RWSA sets aside $3.5 million to dredge South Fork Rivanna Reservoir
“[This] demonstrates that this board is serious about dredging,” said Maurice Jones, Charlottesville’s city manager, shortly before the board voted 6-0 on the matter. Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, was absent.
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In June 2010, the engineering firm HDR Engineering released the results of a feasibility study that recommended a two-part approach to dredging the reservoir. The first phase would dredge the upper reaches of the reservoir first because sediment there contains valuable sand.
HDR concluded the total cost of dredging the first section would range between $7.8 million and nearly $13 million. However, the report also calculated the potential revenues for the sand would range between $4.8 million and $9.5 million, leaving a gap for the RWSA to fund.
HDR also estimated that dredging only the upper portion of the reservoir would yield around 290,000 cubic yards of sediment, or 59 million gallons of water storage.
The second phase of dredging would involve dredging the middle of the reservoir. That would yield an additional 835,686 cubic yards of sediment, or 169 million gallons of water storage.
However, HDR estimated this second phase would cost between $26.3 million to $27.2 million. It also claimed the value of sediment from this section is far less valuable because it consists of clay and silt.
“Sand is very good for soil compaction in building projects, much more so than silt and clay because it doesn’t hold moisture,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the RWSA’s executive director. “That value can be capitalized by a contractor who understands how to market the material.”
In March, the RWSA board agreed to hire HDR to prepare a request for proposals to create a public-private partnership in order to perform the work. This method, which was authorized by the 2002 Public-Private Education Facilities Act, was chosen because it gives flexibility to contractors to decide how they would accomplish the task.
“It opens up all possibilities going this way, as opposed to telling [a contractor] this is how we want them to do the job,” said Mike Gaffney, chairman of the RWSA board.
The RWSA board on Tuesday also agreed to pay HDR $15,500 to interview as many as four contactors to gauge their willingness to take on the financial risk of dredging the reservoir.
“This would invite the contractors to review the feasibility study that was done, getting them to review the [public-private] guidelines so they understand what they’re being asked to do,” said Carey Burch, a senior project manager with HDR. “This type of procurement process puts a lot of the upfront risk and cost on the contractor.”
For instance, the resale value of the sediment could be much less than anticipated when dredging occurs. One question that will be asked of contractors is whether they will assume the financial risks.
“Part of this project will involve the ability to sell some sand that’s in the upper part of the reservoir,” said Roger Solomon, another senior project manager at HDR.
“The contract will have to decide who is able to reap the benefits of that sand. Is it the developer with the dredging contract, or is it the city?” Solomon asked. “He can sell it or use it for his own benefit … but what happens if the market for the sand disappears?”
Under the draft proposal made available for the board’s review, the contractor will be required to obtain all necessary permits to proceed, including agreements with private landowners for dewatering the sediment.
The draft RFP states that proposals can include dredging farther down the reservoir, and that proposals do not necessarily need to follow the recommendations made by HDR in its study.
Rebecca Quinn of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said she supports the board’s action, but questions the need to pay HDR for more consulting work.
“We’ve been asking for what we called a performance-based or market-driven approach,” Quinn said. “It’s sort of frustrating that if you have to rely on consultants it will cost a lot more.”
Quinn said she would prefer to see the work of preparing the RFP performed by city, county and RWSA staff.
The source of the $3.5 million in funding is so far unknown. The RWSA’s current Capital Improvement Program budget does not contain any funds for dredging.
Details of how the CIP will be amended will come at a later meeting. Finance Director Lonnie Wood said the RWSA will need to use cash reserves, increase debt, or take it directly from rates.
“All of these options will have an impact on the rates,” Wood said.
Water supply hearings
In other water supply news, two public hearings will be held by the RWSA in the coming months associated with the implementation of the community water supply plan.
One will be to answer questions involving emergency response planning maps that were sent to owners of more than 2,400 properties that would be under water in the event of a break in the new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
The second, requested by the Federal Highway Administration, is to take public input on the Interstate 64 embankment that will be strengthened to accommodate a larger reservoir.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will consider final approval of a special-use permit for the new dam at its meeting July 6.
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