By Sean Tubbs
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The League of Women Voters of Charlottesville/Albemarle held a forum Tuesday to explain how they reached the decision to support the water supply plan adopted in 2006 by City Council and the Board of Supervisors.
The event was part of the League’s Treva Cromwell series, named after the woman who served as chair of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority during 1979-1986.
“[Cromwell] and others recognized the need for water supply planning because it was anticipated that the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, built in 1966, would have inadequate water storage by 2050,” said Lois Rochester, a past president of the League.
Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20101026-LWV-Forum
The League’s Natural Resources Committee long been involved in local water supply and watershed issues. Rochester said that in the 1980’s, the group supported a plan to build a new reservoir in the Buck Mountain area. However, that alternative was later dropped in part because federal regulators were concerned about the presence of the endangered Jamesriver spineymussel.
“They looked unfavorably on new reservoirs if other alternatives could be found,” Rochester said.
League member Liz Palmer (also a current member of the Albemarle County Service Authority board) explained at the forum that after the Buck Mountain decision, the RWSA restarted the process of identifying new water supply storage options. One proposal was to pump water via a new pipeline from the James River at Scottsville.
In 2005, the League joined an informal coalition called Drink Local Water to promote an alternative plan featuring a larger reservoir at Ragged Mountain and a new supply pipeline from South Fork. That option had the environmental benefit of returning natural streamflows to the Moormans River where water has been withdrawn since 1925 to supply Ragged Mountain.
City and county governments adopted that plan over the James River pipeline in June 2006, and it received federal and state permits in 2008.
However, a different City Council voted in September to amend the plan to add restorative dredging and to build a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir in phases. Doing so would require existing permits to be amended.
“DEQ’s bottom line is that any modification to permits would have to go through a full public notice and comment process again,” said former Mayor Kay Slaughter, who recently retired from the Southern Environmental Law Center. “And if they considered it a new project, you might have to restart the process.”
Slaughter said she only appeared at the League’s forum to explain the regulatory framework and not to weigh in on the plan. In an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow, she expressed continued support for the 2006 plan, but said it was up to city and county elected officials to come to an agreement.
“The city and county has worked together for years on [water supply planning] and I’m for finding the common ground and not exacerbating the conflict on either side,” Slaughter said. “I do think it is distressing that we’re still dealing with re-deciding these things. There’s always new information and I do agree that you need to adjust plan. But this is something that we need to decide on and move ahead.”
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
- 01:30 - Introduction from LWV Vice President Sue Friedman
- 17:40 - Liz Palmer discusses how the LWV worked on the adopted 2006 plan
- 27:00 - Bill Kittrell of the Nature Conservancy explains in-stream flows
- 37:45 - Kay Slaughter explains the regulations around permiting of water plans
- 50:00 - Sally Thomas updates the League on next steps