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December 29, 2011

RWSA authorizes construction contract for new dam

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority voted Wednesday to authorize its executive director to sign a $21.5 million contract to build a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, pending resolution of several loose ends.

“The board authorized me to issue a ‘notice of award’ to Thalle Construction when the contingent items are completed,” Frederick said.

Raggedhome_photo3
Source: RWSA

These include ratification of a cost-share agreement between the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County; approval by the City Council of a land-use agreement allowing the RWSA to build the dam on land owned by the city; and for the Virginia Department of Transportation to complete a review of changes needed to an embankment where the reservoir meets Interstate 64.

The RWSA must also finalize two property acquisitions on adjacent properties.

In December, the city and the Albemarle County Service Authority announced details of an agreement in which the county would pay for 85 percent of the dam construction costs.

The council will not hold a public hearing on the cost-share agreement until Jan. 17, according to City Manager Maurice Jones. The Albemarle County Service Authority will consider the agreement at its meeting in mid-January.


If all of the items are resolved, Frederick said Thalle’s crews could begin work as early as March.

“Starting construction in March is pretty important because that optimizes the length of the contract by using periods of favorable weather,” Frederick said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also said Wednesday that the RWSA will not have to wait for federal approval of a modified permit originally granted in June 2008.

“This modification for us is pretty minor,” said Vincent Pero, an environmental scientist with the Corp’s Charlottesville office.

Members of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan had asked the Corps to terminate the permit because they argued that dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir would be the least environmentally damaging approach.

Pero said the Corps considered this request but decided not to conduct a full review.

“We felt we had covered the dredging alternative and it was not viable,” Pero said. “We didn’t agree that dredging can get the water yield that [the RWSA] needs without it being environmentally damaging.”

Pero said the Corps was mainly concerned about where material dredged from the reservoir would be disposed. 

Document modification 

The RWSA board also voted to spend an additional $24,000 to pay Schnabel to modify construction documents to reflect changes to the construction proposal that were made during the cost-share negotiations.

The existing bid is for an earthen dam that would raise the reservoir level 30 feet.

The final cost-sharing agreement now calls for construction of the full-height dam, but initially raising the reservoir pool to only 30 feet until a specific water use trigger is met.

“Because the dam’s foundation is already designed for a future height of 42 feet, we can make the necessary modifications after the necessary approvals are reached, or when directed by the RWSA board,” Frederick said.

Work to amend the contract will not begin until after the city and county approve the cost-share agreement. 

$201 million CIP proposed 

At the meeting, Frederick also unveiled a $201 million capital improvement program.

Water infrastructure projects such as the dam make up less than a quarter of that amount.

Under the proposed CIP, $6 million will be spent on design and engineering services for the new dam, $26.9 million to cover the construction of the dam, $3.3 million for projects to mitigate its impact, and $3.5 million to contribute toward a public-private partnership to dredge the South Fork Rivanna reservoir.

The CIP also anticipates spending $2.3 million over the next five years to identify a corridor and purchase right-of-way for a bi-directional pipeline to connect the South Fork and Ragged Mountain Reservoirs.

Other projects, such as an upgrade to the Observatory Water Treatment Plant, have been deferred.

“Obtaining additional water supply storage in the reservoir at Ragged Mountain does provide us a safety net that limits the adverse consequences of deferring some other projects,” Frederick said.

The RWSA board did not take action on the CIP and is not expected to vote on it before its meeting in late February.

 

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