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November 06, 2008

ACSA also wants meeting with City Council to discuss water supply plan

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ACSA Members John Martin (left) and Don Wagner (right)

The Albemarle County Service Authority’s Board of Directors has discussed the desire by the Charlottesville City Council to expand the review of the adopted community water supply plan to include all major components of the plan. In September, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s (RWSA) Board announced that the estimate for the new Ragged Mountain Dam more than doubled after additional drilling revealed that the bedrock on which the foundation is to be built was fractured.  The RWSA is expected to sign off soon on a scope of work for an independent panel of experts being convened to review cost estimates, geotechnical findings, and foundation design.

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The higher cost estimate gave new ammunition for opponents of the adopted plan, who would prefer to see the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir dredged to restore its original storage capacity before a new dam is built. The group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan successfully lobbied several Charlottesville neighborhood associations to support a resolution calling for design and engineering work on the dam to stop until it can be proven that “the construction of a such new dam and pipeline is less expensive and less environmentally destructive than dredging.”

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors discussed Council’s proposal on Wednesday, November 5, 2008. The ACSA’s Board of Directors made their comments when a scheduled strategic planning session the next day was extended to include regular business.

Chairman Don Wagner said he was unclear after watching City Council’s discussion about what Council wanted.  He said the document contained many elements that will eventually need to be done, but he expressed the concern that the way it is written is designed to delay the project.

Liz Palmer (Samuel Miller) called the proposal “problematic” and said it was a good idea for the four boards to meet together to discuss the next steps. “

“I think communication has been inadequate up to this point and I would love to see that meeting take place so we can clear up these things,” Palmer said. “There’s a lot of information out there that is incorrect.”

John Martin (White Hall) said he thought the adopted plan has been subjected to extensive study and citizen review. He said the City has not fully explained why they feel additional review of items such as demand analysis is necessary. RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick told the Board of Supervisors the additional studies would cost at least $750,000, possibly more.

“One would expect for any governmental body proposing these kinds of expenditures and this kind of delay to publish together with this proposal some sort of document stating the facts as to why this was necessary,” Martin said. “Generally people who have followed this matter realize that the City Council has been subject to a lot of citizen criticism and the City Council  may think there are some defects of some kind in the prior analyses that were done but there is no document that explains factually what that thinking is.”

Jim Colbaugh (Scottsville) said many of the things in the proposal will have to be done at some point, such as the dam design review panel.  He said the ACSA has been working on conservation, and suggested efforts be made to work more closely with the City to develop a plan. But, Colbaugh said he objected to holding up the entire project.

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ACSA Members Liz Palmer (left) and Robert Humprhis (right)

Robert Humprhis (Jack Jouett) said he wanted more information on what deadlines have to be met to satisfy state dam safety regulations.  He also said he believed dredging alone would not satisfy the community’s 50-year water supply needs.

“[The City’s proposal] would throw a monkey wrench in the whole system,” Humphris said.

The ACSA Board agreed to not take any action but to wait until a joint meeting with Council can be held. The time and location for that meeting has not yet been determined.

Sean Tubbs

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