By Sean Tubbs
Thursday, July 30, 2009
At their meeting on July 28, 2009, the Board of Directors for the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority was updated on the implementation of the 50-year community water supply plan, and heard the results of a study to determine whether a larger diameter pipeline called for in the plan would allow for a reduction in height of the new Ragged Mountain Dam.
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Board receives updates on water supply plan
The 50-year community water supply plan adopted by the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in June 2006 established a requirement that the water supply be able to maintain a safe-yield of 18.7 million gallons a day (MGD) by the year 2055. That is the daily amount that could be safely be taken from the water supply while ensuring a reserve large enough to provide drinking water during the worst drought on public record.
The plan, which has received permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, would meet the 2055 demand by expanding the Ragged Mountain Reservoir to a total storage capacity of 2.19 billion gallons. Currently the reservoir holds 464 million gallons. The new dam would need to be 45 feet higher in order to create the necessary storage. The Ragged Mountain Reservoir would be filled via a new pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.
However, the plan has been come under fire from some in the community who for various reasons would prefer to increase the system’s water capacity by dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to its original capacity. Since the fall of 2007, members of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan have put pressure on the Charlottesville City Council to reconsider the adopted plan.
Councilors and Supervisors both reaffirmed the plan in June of 2008, but not without reopening negotiations about some of the elements of the plan. In March 2008, City Council and the Board of Supervisors held a joint meeting with the RWSA and Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) boards at which it was decided that additional information was needed to provide better cost estimates to determine if dredging met the community’s needs while remaining cost-effective.
At their retreat in June, RWSA Board members requested a status update on the efforts to obtain the additional data on the elements of the community water supply plan. Frederick provided the following updates at the July meeting of the RWSA Board.
- Firms have until August 4 to submit a bid for the redesign of the new Ragged Mountain Dam. The RWSA terminated its contract with original designer Gannett Fleming after the cost estimates on the dam approached $100 million. A revised cost estimate for the new dam is expected to be ready in Spring 2010.
- Two firms who submitted proposals for a dredging feasibility study will be interviewed on August 3, 2009 at the Albemarle County Service Authority’s headquarters. The RWSA is expected to make a decision at its meeting on August 25, 2009.
- Four firms have submitted proposals to review the conceptual design for the pipeline between the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. The RWSA Board gave Tom Frederick the power to select a firm to conduct the study, but it cannot spend more than $25,000 on the project. The study is expected to be finished by the end of this year.
- RWSA staff will create a table listing the pros and cons of three pipelines to fuel the community’s water supply. These are the South Fork pipeline, a pipeline from the James River and a replacement of the existing Sugar Hollow pipeline. This table will be ready after the review of SFRR to RMR pipeline is completed.
During the public comment period, Betty Mooney of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said the RWSA staff was misrepresenting the wishes of City Council in the way the dredging feasibility study is being characterized.
“The City is paying for studies not for opportunistic dredging or for selective dredging or for recreational dredging, but for full restorative dredging to possibly be part of the long-term solution for our 50-year water supply plan,” Mooney said. “The City has clearly said they want the dredging information to make a cost comparison to the dam-pipeline concept and that is why they are paying for a large part of the study.” Mooney said one of the proposals makes no references to restorative dredging. City Councilor Holly Edwards now represents Council on the RWSA Board.
Mooney also called upon the RWSA to revisit the demand analysis conducted in 2004 by Gannett Fleming that established the safe-yield target of 18.7 MGD for 2055. She and other members of her group argue that the community will need less water in the future because of better technology and education about water conservation.
Bigger South Fork pipeline won’t decrease necessary size for new Ragged Mountain dam
At the March 2008 meeting of the four boards, Mayor Dave Norris asked for a study to be conducted to determine if the size of the new Ragged Mountain Dam could be lowered if a larger diameter pipeline could be installed to connect the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. The theory was that the community could have enough water supply to withstand a drought if the Ragged Mountain Reservoir could be filled more quickly.
The RWSA hired Hydrologics, a water resource management firm based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, to study the issue. Their engineers conducted a series of simulations in which different pipeline sizes were tested using the same meteorological and hydrological data from previous droughts. They concluded that diameter of the pipeline would have no bearing on the necessary storage needed in the entire water supply system to meet the projected safe yield demand of 18.7 million gallons a day in 2055.
Dede Smith of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan accused the RWSA of doctoring the report, claiming that they had issued a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain correspondence between RWSA officials and Hydrologics. Tamara Ambler, Water Resources Manager for the RWSA, explained that the document was edited to make it more clear to the public.
“I can guarantee you that no factual changes were made,” Ambler said. “I’m not an engineer and one of the things that I think is important given public scrutiny is that we make sure that reports written by engineers can be understood by people who are not engineers.”
Other news from the meeting:
- Leslie Middleton, Executive Director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission, called upon the RWSA to sign a letter asking Governor Tim Kaine to clear up the state’s rules on the use of rainwater harvesting and other gray waters. She said several other area organizations have endorsed the letter, which asks for a clarification of the rules. Frederick said he would have an answer for Middleton by the end of this week.
- Frederick said the risk for drought is currently low. The pool at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir is temporarily being drawn down by 3 feet to prepare for hurricane season to reduce the risk of the dams failing.
- Faulconer Construction has agreed to work with RWSA to make sure work on Schnenks’ Branch Interceptor coincides with construction of McIntire Road Extended. This way work doesn’t have to be done twice
- New estimate for the Meadowcreek sewer interceptor project is $30.2 million
- The Board allocated $75,000 to match a grant from the Water Research Foundation to upgrade water treatment process at Scottsville and South Rivanna water treatment plantsTIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
- 01:00 – Meeting called to order by Chairman Mike Gaffney
- 02:50 – Report from Executive Director Tom Frederick
- 04:10 – Frederick details updates to the community water supply plan
- 06:30 – Frederick discusses Hydrologics study on diameter of South Fork pipeline
- 07:45 – Frederick begins conversation on developing the Capital Improvement Program
- 09:20 – Frederick updates Board on streamflows
- 11:20 – Albemarle County Supervisor Sally Thomas asks when cost allocation regarding dredging feasibility study will be worked out
- 12:30 – Public comment from City resident Betty Mooney
- 19:22 – Public comment from City resident Dede Smith
- 22:20 – Tom Frederick responds to Dede Smith’s accusation of fraud
- 25:00 – Public comment from County resident Richard Lloyd regarding legality of “four chairs”
- 28:00 – Public comment from Hawes Spencer, publisher of the Hook
- 31:30 – Public comment from John Martin of Friends of the Moormans River and ACSA Board Member
- 35:00 – Public comment from Leslie Middleton, Executive Director of the Rivanna River Basin Commission
- 38:30 - Thomas asks what progress is being made towards the Comprehensive Sanitary Sewer Interceptor
- 39:30 – Thomas asks question about Route 29 Pipeline being designed by RWSA to connect South Fork and North Fork water treatment plants
- 42:00 – Thomas talks about the importance of linking infrastructure availability to land use decisions made by the Board of Supervisors
- 45:50 – Frederick updates Board on negotiations with VDOT and Faulconer Construction regarding coordination of Schenk’s Branch Interceptor work with Meadowcreek Parkway
- 48:15 – ACSA Executive Gary Fern asks questions about issuance of bonds to pay for Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment upgrades
- 49:20 – Christopher Kulp of Hunton & Williams explains the conditions of the bond package
- 52:30 – RWSA Operations Director Bob Wichser explains the $75,000 grant being applied for from the Water Research Foundation to upgrade water treatment process at Crozet and Scottsville plants
- 59:30 – RWSA’s Tamara Ambler begins discussing Hydrologics report
- 1:03:00 – RWSA receives award from the Virginia Department of Health
- 1:05:30 – Thomas encourages RWSA to endorse letter as requested by Leslie Middleton
- 1:07:00 – City Councilor Holly Edwards requests RWSA to be consistent in its responses to matters that come from the public