By Sean Tubbs
Saturday, February 26, 2011
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has accepted the Charlottesville City Council’s support for building a new Ragged Mountain Dam in two phases, with an initial pool rise of 30 feet.
“I know we all have a stated preference for a dam that would be built to accommodate a 42-foot pool,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker. “But I think [councilors] are strongly stuck on not taking the dam higher than it is necessary in its first build.”
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Rooker said it was time to compromise in order to move the community water supply plan forward.
“And I think part of moving forward expeditiously is to eliminate dangling issues and close those issues so that the community knows we have an agreement,” he said.
Supervisors voted 5-1 to direct staff to prepare a resolution that would both thank the council for its action and adopt the 30-foot pool rise as the board’s official position.
Supervisor Kenneth Boyd was the lone vote against the direction.
“This is the most impractical approach,” Boyd said. “It doesn’t make any sense financially, it doesn’t make sense environmentally. I don’t know what the city’s problem is with building a 42-foot dam.”
Representatives from Schnabel Engineering told the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board in January that an earthen dam could be phased, but that 99 percent of the cost of the full-height dam would be spent on the first 30-foot increase. Cost estimates for the dam range between $24.8 million and $28.4 million. Building the second phase would result in a final cost that is 108 percent of doing the project all at once, an additional $1.45 million to $1.77 million.
The cost of the full water plan, which includes a new pipeline and other components to accompany a new dam, is estimated at some $140 million.
Rooker said he agreed and understood Boyd’s opinion, but insisting on a taller dam would jeopardize the entire plan.
“It is abundantly clear to me that they would not get three votes to build a dam to accommodate a 42-foot pool,” Rooker said.
“They don’t think that even given the county’s projected needs that the dam is going to have to be increased in the next 50 years,” Rooker said. “What they don’t want to do is build a higher dam and have a huge amount of cleared area that may never be needed.”
But Boyd said he was upset that the county had to constantly accommodate the city’s positions, which he said delayed projects like the Meadowcreek Parkway.
“Everything we do we seems to have to kowtow to what the City Council likes to do because we can’t get enough votes,” Boyd said. “Well, I’m tired of it and I think our citizens are tired of it, too.”
Rooker said the resolution should explain that the board wants objective criteria to serve as a “trigger” to proceed with the second phase.
County Executive Thomas Foley said he understood.
“You are looking for some kind of a condition that would say this is not a legislative decision to go back to the City Council about the extra 12 feet,” Foley said. “Your condition on doing the 30-foot [pool rise] is that there is some kind of guarantee [for a second phase].”
Supervisors will vote on the resolution at their meeting Wednesday.
Supervisor Duane Snow said he wanted to proceed with the full height, but was willing to compromise.
“By doing it [all] now, it would save a lot of money,” Snow said. “But if this is what it takes to move this thing forward, then so be it.”