated his opinion that, “it would be ridiculous to dredge and not obtain some additional capacity while you’re doing it.”  Rooker said the cost of dredging “should be something that is included within the rate structure because it’s today a part of the water supply plan that we have, and if we increase its capacity, it’s still part of the water supply plan.”

At the urging of Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna) the Supervisors adopted Rooker’s proposal and placed “a resolution supporting a study of maintenance dredging of the South Fork Rivanna reservoir and efforts to promote water conservation” on the next meeting’s agenda.

Ben Doernberg

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