Dredge wedge: Firm late, wants nearly $700K

news-water-rivannareservoirThe Rivanna Reservoir, built in 1966, has been silting in. Instead of dredging, the waterworks wants to build a new one.

water stories button.inddWaterworks director Tom Frederick told his board today, August 25, that he'd been struggling to nail down a contract with the Nebraska-based firm that his selection committee tapped earlier in the month to launch a dredging study of the Rivanna Reservoir. Due to the alleged complexity of the study, Frederick said, he had extended the deadline to August 20 for the firm, HDR Engineering, Inc., to submit its price. But it wasn't enough time.

HDR's proposal didn't arrive, Frederick said, until he was lunching, just prior to the board meeting.

"It is substantial," warned Frederick, "and that suggests to me that it will take some substantial work to review."

Frederick said the price for the dredging study–- something pitched to local government a year ago by another firm for $275,000–- came in "close to $700,000."

"That's a big number," said board member Judy Mueller. "I am not comfortable in asking the staff to move it forward."

"I fully expected when you heard the number that you would not want to start the study," Frederick then said, calling the old $275,000 figure "not very realistic," given the detail requested in the RFP, the Request for Proposals, and the public scrutiny to which any such study will be subjected.

"You can't cut costs by reducing what's been asked," noted board chair Mike Gaffney.

The project manager in HDR's Glen Allen office, Carey Burch, who has already noted that Frederick has urged him to refrain from speaking to the media, again referred a reporter to the Frederick. And Frederick, citing a provision in state law appearing to limit public access to documents involved in negotiations, declined to release a copy of HDR's proposal.

For Betty Mooney, the former Charlottesville Planning Commissioner who's been at the forefront of an effort to push dredging as a cheaper, more environmentally-friendly alternative to the Authority's push for a new local reservoir, the news came as a setback.

"I guess we aren't surprised," she said, "because they chose a Cadillac firm and made the RFP very specific."

Mooney, who did not attend the meeting, said she hopes that the City–- since it's already agreed to pay for most of a study–- will simply order its own study using Gahagan & Bryant, the firm that visited Charlottesville in the spring of 2008 and offered to do the job for $275,000.

"If this becomes a stumbling block, a way to stop dredging," says Mooney, "then the City should get their own firm."

–last updated 1:23pm, Tuesday, September 1


The RWSA is to blame for a proposal/contract drawn up by the consultant? I'm not convinced at all. Nor am I convinced that my tax dollars should go toward ANOTHER study on this area's water supply.

@Jack, are you on well water?

Right, TJ. I can only hope that the voters in the fall will realize just how important it is to elect people to public office that can navigate through this milieu rather than just the people who will fund their favorite organization.

Are meetings of this board open to the public? I went to their website recently and the only 'upcoming' meeting listed had already happened. Anyone have a schedule of (actual) future ones?

Dede Smith and Bryan Wheeler were on the Schilling Show today. http://www.wina.com/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=3980163 This podcast is well-worth listening to. A caller seemed to be very agitated with the discussion and disagreed with "Miss Dede." He feels we ran out of water in 2002 and sensible people would move forward with the project. I believe that most people who say "Go with any proposal that will keep us from going through what we did is better, regardless of the cost. We never ran out of water in 2002. Judith Mueller convinced Council that we should impose restictive use BEFORE we ran short of water. Our reservoir never got below 70% of its current capacity. At no time did we turn on our taps and there was no water or "dirty" water.
In the podcast, there was also an explanation of the role that the Nature Conservancy has/is playing in directing our locality's water supply plans. Take a listen. I promise it will be worth your while.

Thanks CvilleEye, your input is always invaluable. Just learned that "The RWSA has received two submissions from firms who want to be considered to perform the redesign of the proposed dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Interviews with Hazen & Sawyer and Schnabel Engineering were conducted on August 20, 2009. Frederick said a recommendation on a finalist will come before the RWSA at is September meeting."

Let's see how much money Frederick gets for this study, notice he calls it a redesign, bet his board wouldn't blink no matter what the cost.

Betty Mooney has a whole website full of documentation to stand behind her opinions. I'm just asking "Bruce" for one sentence. I'm smart enough not to hold my breath.

I find it pretty amusing that Betty Mooney wants someone "held responsible" for neglect of a reservoir. How about holding people responsible for neglecting stream flow in our streams and rivers, or specifically trying to derail an adopted water supply plan that would provide far more environmental benefit than other alternatives. Oh...and not to mention spending my tax dollars studying a water supply option that's been proven not to supply enough water for this community. No thanks Betty.

I want my water DISTILLED!!! screw the studys, screw the lake, I want a distillery NOW!!!!

Which board members examined the cost estimates? None I"m sure. It seems Frederick hadn't either, if he had just received them. Does anybody believe this remotely resembles competence? Does anybody call this an adequate discussion? It's time to get rid of that pack of amateurs trying to conduct the business of the public. This is really becoming disgusting.

Why was only one firm chosen to present a price for conducting this study? Wouldn't it make sense to get prices from a multitude of firms? The only reason I can think of is to stall the process as seems likely to happen now. Can I be the first to publicly nominate Gary O'Connell to replace John Casteen? Whatever it takes to get him out of city management and the f&@# off the RWSA board. That goes for Judy "I haven't read it, but that sounds too expensive to go forward" Mueller too!

Funniest comment I've read in a while.
This article gives a different view of the meeting: http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2009/08/dred...

sorry for the abbreviations above
TNC = The Nature Conservancy
RMR = Ragged Mountain Reservoir (refers to with the new 112' dam)
SH = Sugar Hollow (pipe that now currently fills existing RMR)
SFRR = South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

@Rich, everybody knows that I see conspiracy everywhere. I just don't know exactly what they're conspiring about sometimes. Engineer says that RWSA is not obligated to assign the contract to HDR; it's a whittling away process. I believe, but am not certain in this case, a different type of Request for Proposal process could have been used that could have required each respondent to submit project estimates. It is clear to me that the firm was not given enough time to do a good estimate and is probably building in a fat cushion so that if the fees actually end up higher than they actually think they will not be faulted with cost-overruns and ruin their reputation world wide. In other words, if RWSA wants a hurry-up job, it will pay for it. This is proving to be an important learning experience for RWSA and Frederick may be able to capitalize well on it with his next employer. He's looking forward to the challenge this project affords.

@Bruce, "...an adopted water supply plan that would provide far more environmental benefit than other alternatives." Name one. I don't know there are people who make sweeping generalizations that they can not support by fact. Bruce, name one enviornmental benefit. I dare you.

Of course the RWSA is responsible for the outrageous summs wasted. THEY were asking for answers to known facts,causing wasted money. They were asking for answers to questions that could never be answered and they did not let it be known that outrageous estimated would not be tolerated.

This is simply beaurucrats wasingh more tax dollars.

They need to clear the table and get all new people in and start over.

This board couldn't fix a sandwich.

Jack, do you then agree that since the dam estimate has tripled in price and the dam designers have been fired that we should stop throwing good money after bad and halt all further studies of a new dam at Ragged Mt? A large part of the dredging study --the bathymetric--is done every couple of years and is overdue--RWSA, in compliance with their contract with the City to maintain the reservoir for water supply, must do this and they have $300,000 in a watershed maintenance fund that they can use. The City should give up on Rivanna for their part of the study and conduct it themselves. Only then will they get an honest appraisal of the cost and feasibility of dredging for water supply and as a cost comparison to the new dam estimated at $85 million and the pipeline that must be built from South Fork to meet Rivanna's projected 50 year demand --that pipeline is lacking a route, now that RWSA agrees the Western By-Pass will not be built , which was the proposed route in order to save money. So the southfork pipeline estimate, $56 million, has likely tripled just like the dam .

So Jack, you wanta build this without knowing the cost --looks like your tax dollars will skyrocket and from what you've said you don't care--are you saying build the dam and pipeline at any cost to the taxpayers?

Why didn't the selection committee take the price of the study into consideration when choosing the firm ? I'm with you CR think the city should exit stage left and get this done themselves. Bet the next dam design will cost a lot more than $700,000 and the RWSA Board wouldn't blink an eye. Frederick has a blank check for anything the county wants done. Heard Mayor Norris say that they were using the same Whole Foods firm for the road building at Hillsdale Dr. without putting it out to bid, so the city can hire Gahagan Bryant and get the info to save ratepayers in the city and county millions of dollars. No more stalling --let's get this done Mayor Norris !

The City has given $310k to the housing authority to begin its process of looking into redevelopment of its federally-owned housing sites. I hope it won't shy away from allocating enough money to redevelop its own property leased to RWSA. So far, it seems the housing authority has been using the gift to take residents on trips to other redeveloped sites out of town in order to get them to want redevelopment.

It seems strange that RWSA last year was saying that the Sugar Hollow pipeline was old and a new pipeline was needed unless the proposed pipeline from SFRR was built. Some have wanted the public to infer that it's cheaper to build a new pipeline from SFRR than repair the one from SH being that the first would be 9.5 miles long and the latter would be 15 miles. If that were true, wouldn't the oil companies working in Nigeria build completely new oil pipe lines rather than repair the old ones that are damaged by thieves weekly in order to steal oil? What's older, SH pipeline or Roman aqueducts in Spain?
Bruce, Bruce, Bruce are you still out there?


Before you start whining about selecting a firm before you know the cost for services, you might want to educate yourselves about a little Federal law known as the Brooks Act, which essentially requires public bodies to select engineers and architects based upon a Qualifications Based Selection. In short, they're required to determine the most qualified firm, and then begin good faith negotiations with that firm. If they are unable to negotiate a fee with that firm, they can move on to the second most qualified firm.

Just sayin'.

Rives, you also might be interested in what Tom Frederick said yesterday at the RWSA meeting.
I quote, ââ?¬Å?There is a suggestion here that the RMR won’t work without a new pipeline. That depends on demand. We published this several times that there was studies done while we were preparing the permit support documents to enable us to make some recommendations to the community on phasing the water supply plan.”

ââ?¬Å?We actually used an interim target of 2020 demand from Gannett Fleming’s demand analysis and ran the model for those conditions and showed the SH pipeline still worked under those conditions”Š.”

Frederick repeats”Š ââ?¬Å? the SH pipeline can work under those conditions”

Well, Rives, that 2020 demand projection is nearly 15 mgd”Š. We’re only at 9.5 this year (instead of the 12.5 that Gannet Fleming expected)
If you think you’re going to get rid of that SH pipeline any time in the next 50 years, dream on.
Replacement of that pipe will be a fraction of the price of building a new SFRR pipeline and rehabilitation is even cheaper.

Well Rives, If you and TNC are so wedded to this grand river restoration experiment - and it IS an experiment, then maybe you and TNC should pay for it. Because quite frankly this community does NOT need that much stored water - given a decade long decline in demand (despite a rise in population)

And let's remember it is not the tax payer who is going to pay for TNC's experiment, it is the urban water rate payer. This is the most regressive kind of tax you can impose - on a basic necessity of life, unadjusted for income and targeted to those least able to pay. It's shameful.

As today's Schilling Show fully documented ... there is NO water plan and there is NO IDEA of how much the "community water plan" will cost.

But, there ARE people with unknown motives who make strong emotional statements like, "it's our turn to sacrifice" and "large plans are commonly started without knowing their cost."

Both of these are bull excrement.

Sacrifice is worthwhile when you know CLEARLY what is to be gained and what will be the cost. Check out recent Iraq and Wall Street history if you haven't yet learned this lesson.

Only fools begin construction of "large plans" without knowing details and costs. Is Charlottesville now competing to become the #1 Foolish City in the USA?

Our community hired Tom Fredericks to act as a professional engineer. His track record to date indicates that we made a terrible mistake.

It's time to talk to the people at his old job and check with the community newspapers there to find out whether he has pulled this kind of amateur act before. If so, fire him now - he hasn't learned.

If he does has a successful previous track record, ask him why he seems to have lost all his professional and engineering capabilities. He can either stand up to the people who are forcing him to do these things or honorably retire.

It's time for change. People must be held accountable. The series of bad decisions, suppression of evidence and hubris are beyond reason.

I wonder if any of you have had the same suspicions that I have arising from the $700,000 cost estimate for a dredging study.
The opponents of a dredging study have used every side-tracking trick in the game. Now they could be trying to price it out of a reasonable cost. If the selection process did not even consider a pricing range, the process was deficient. We had one firm (Gahagan-Bryant) that said informally that they could get the information needed to make a $ estimate of dredging for under $300,000.

I differ with those who think the dredging cost figures represent a failure for RWSA: I think it represents a victory for those who oppose a dredging evaluation.

The bidding process should be reopened.

0I would like to congratulate Mayor Norris on his intelligent comments on the Rick and Jane show August 27th --podcast at WINA. He's absolutely right, the information the city is seeking will cost far less than the 700K mentioned here. The most costly part of this is what RWSA is required to do for their permit--the bathymetric study and they have funds as TJ mentioned to do this. The fact RWSA has not maintained this valuable source of water supply for over 40 years is unconscionable, and when we finally do maintain it someone should be held responsible for this neglect.

I have confidence that Mayor Norris will represent the ratepayers and not allow any construction of a new dam to begin until the RWSA scheme for our 50 year water supply is carefully costed out, and that includes the dam( and the 64 embankment work), as well as the new pipeline between South Fork and Ragged Mt. which is the only way to meet RWSA's projected 50 year demand.

I am also confident that Mayor Norris will lead the way to do what the Sierra Club is calling for and that is to re-evaluate the needed demand now 24% lower than the consultant's estimated and come up with a more realistic conservation target for the plan based on the fact our community is voluntarily using 22% less water than they did 10 years ago.

All major environmental organizations state that when planning a community water supply plan conservation should come first, in order not to burden the citizens who will pay for it, and not to squander valuable resources. Unfortunately the current plan does both and it is time that reality took hold and we look at what this will cost --RWSA cannot hide the cost of their scheme by trying to make the embankment work at 64 a separate project, or by saying the pipeline isn't needed for 10 years. Their stated plan is a dam and a pipeline and we need to see the total cost that the community will be asked to pay.

Rives, We try to backup all our claims with documents. Please let us know if you find that we are in error. I would be glad to talk with you in person, just contact me through the web-site at cvillewater.info

This is an excellent letter in yesterday's Daily Progress by Tim Wilson