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June 25, 2008

RWSA Board approves up to $300,000 for dredging study

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In the past month, both the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of supervisors have passed resolutions directing their representatives on the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) to investigate the possibility of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. At their monthly meeting on June 23, 2008, the Board voted to authorize up to $300,000 for a study of dredging.  The RWSA will release a request for proposals by July 8, 2008.

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During the public comment period, much of the feedback for the Board was directed towards the possible dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir which was built in 1966 and is losing about 1% of its capacity annually due to siltation. Before the meeting, Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the RWSA, had prepared a memo for the Board outlining a series of recommendations for initiating a dredging study.
According to Frederick’s memo, “from the context of the [City & County] resolutions themselves, the stated goal is high water quality, and the purpose behind the goal is to enhance the reservoir’s resources to the community.” The memo recommends that the staff of the RWSA issue a request for proposals (RFP) by July 8, 2008 to identify consulting companies with expertise in a number of areas relevant to dredging, including experience in design and implementation of dredging strategies, disposal of removed sediment, and water quality analysis.

Rich Collins, a former Chairman of the RWSA (and member of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) and Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan), stated his opinion that Frederick’s memo downplays the issue of water quantity and plays up the issue of water quality. He told the Board he felt the dredging study being proposed by Frederick downplayed the contribution the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir should make to the urban water system’s safe yield. Collins said it was his impression that City Council wanted to find a way to lower the necessary height of the new dam at Ragged Mountain.

Betty Mooney, a member of the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan and a critic of the 50-year water supply plan as adopted, began by suggesting to the Board that they reschedule their meetings in order to encourage more citizen participation. The meetings currently occur at 2 PM on Monday, which is during the work day for many citizens who would otherwise attend according to Mooney.  She next presented a petition with over 500 signatures advocating dredging.  “I hope we can trust you to get these surveys done professionally, and as soon as possible, so the water supply strategy can proceed with all the information necessary,” said Mooney.

Kevin Lynch, former City Councilor and a member of the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, advocated a more expedient schedule to study dredging than that laid out by Frederick. Pointing to a draft RFP created by the Piedmont Environmental Council, he argued that setting a date of July 1st for the creation of an RFP for dredging study would be an aggressive schedule, “but certainly not an impossible one.”

Pat Enright, CEO of Dominion Development Resources (DDR) LLC and Earlysville resident, said the first priority of any dredging study should be to find a disposal site for the sediment. He talked about a hypothetical scenario in which expensive analysis determined dredging to be the best option, but the lack of a disposal site for sediment made the study “a waste of money.” Enright has already expressed his firm’s interest in utilizing dredge material to fill an abandoned quarry owned by Dr. Charles Hurt which is near the reservoir.

When it came time for the Board to consider the RFP for the dredging study,
Frederick recommended the Board pursue two parallel courses of action. He suggested that there are two goals of the initial stage of the process: ; identifying the purposes of dredging, and choosing a consulting firm with the requisite experience to help guide the RWSA.  “We’re suggesting that we start on a parallel track but recognize these tracks are going to come together in the coming weeks,” said Frederick.

For the first goal, Frederick proposed a meeting between RWSA Board Chairman Mike Gaffney, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ken Boyd, and Albemarle County Service Authority Chairman Don Wagner to determine whether a task force would be an effective way to address the issue, and if so, who should be asked to serve. Frederick said this meeting should occur by July 4, 2008.

For the second goal, Frederick suggested RWSA staff issue an RFP soliciting credentials and ideas from consulting companies, in order to identify the group that will be best able to design an effective dredging strategy. Once a company is chosen, it would be responsible for designing a plan that meets the goals laid out by the task force. Frederick recommended a deadline of July 8th for the issuance of an RFP.

County Executive Bob Tucker asked for a clarification on whether a scope of work would be included in the RFP. Frederick responded that there would be no specific scope of work initially, but that the RFP “would identify the areas of possible study that we need expertise to fill.” Frederick added that he wants to know how consultants would approach the problem, suggesting it was more of a Request for Qualifications rather than a detailed RFP. Tucker asked if the task force would help develop the RFP, and Frederick said yes. “We’re anticipating the task force will help us define why we are performing the study,” Frederick said. The Board, after only a brief discussion, voted unanimously authorize the expenditure of up to $300,000 for the study and RFP process.


In other business, Frederick briefed the Board and the public on the status of area reservoirs. He explained that as of mid-June, the Charlottesville area had been dropped from the National Drought Mitigation Center’s list of areas in drought condition, and that the likelihood of a severe drought in 2008 was “very small.” Citing the unpredictably of the weather, Frederick closed his statement by reminding those in attendance that regardless of the current year’s water situation, it was always important to focus on water conservation.

Landowner John Via, who sold some of the land that was originally slated for construction of the proposed Buck Mountain Reservoir, was the first to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. The Buck Mountain Reservoir plan had to be tabled, in part, when the James River spiny mussel, an endangered species, was found in the area.  Via asked the RWSA Board to sell back the land, rather than use it as part of the mitigation plan for the expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
“It shouldn’t be used for other purposes other than what it was bought for,” Via said.
County Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller), speaking as a member of the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC), asked Frederick and the Board to undertake an effort to encourage rainwater harvesting, and provide a standard set of procedures for builders wishing to implement such systems on their property. She expressed a desire for a joint meeting between the RWSA and the RRBC to discuss the topic further.


The RWSA also directed a consultant to evaluate a new design for the proposed upgrade to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment plant, which, if approved, would add an extra $2 million to the approximately $40 million budget for the project.

State water regulations passed in 2005 require water treatment facilities to reduce nitrogen levels to 6 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or lower, with an incentive program allowing facilities with lower nitrogen levels to sell credits to other facilities and jurisdictions who are unable to meet the regulation.

Hazen and Sawyer, an engineering firm hired by the RWSA to design the upgraded plant, had estimated the current nitrogen levels at 25 (mg/L). The firm recommended the RWSA aim to reduce levels to 5 mg/L and increase revenue by selling credits. Unfortunately, further study authorized by the RWSA in January has revealed that the current nitrogen levels are approximately 30 mg/L, and the treatment methods as designed would not be able to reduce 30 mg/L to even the 6 mg/L required by law.

Hazen and Sawyer presented three design alternatives. Option 1 would cost $108,000 and would add extra filtering capacity with six tertiary filters to bring nitrogen levels down to 6 mg/L. Option 2 would build an additional aeration basins at a cost of $3.4 million. Option 3 would add 2 more tertiary filters, and bring nitrogen levels down to 5 mg/L as originally planned, allowing the RWSA to earn between $50,000 and $75,000 a year through the sale of credits. This option would cost $2 million.

Frederick recommended Option 3 in part because it would qualify for funding from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)’s Water Quality Improvement Fund, which would reimburse the RWSA for 60% of the total $2 million bill as long as it did not go significantly above budget. He also said the extra filters would be consistent with a planned expansion of the Moores Creek facility by 2022.

Frederick also said DEQ’s water quality regulations continue to evolve, and the state could create more stringent requirements at a later date. Frederick did admit that there was no way to determine what future limits could be enacted, and another member of staff answered a question from Gary O’Connell by identifying California and Florida as states with requirements of fewer than 1 mg/L.

The RWSA voted unanimously to allocate approximately $82,000 for Hazen and Sawyer to revise their design, $49,200 of which will be reimbursed by the DEQ. The Board reserved the right to review the changes, and decide on a final course of action after there was a clearer indication of how close the total cost would come to the estimate of $2 million.

Watch the video:


  • 1:49 - Report from RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick
  • 5:21 - Public hearing comment from landowner John Via, who sold land to the RWSA for the once-planned Bucks Mountain Reservoir"
  • 6:00 - Public hearing comment from Rich Collins
  • 9:44 - Public hearing comment from Hawes Spencer, who asked why the RWSA Board has not taken a look at the alternative plan suggested by Kevin Lynch and other members of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 10:44 - Public hearing comment from Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller), who serves as chair of the Rivanna River Basin
  • 12:56 - Public hearing comment from Betty Mooney of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 16:30 - Public hearing comment from Kevin Lynch Betty of Citizens for a Sustainable Water
  • 20:42 - Public hearing comment from Pat Enright of Dominion Development Resources LLC
  • 22:50 - RWSA considers and approves consent agenda
  • 23:30 - RWSA officials receive 2007 Excellence in Granular Media Filter Water Treatment Plant Performance, Bronze Award
  • 24:30 - RWSA receives an update from Tom Frederick on the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade
  • 45:16 - RWSA considers the RFP for maintenance dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

Ben Doernberg


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