RWSA Board told search for firm to conduct dredging study will wait for feedback from new task force
At the July 28, 2008 meeting of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA), proponents of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir expressed their opposition to the Board’s decision to postpone the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking a consultant to conduct a dredging study. Statements made by members of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan accused the Board of misleading the public and not following state laws governing the Authority’s responsibilities for maintaining the water supply.
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At their previous meeting , the RWSA Board voted to follow a joint directive from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council to investigate the possibility of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The resolution adopted by the Board called for the creation of a task force to determine the needs and goals of dredging the reservoir, as well as the simultaneous issuance of what was later called a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find a consulting firm with relevant dredging experience and qualifications. The resolution set a deadline of July 4 for the creation of the task force, and July 9 for the RFQ.
The group charged with creating the task force met on June 30, 2008 and consisted of Mayor Dave Norris representing Charlottesville City Council, Ken Boyd representing the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Don Wagner representing the Albemarle County Service Authority, and Mike Gaffney representing the RWSA. Tom Frederick, Executive Director of the RWSA, polled the RWSA Board between its June and July meetings, and reported that they had unanimously agreed to wait for the task force’s results before going ahead with the RFP. The task force membership is still being finalized, and the group will now consist of 13 members. Two changes to the composition have been made since the June meeting: the Rivanna River Basin Commission and the Nature Conservancy will now each have a representative, instead of sharing one; and the Sierra Club has been given a spot on the task force as well. The date of the task force’s first meeting has not yet been set, although Frederick set a target of mid-August.
Betty Mooney, representing Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
Betty Mooney of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan began her statement by repeating her request that the RWSA meetings be rescheduled for a time more conducive to public attendance by those who work during the day. She also criticized the RWSA’s policy of not responding to questions asked during the public comment period of the meeting. “[This is] not just a request, I want to make it more than a request, that any individual who comes before you receives some sort of response,” said Mooney.
She then read a statement written by former City Councilor Kevin Lynch, who was unable to attend. Lynch applauded the City’s efforts to encourage increased water efficiency, citing their newly announced partnership with the EPA’s WaterSense conservation program, but asked, “What is Rivanna doing?” Lynch argued that a section of the state’s water regulations require the RWSA to consider the effects of greater conservation when estimating future water supply needs, and said that he saw “no evidence” of compliance with this requirement. Lynch also repeated his contention that the RWSA’s references to a community water supply “plan” are incorrect, because a formal plan has not been filed with the state. Mooney asked the RWSA Board, “When will Rivanna stop trying to mislead the public and start following the requirements of the state water planning law which was passed into law over two years ago?”
In May 2008, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) wrote a letter to Lynch and Mooney stating that Charlottesville, Albemarle, and the RWSA actually had until November 2011 to submit a water supply plan to comply with state regulations. In 2007-08, RWSA has been seeking and receiving approval for permit applications related to the components of the 50-year community water supply plan. “Much of the work submitted for the permit application is likely to be adequate to comply with planning requirements,” said DEQ.
Frederick advised the Board the staff might go over their budget for legal services this year by as much as $10,000 due to an increase in the number and complexity of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to the dredging controversy. This organization takes the issue of the people’s right to know very, very seriously….We will do whatever we need and is necessary to ensure the public is informed,” said Frederick. “Over the past four months there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Freedom of Information Act requests; in particular, requests are sometimes very very broad in scope, cover many many years of files, including files that this organization has placed in the archives, and in some cases the requests are written in a complex manner that requires considerable legal consultation.”
Frederick suggested that citizens seeking information could first meet with RWSA staff before filing a FOIA request, so that staff can answer questions and explain what would be involved in satisfying the request. Frederick also said that the RWSA’s legal advisors were examining the possibility of getting reimbursed by those making “complex requests requiring significant expense.”
Frederick notified the board that he had authorized an extension for the coaches of the UVA rowing team to continue using gas powered boats at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir for another year, with the understanding that the Athletic Department is researching the transition to electric powered boats.
Lonnie Wood, Director of Finance and Administration, also detailed a series of fraudulent checks issued as if from the RWSA that were traced to Canada. Wood assured the Board that none of the checks had been successfully cashed, and that as far as he was aware, the fraud was no longer ongoing.
Finally, the Board voted to cancel their August meeting, citing a lack of topics needing to be addressed. Their next meeting will be in September.
Ben Doernberg & Brian Wheeler