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October 26, 2011

RWSA to advertise bids for new Ragged Mountain dam

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday. October 26, 2011

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority will advertise construction bids for firms to build an earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

"I think it's very important that we go to bid because of the climate for construction prices and to get this in as low a price as we possibly can," said Michael Gaffney, the chair of the RWSA.

The RWSA will advertise for bids on Tuesday and they will be opened on Dec. 8. An award could be made as early as the board's December meeting.

A total of 15 firms have applied to be pre-qualified for the process. Schnabel Engineering, the firm that designed the dam, will review the bids.

However, the project will not proceed to its next step until Charlottesville and Albemarle County agree on the percentage each jurisdiction will contribute towards the cost of the dam, as well as other components that would add to urban water storage and maintain the existing distribution system.

"I think everyone would like to see a cost-share allocation before we award a contract," said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the RWSA.

In February, the City Council agreed in a 3-2 vote to build the earthen dam downstream of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir's 1908 concrete dam with an initial pool rise of 30 feet.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20111025-RWSA

 

Cost estimates for the construction range from $18.3 million to $22.3 million, according to Chris Webster, an engineer with Schnabel.

The Albemarle County Service Authority paid nearly $900,000 to design that first phase, as well as a second phase that would bring the total rise to 42 feet.

The city and county have yet to reach agreement on the cost-share allocation, but negotiations continue.

"We're actively working on a proposal and think we're in agreement on a number of points, and we have some things to figure out," said Gary B. O'Connell, the executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority.

"We've been going back and forth with negotiations and I think those are going to speed up in the next couple of weeks," said City Manager Maurice Jones.

A proponent of the dam welcomed the RWSA's decision.

"I think it's outstanding and I'm glad its going forward, but I wish it was for a dam of the full height to support a 42-foot pool," said John Martin, a former member of the ACSA.

The State Water Control Board will decide at its meeting on Dec. 14 whether to grant a permit modification allowing for the construction of the earthen dam. The original permit, granted in February 2008, is for a concrete dam.

Rebecca Quinn of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said her group will continue to lobby the SWCB to terminate the existing permit.

"[Our complaint] is based on new information that, had it been made available, would have resulted in a different decision," Quinn said in an interview.

Specifically, Quinn said per capita water consumption is much lower than that projected by studies used to formulate the community water supply plan. She also said a new demand forecast conducted as part of a state-mandated regional water planning process backed up her group's claim.

The RWSA also approved an additional $50,000 to prepare a request for proposals for a partial dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The city agreed in September to pay $50,000 for HDR Engineering to write and implement an RFP.

In other news from Tuesday's meeting, Frederick reported that recent infrastructure investments made by the RWSA helped to contain large stormwater flows during heavy rainfall earlier this month.

The agency recorded as much as 5.3 inches of rain during a three-day period, resulting in 31.2 million gallons of wastewater flowing into the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on Oct. 13. Heavy storms drive water into the sewer system, which normally is a separate system.

"The one location where sewer overflows were found was along the Rivanna Interceptor near the Rivanna Pump Station," Frederick said. "We still have a bottleneck there that needs to be corrected.

The RWSA has to decide by Dec. 31 which of three options for the station will be selected to comply with a consent decree entered into with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

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