Fish jump: but red herrings filleted at dredge test

news-dredgingfenwickatlochleigh"Somebody's gonna make a good living out of doing a company and offering this service," said Fenwick Friday.

After years of talk, someone has finally taken action on dredging a water body in Albemarle County. Only it wasn't a County citizen; it was Charlottesville resident and City Council candidate Bob Fenwick.

"This is not rocket science," said Fenwick September 4, on the shore of Loch Leigh, a private lake in the West Leigh subdivision. "This is engineering, and this is a basic application of mechanical equipment," he said.

A former member of the Army Corps of Engineers, the folks who oversee many of the world's biggest dredging operations, Fenwick has turned his sights to what might be the world's smallest dredging operation.

"This is what should have been done," said engineer-builder Fenwick, as he readied a four-horsepower, motorized pump, "and what will be done in the future."

Fenwick expressed hope that West Leigh residents might consider hydraulic dredging to restore their formerly emerald green lake, whose western end has lost at least an acre of surface area and become a distinctly chocolate-brown puddle.

Just after 10:15am Friday, Fenwick pulled the starter cord, and the dual-diaphragm Koshin mud pump–- $65/day from Central Virginia Rental–- hummed to life.

Instantly, opaque water glugged out of the end of a three-inch pipe. As mud settled at the base of a set of straw bales and plastic, cleaner water–- relatively, at least–- flowed back toward Loch Leigh.

"That, my friends, is dredging," Fenwick said triumphantly. "If you have auxillary pumps, you can pump a long way."

Fenwick said he wanted to show lake-losing neighborhoods how to prevent a safety hazard as mucky bio-materials create a potentially dangerous shoreline entrapment situation.

"This is as close to quicksand as Virginia has," said Fenwick. "If I were to walk out five feet, I'd probably get back, but I'd lose my shoes."

Fenwick's larger purpose was demonstrating the simplicity of dredging the Rivanna Reservoir, a 43-year-old water body that may eventually lose 80 percent of its capacity without a dredging operation. (Fenwick says dredging the Rivanna would require a larger device such as the Mud Cat brand of barge-mounted hydraulic dredges.)

"There are cutterheads," explained Fenwick, "that will take a stump that's been underwater for 43 years."

If he's right, that would destroy one of the arguments backers of the Nature Conservancy's competing water supply proposal have been using: that the stumps of the trees felled in 1966 for the reservoir would create an insurmountable obstacle.

Another potential obstacle mentioned Friday several times by one non-profit-based journalist was the alleged difficulty of gaining government permits.

"That's a red herring," says Richard Lloyd. Though not present at Friday's test, Lloyd is an engineer who has recently begun speaking out against the Conservancy's plan. Although it won support of both local governments, Lloyd believes the Conservancy's dam/pipeline scheme will end up costing over $200 million–- a prospect he contends would triple household water bills.

West Leigh resident, landscape business veteran, and candidate for County Supervisor Duane Snow learned about the test afterwards. Snow is on record supporting the Conservancy's controversial dam/pipeline water plan, but he said he welcomes the dredging test.

"I think it's great," said Snow, "because if someone can produce in the next few months evidence that it will give us the same amount of water–- which I don't think is possible–- then I would sign off on it."

Snow also likes something else that Fenwick said: that choosing a dredge consultant before getting the price may not be a brilliant idea. The local waterworks learned to its chagrin last month that, HDR, the dredge consulting firm that some were hoping to hire for around $275,000, now wants nearly $700,000. That's to study a reservoir whose volume was measured in 2002.

"People have an idea that as long as we're doing studies, then we're making progress," said an exasperated Snow. "If I operated my business like that, I'd be out of business."

Watching all the action was a gaggle of geese that alighted near the dredge site, shortly after a couple of fish made pirouettes above the water. Another viewer was well-known historian and radio host Coy Barefoot.

Barefoot, who lives along the shrinking lake, agreed to let his forested yard serve as the test site and filtering zone. He says he now can barely get his canoe in the water–- due to all the muck.

"My neighbors and I," said Barefoot, "are looking at a lake that's silting in, and I saw this as a good way to learn more about dredging as an option."


Don't look at me, I didn't vote for the chiropractor either! You're comparing apples and oranges, as the choice isn't between the two. One's a candidate, the other one isn't.

Your tactic of single-shotting Mr Fenwick, ignores the many important contributions already made by Mr Norris. That suggests to me that you have no gratitude or respect for the one official who has already been working really hard on both the Water Plan and MCP for quite a while now, in favor of someone entirely unproven.

My personal preference is that I would never vote for any candidate who has a website consisting of ranting. As a contrast, take a look at the website for the pro-dredging folks. It's much more even-toned, informative, and professional.

Agreed. If Kleeman were running, I'd vote for him. He's incredibly smart, and can defend his position without resorting to exaggerating about others. Most important: he already has a lengthy track record of community service. With Peter, what you see is what you get.

Re Fenwick: I believe that if someone seems that wacky before they're elected, god only know what they'll do after they're elected. He's a complete wild card, and a vote for him is based on wishful thinking, nothing more.

So glad Mr. Fenwick recently printed up the "Army Engineer" T'shirt, otherwise I would just figure he was a City Council Candidate who was having trouble being noticed. Glad he has the van down by the river that get's us to his website.

One commenter asked very simply, "what did he do with the dredged material?" That is a serious question that has to be answered before dredging can be pursued, and can't be answered until we know what is IN the dredged material, in terms of pollutants that have entered the reservior through discharges or through atmospheric deposition. Probably the Nature Conservancy has factored this into their support of the dam/pipeline plan, but other commenters seem to ignore it. Keep in mind -- the same mercury emissions (and other toxic heavy metals) from upwind coal-fired power plants in the Ohio River Valley that have fouled Virginia's streams to the point that wild trout should not be frequently eaten have been settling for years into the reservoir's sediment, and stirring that up througb dredging may have severe impacts on water quality. We need to know the extent of the sediment's contamination before we put those pollutants back in circulation, and that's an environmental quality/public health question, not an engineering question that the Army Corps of Engineers has expetise in addressing.

What did he do with the material he dredged from the pond?

quote: "Since neither has an amazingly stunning political resume, why would anyone ever support Simple Szakos over Fenwick?"

Because the city is Democratic, and the Democrats pretty much hand select who they want in office. It shocked quite a few citizens after Baird and Talioferro were tossed aside like yesterday's trash when Brown and Szakos hitched their wagons to Norris in the Democratic nominations held not long ago.

was our do nothing except spend on consultants sally thomas there to witness this marvel of engineering or was she out getting a consultant to study mr.fenwick's rental equipment? its ironic this took place in her own neighborhood. it has become obvious her decision making process has declined in recent months. her retirement from the board is overdue.

What else do we know about Fenwick? Where does he stand on anything else? There are a lot of people in this area who aren't doing too well at the moment. Does Fenwick have any experience or skills to deal with that? Is he, as I suspect, actually a Republican who would throw any non-dredging or infrastructure related issue under the bus?

For me, and I know for many others, character is important when casting a vote. There have been plenty of people who have served on Council (and who shall remain nameless here) who had impressive career credentials. Yet it turned out that they were for sale to the highest bidder, shills for the Chamber of Commerce, or mean people who hold a grudge. Kevin Lynch is an engineer, and really smart guy, but made some really bad decisions while on Council.

I see the grandstanding, insults, and hyperbole from Fenwick, and turn off to the message. We've already gone through periods of having grandstanders on Council, with all the condescension and ugly close-minded attitudes that invariably go along with that. So until I see something more compelling from him, no thanks.

Szakos is simply hitching her wagon to Norris.

Fenwick at least seems interested in proposing creative solutions/getting off his arse to get things done.

Since neither has an amazingly stunning political resume, why would anyone ever support Simple Szakos over Fenwick?

Isn't it time to elect someone who understands infrastructure, and I'm not referring to clocks, my vote goes to Fenwick. Maybe we'll finally elect someone who understands the concept of maintain and repair before buying more new stuff that the citizens have to pay for.

@Waiting for an answer: This is part of an old Hook story:

How safe is the dirt?

One of the frequently stated objections to dredging the Rivanna Reservoir is that hazardous materials may be lurking in the muck. However, the 2004 study did-- at least partially-- address that concern.

The study examined three samples from the Reservoir's bottom and found 25.3 mg/kg of lead in the sediment. If that sounds scary, it's actually lower, according to the EPA, than is typically found in nature, and it's far below the 500 mg/kg level that triggers warnings for playgrounds and households.

As for other so-called heavy metals-- arsenic, silver, selenium, and mercury-- each tested "below quantifiable measurements" in most or all Rivanna Reservoir samples. In other words, there just weren't enough of these toxic substances to register on the instruments.

plaid pants, To tell you the truth, I'm voting for him because he will support dredging and save the park. Those two issues are the most concerning in causing the ruination of Charlottesville. Szakos will NOT stop the road or the Y.
As far as the other issues go, don't worry, in this liberal town the handouts will continue and also the black on black crime will continue. Why? Because the majority on council are clueless. All they can effectively do is order studies, spend money, and instruct the police and courts to go easy on the juvinile thugs and area lazies who beg for my dime.

For those who believe I protest too much. I did not say that a problem with the Schenks's Branch Pipe exists, only that the City may not be the cause of the overflow problem, and therefore who will pay for whatever is done is a question that needs to be answered. Also, are there other alternatives besides tearing up the park to build a new pipe.

Betty, you make perfect sense. Mr. Fenwick offers more hope than any other candidate for pro dredgers and anti Parkway people. I like Kleeman too, but he isn't running and he won't be elected this time around. The Democrats who desire certain results had better realize fast, it ain't gonna happen with Szakos.Szakos will merely tag along and that is all. Smart Dems will vote for Fenwick or they will find themselves crying later.

sorry meant --I did not say that a problem with the Schenk's Branch pipe does not exist--


I am in agreement with you but please include all of City Council! The Community Water Plan will never be voted on. It is paid from the water bills not taxes. City Council and teh Supers are the ONLY way to stop the utility bills from going out to recover $200 Million of senseless expenses.

well I guess you wouldn't be dredging. You'd be fired!

Apples and oranges comparison....comical.

Many people have no idea what dredging is. I applaud Mr. Fenwick for his initiative in showing the community that this is not an impossible process.

For those who have no idea what the van comment is about, it's easy to find Mr. Fenwick's website. Give it a look.

Norris is OK, that passes for great around here, but I'm not particularly impressed. Szakos seems fairly lame in general. She campaigned for Obama, great, so what. I've seen little else that she has said or done that would make me or a majority of other people vote for her other than for the fact that she is one of the chosen two as far as the Democratic party goes.

Single shotting for Fenwick most likely gives us Norris, which is an alright outcome. Along with him, we will have someone who actually has some knowledge about how things work in the real world (and some balls which our entire council currently lacks!). That's a more than alright outcome.

Usually simple solutions solve problems. Mr. Fenwick is correct, this is not rocket science.

get em' Fenwick!

Even if a new lake is needed Fenwick's experience will be needed

great shirt for a political ad for the current issues!

I have spoken extensively with Mr. Fenwick and find him to be an extremely knowledgeable and sincere individual with an in depth knowledge of infrastructure, an area that could certainly use attention in the city. I believe his positions on the water issue and parkway are to be trusted.

Anyone listen to City Council last night ? You would have heard that the city staff told Council that the sewer line must be upgraded, i.e replaced, through McIntire Park, because of overflow conditions. My own research on the dredging issue has proven to me one should never take staff at their word. I believe we desperately need someone like Mr. Fenwick on Council who will rant when needed, and not be bulldozed into destroying what we have and building something new, as the only alternative, whether it be our dams,or sewer pipes.

What will this cost and who will pay for it? Throughout the summer I have read small town newspapers from Washington Va., in Rappahannock County, Front Royal Va., Berkley Springs W.Va., all burdened by costly upgrades to their water and sewer systems and some in the middle of law suits over who will pay. The days of build it and let the ratepayers pay whatever the cost should be over, and the first words out of our officials mouths when they hear staff say something old should be abandon and something new built in it's place is --what will this cost and can the dam, pipe, or any other infrastructure be repaired and maintained for years to come at a much lower price to the taxpayers

I believe Mr. Fenwick would ask these questions.

But the 2004 study did not do a full assessment, and even the Hook story Dredge Gal cites notes that a TCLP would be needed. We know that the river is listed as an impaired water body due to e. coli (though that is for the section downstream of the dam to the convergence with Moore's Creek), but what are the EPA and VADEQ data on the reservoir re surface waters with contaminated sediment? Are there any? If not, without doing a TCLP, we don't know what we'd be stirring up into the drinking water supply by dredging. Don't we even have data on what pollutants are in the fish (PCBs and Hg are frequently found in Virginia river fish)?
And one add'l reply to one post by Betty: Don't dis the career staff -- at the non-managerial levels, they usually have more professional integrity than do political candidates, and almost always have a better grasp of the facts.

Maybe if I got my lawyer to write my invatation to bid with a price range with some sugary conditions to cost this much and some sour conditions to cost this much.

If I'm writing a ball park figure for a job then there will be a high and a low and the cost of the job will be somewhere in that ballpark.

It's just silt, maybe at most some small gravell. The only condition that would change it would be a log. That would have to maybe be lifted out.

Dude, they got a line of 8. I've only seen 8 lawyers in line once and it wasn't for work.

Holy Cow, the answers were right in front of us! Dredge test? Let's just reimburse Mr. Fenwick for his rental fee and a half day's salary and call it a study! All the answers for less than $500

This is pathetic journalism. (did Mr. Fenwick complete the job? Is the lake emerald green again?)

I'm no dredging expert, I assume the reservoir is dredge-able, but to compare these two is a political stunt, and the fact that Hawes Spencer chooses to cover it and not even mention the other side of the story, has become so typical.

Rives has is correct.... Comical.

Hawes is starting to behave like Sarah Palin with her "death panel" comments!

Fenwick made his point which was simply ââ?¬Å?This is not rocket science”. No the lake is not emerald green for œ days work. That ridiculous quip was evidentially made to inflame the situation. And the ââ?¬Å?Apples and Oranges” comment seems to be aimed at the differences between the SFRR and a demonstration. But it overlooks the intent, which was to show the simplicity of the process. The ââ?¬Å?death panel” comment does not even deserve comment.

This is what has been happening as veterinarians and lawyers keep making comments to mislead and deceive the public. Red Herrings are not welcome here.

Charlottesville we have a problem with the Community Raw Water Plan. It is infested with Red Herrings. They are choking out the issue. Get rid of the Red Herrings and the problem becomes clear and manageable.

It may appear responsible to convene a panel (legally or otherwise) to evaluate the study of the study of the study. But that just introduces more Red Herrings like the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir Dredging Task Force did. so well. Or it may seem so powerful to descide on how much money the City Rate Payers will GIVE to the County to expand Ragged Mountain for the sole needs of the county. But this compromise only compromises the people of Charlottesville.

Lets get serious and listen to The Army Core of Engineers. Why did The Nature Conservancy send a lawyer/lobbyist to represent their plan? Why did we let The Nature Conservancy sell us on their plan? Who are they to plan Our Water Our Future? Why have we allowed private, pseudo-scientists, to run an experiment at our expense?

Maybe an action oriented retired Army Engineer is what City Council needs.

I believe he clearly said it was to be used to improve the soil in Brian Wheeler's yard!

Brian, is this true and if so is it good for your plants? it is nutrient rich.

In regard to SFRR, on a larger scale. The nutrient load in SFRR is way too high and the Hydrilla are growing well in the muck. Wish my plants were doing so well.

I sure plan to vote for Fenwick. I like the way he is willing to pitch in and take action while all the other politicians grin, stand around shaking hands, and vote to spend our money. Fenwick is the only one who will stand up and stop the destruction through the city in the outdated,illplanned Parkway. I hear a lot of Democrats are willing to punch the button for him instead of Szakos. Of course they are hesitant to publicize their intentions. Szakos has lost my confidence because she doesn't have the guts to admit her true intentions and plans. She appears to be wishy washy in her public comment. Someone said she doesn't like the idea for the Parkway, but that she won't roll up her sleeves and take action to stop it. Sounds as if she has no real backbone. She merely rides on the tails of others.

Mr. Snow you say " I think it’s great,” said Snow, ââ?¬Å?because if someone can produce in the next few months evidence that it will give us the same amount of waterââ?¬â? which I don’t think is possibleââ?¬â? then I would sign off on it.” What you need to understand Mr. Snow is that the $85 million dollar dam planned for Ragged Mt., our only current estimate, will not produce as much water as dredging the South Fork Reservoir, Gannett Fleming's own data. The only way to fill the new Reservoir is with a $100 million or more dollar electricity fed pipeline from South Fork to Ragged Mt., that currently has no route. How can you sign on to something as the most economical alternative for our 50 year water plan without having any idea of the cost or if it's even feasible ?

You aren't the only one, Mr. Rooker, Slutzky, and Cummings, as well as Lowry, are also supporting this. Please explain to me how you know that Rivanna's plan is the most economical and environmentally sound if you have no idea what the dam or the pipeline will cost or where it will go ?

I find this to be the height of irresponsiblity on the part of these candidates and am heartened by the public position of Mr. Fenwick and Norris to know the cost of Rivanna's scheme before proceeding. I also believe that Mr. Thomas is the only county candidate demanding this information as well before charging ahead.

Get competitive bids even if a ball park figure and make em stick to it in writting. If they don't want it then they don't get it!

By definition, a "ball park figure" is nothing that anyone will agree to "stick to in writing." If I am making a bid that I am going to be required to "stick to in writing," it is likely to be higher if I don't know exactly what I am bidding on than if I do know exactly what I am bidding on.

I tossed out the question a while back, and from what I heard then and have seen before, a single shot vote for Fenwick is the best way to get him elected. He has my single shot vote for sure.

"Political stunt?" Swimmer, you are completely full of bs! The City and County have wasted LOTS of money on studies that have given us nothing yet in return. I say "hell yes!" to someone with actual experience in the field who wants to roll up his sleeves and SHOW us what's actually involved in the process.

Ow Mike, that hurt my eyes! Amazing. It's a bizarre stew of common sense, blatant hyperbole and self-congratulation, coupled with the most amateur graphics/design I've seen in many a year, and a hefty sprinkling of paranoia.

While I agree with Mr Fenwick's assessment of the water supply, there's too much else there that's disturbing me to make him a good council candidate.

Remember, we have a chiropractor already. Can bad graphics really tells us that someone else may be worse than that?

"Chiropractic is a controversial health care system that originated in the United States in 1895. The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) finds it remarkable that the chiropractic profession has existed for a century without having made a single notable contribution to the world's body of knowledge in the health sciences."

"Because the city is Democratic, and the Democrats pretty much hand select who they want in office."

Single shot voting is about the only way around that. At least we can take a bit of the government back for ourselves. I think I'll actually add a write in for Peter Kleeman along with my vote for Fenwick. Maybe we can draft him too.

ST, regarding the dredging issue after reading 1000's of pages of documents going back to the 1990's as regards the water supply, I beg to disagree, and only after many many meetings with Council, and briefings regarding these documents, do I believe they have a better understanding of the facts or lack thereof, as concerns the Nature Conservancy Water Plan, than the staff that serve on the RWSA board. I am not referring to all city staff who work for these people.