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November 04, 2011

City Council candidates on the water supply plan

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In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.

CITY COUNCIL, FIFTH IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comAre you planning to seek a new vote by the council on the previously approved 50-year water supply plan and how would you change the plan, if at all?


 

Scott Bandy (I) - Challenger

[N]o, I would not seek a new vote by the council if elected but I’m going to stipulate this, though--That does not mean that I am against dredging. The Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan have used that straw argument to further their agenda. I don’t understand why.

In June, … the RWSA, Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, [budgeted] funding to the tune of $3.25 million the avenue towards dredging. That’s a certainty in my mind right now. We’re not going to veer in any direction away from it. It’s going to happen. It’s been put in place. We’re moving towards that. What this has become now is a campaign against the dam.  I’m not necessarily for the dam. I’m certainly not for a 45-foot, 50-foot raise in the dam.

But what about water supply? I haven’t heard the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan saying that they will commit to supplying water. What if Mr. Fenwick and Ms. Smith are elected to the council? Well, it’s going to be there turn to see where the funds go. Are most of those funds that are going to be available, are they going to be put toward dredging? Certainly, I understand their interest. There is no doubt what their interest is.….

We need to move beyond the plan. You know. If we’re going to try to encourage more business to come to the city, as Mr. Fenwick said, if we’re going to be a business-friendly, enticing and welcoming city, aren’t we going to encourage perhaps industry and commerce that doesn’t necessarily conflict with the way we would like to see things done? If they need water, don’t we want to supply that so that we can entice them? Have them establish and put roots here for the jobs that it can provide the residential base of this town.…

There’s got to be some way to move beyond this impasse. That’s why I think from the very start this should have been a referendum…

 

Brandon Collins (I) - Challenger

I am.  I hope that, no matter who gets elected, that in January they will at least take a straw poll to see where people stand on the water supply plan.  If there’s support for changing the current plan, I would definitely be seeking an official vote and work towards getting to a place where we can take a much longer view and a much healthier approach where we consider conservation and use of existing resources as the norm. 

Which means dredging to meet our water needs, and when we have to revisit the plan 10 years from now we can reconsider the dam or not.  We may find that our demand has continued to go down as I think it will.  I think we can dredge now and we can consider damming much later in the future.  We are in no danger of running out of water.  By the [Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s] own admission, there will be times, no matter what happens, where restrictions because of drought will kick in and it doesn’t really matter what’s going on.  We are not in any danger in the near future of running out of water, we are not in any real danger of running out of water during a drought.  I think we should dredge and consider damming decades down the road.  I don’t think that’s a decision we need to make right now and it’s going to cost a lot of money if we move ahead with the dam….

 

Bob Fenwick (I) - Challenger

Yes, I would seek a new vote.  It’s pretty obvious at this point that the community water supply plan as pushed by the county and three city councilors is fatally flawed.  Every justification it was based on has changed from the demand which has plummeted because of every-day conservation measures and which is now a trend to supply.  We have much more water than we thought and we’ll have much more when we dredge and just as an aside, the county alone has five reservoirs, the biggest of which—Beaver Creek Reservoir—can hold over a billion gallons of water.  The design itself we all know last year changed overnight from a reinforced concrete dam to an earthen dam so it’s obvious nothing is set in stone and dredging has been shown not only to pay for itself, but to be a revenue stream for many years but selling the top soil sediment and composted marine vegetation mix just as Lowe’s sells it for $12.00 a cubic foot bagged.

Dredging improves the water quality, the recreational uses of the Rivanna Reservoir, the surrounding property values and is another untouched jobs machine. 

My priority would be to concentrate on dredging first and repairing the spillway at Ragged Mountain . If we need a dam, whether a new dam or the repair, the increase in height of the existing Ragged Mountain Dam, if we need that sometime in the future, so be it, but not now in the depths of a lingering recession that will take years to recover from.

 

Kathy Galvin (D) - Challenger

I’m not going to seek a new vote.  I believe that water plan is an important piece of infrastructure to support the 30 years of growth management that the county and city have been trying to do….

When you provide public water and sewer, you are saying this is where you want your growth to happen, and by providing a reservoir for that, you are saying that in the urban ring, and in the city, this is where we want most of that growth to occur—as well as in Crozet [which] has its own water supply, and Scottsville.  So, if we don’t provide adequate water for…these designated growth areas, we are setting ourselves up for what I call sprawl development into the rural areas of the county….

So I think that the water supply plan is really an important aspect of smart growth in the community, and it’s not talked about that way, but ultimately that’s what it’s trying to do, it’s trying to service that growth area.

 

Satyendra Huja (D) - Incumbent

No I am not seeking a new vote on the water system because I think we have a very good water plan which includes a new dam, a 30 foot [taller] dam, conservation, and part one of dredging.  The combination of this strategy I think will provide water for the future of our community.  As you know, water is one of the basic commodities we need to have for the future.  When you turn the water on you need water not hot air.

 

Dede Smith (D) - Challenger

I don’t think it’s necessary to look at this as seeking out a vote.  There will be a number of issues that this council has to vote on in the next months to year, and I don’t know what the timing will be on that.  I am well known as opposed to the current water supply plan.  I would vote according to my well established platform on this which is that city interests must be protected and city ratepayers must be protected. 

This issue crosses not only environmental issues, there is a social justice issue here about how much can our families—many of whom are struggling, more of whom are struggling than used to be—really how much more can we ask them to pay to support a plan that’s really not going to help them.  It’s those kind of issues.  There will be issues of giving up city resources.

Again, I do not support the fifty year water supply plan as it is now.  How would I change it?  I would want it to be more of a restoration-based, preservation-based, and conservation-based plan than it is now.  I think we absolutely need to maintain the resources we have, and that of course includes dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  I look forward to hearing the bids that come in in the next months hopefully, from outside markets, the market-based approach.

How would I change it?  I would try to get it to be more flexible, so that we can anticipate, or kind of a wait to see how population plays out, but more importantly how water use plays out.  So I am more for the flexible plan.  I supported not only dredging-based [plan], but the incremental increase [of the dam height] at Ragged Mountain Reservoir, not only in order to be able to adapt to changing times, but also so that the cost of the plan isn’t front-loaded onto our current ratepayers.

 

Andrew Williams (I) - Challenger

I am tired of talking about the water plan, I really am. Oh my God. The water plan was being talked about and discussed before I was born in 1986, so if I had the option as I said back in 2009, I would support dredging first. I don’t think that we need to throw a lot of money at the problem.

I think in some form there’s a lot of special interests involved with actually building the new dam, perhaps Nestle Corporation has something to do with that, but whatever the case, I would support a reasonable initiative to dredge, because I believe that it will be consistent with the idea of long-term sustainability due to the fact that we only need so much water, and I don’t understand why we need so much extra water, and I would question everyone who supports the water plan for what is their rationale for supporting  the plan when we really don’t need that volume.

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