Snow softens: Only Fenwick is jonesin' for dredging

news-water-snowmooney3Snow accepts acclaim and umbrella from dredge fan Betty Mooney at the May 26 Republican event.

water stories button.inddWhere do the candidates stand on dredging? In the county, Duane Snow appears to be the most dredge-malleable among the five seeking the two available seats on Albemarle's governing board. In the city, it's independent Bob Fenwick who has taken the boldest stand on the issue of damming vs. dredging.

"Why has the damming issue been the default position when dredging has hardly been considered?" Fenwick asked last Saturday at a downtown press conference. "This [dam] is potentially hundreds of millions in taxpayer money, which may not do what it intends to do."

Fenwick said that he'd push for ending what he sees as an endless cycle of studies, such as the one recently launched that could cost a year in time and $275,000 in cash to measure the dwindling Rivanna Reservoir.  Fenwick also said at his August 8 event that he would instead launch a pilot dredging program.

"I am not a big fan of consultant studies," says Fenwick. "A consultant is an excuse for a politician or a department head not to reach a decision."

Fenwick, a builder with seven years experience working in the Army Corps of Engineers, claims his credentials meet or exceed those of anyone in the discussion, and he's calling on local officials to stop planning a new dam for the Ragged Mountain Natural Area, a process that has already cost local citizens $1.7 million toward a planned $3.1 million dam design contract– with the cost of actually building the dam currently unknown.

news-bobfenwickDredging was the topic of Fenwick's latest policy talk. He holds such talks each Saturday.

Fenwick disputes several key recent claims, particularly the excuse that the now-ousted dam-design firm, Gannett Fleming, which was paid $12,000 last spring to downplay dredging, was surprised to find "fractured rock" at the site.

"Fractured rock is everywhere," says Fenwick, noting that the County's crust was laid down about 300 million years before the breakup of Pangea, the world's first land mass. "So it should come as no surprise to anyone that there is fractured rock at that location."

Fenwick suggests "not a penny" for dam design before obtaining a new measurement of demand. As recently as this month, Rivanna officials defended their projections of skyrocketing demand even though the populace, while growing, is buying 22 percent less water than 10 years ago.

"When you hear suspicious statements coming from public officials of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority," says Fenwick, "it raises questions."

Fenwick claims there's been a "lack of leadership" by Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, even though Norris has been the only major elected official to seriously push for dredging. One of two Democrats Fenwick is challenging for the two open seats on Council, Mayor Norris has been unable–- or unwilling–- to simply stop the expenditures on dam design.

"It's puzzling when Dave has such a prominent local profile that he doesn't become more assertive," says Fenwick. "There are plenty of people who will listen to him."

Norris declined to comment on the criticism.

Fenwick says the City could buy one or more of the 40-60 parcels bordering the Rivanna Reservoir for dewatering, and even if dredging fails as water supply salvation, the exercise will provide useful data for saving other dwindling lakes, such as the one in the Four Seasons neighborhood, which Fenwick sees as a potentially dangerous bog.

"We would recoup that investment because there are many more places where we need that technology in the coming years–- it will not be wasted money," says Fenwick, who notes that the land could later be sold in a stronger real estate market.

The other independent City Council candidate, Paul Long, says he has no position on dredging; and the other Democrat, Kristin Szakos–- running with Norris under a “YourCharlottesville” slogan–- says she looks forward to the results of the impending dredging study as an avenue for shrinking the proposed dam.

In Albemarle County, only Duane Snow actually enthused about dredging during his acceptance speech. It happened May 26 at the Republican nominating process under a picnic pavilion at McIntire Park, where Snow won an immediate endorsement from a watching Democrat, Betty Mooney, who sees dredging as a fiscally conservative way to supply water.

Asked a moment later by the Hook if he were the dredging candidate, Snow replied, "On the surface, yes. I want to hear how much water is in there. I want to hear how much sediment is in there."

Snow told his fellow Republicans he got so intrigued about dredging upon his return from a year and a half of Philippine missionary work that he began devouring newspaper articles to get up to speed on the hot topic. The debate exploded while he was gone after revelations that while angling for the dam contract, Gannett Fleming portrayed dredging as smelly, noisy, and costing up to $223 million.

"When we get the facts and figures," said Snow, "I think you're going to find out it's a lot cheaper than the dam builders said."

In a more recent interview, however, Snow says that conversations with dam supporter Elizabeth Palmer reminded him that the existing Ragged Mountain dam system needs repair, so he remains open to the idea of rebuilding it. Even though repairing it might cost a fraction of the price?

"Suppose we get another drought," says Snow. "I don't want to be standing on the board when everyone says you were responsible for solving this problem."

Snow faces dam-friendly independent John Lowry and dam-friendly Democrat Madison Cummings in the Samuel Miller district which includes the Ednam Forest neighborhood, a place where some are unhappy that all three candidates seem willing to allow rock blasting and tree cutting just a few hundred yards from their homes.

"I'm very concerned," says past neighborhood president Sam Freilich. "I'd very much like to see dredging take the place of tearing up the Ragged Mountain Natural Area."

Over in the Rio district, which has more Rivanna Reservoir shoreline than any other district, neither Republican challenger Rodney Thomas nor incumbent Democrat David Slutzky have offered dredging any strong support, and Slutzky, in November, characterized dam opponents as "frustrated people" who "continue to beat the drums of dissent in hopes of delaying the outcome.”

As for would-be Snow-backer Mooney–- who finds herself battling for dredging alongside such diverse parties as the Sierra Club and technology magnate Bill Crutchfield (the latter of whom fears pipeline costs could skyrocket)–- she says she's not convinced that Snow has flip-flopped.

"I'm going to believe," says Mooney, "what Duane told me that night–- until he calls me and tells me himself–- that he really believes in dredging."

Snow tells a reporter that water-saving technologies–- which Mooney sees as rendering the dam unnecessary, have been over-played. Proving his conservative bona fides are firmly in place, he mentions NASA technology for recycling urine into drinking water.

"That may be great for members of the Sierra Club," says Snow, "but I'm not excited about it."


Nine hours after this story was posted online, dam/pipeline supporter Palmer released a statement that Snow and three other candidates for Supervisor seats signed which, among other things, lauds the dam/pipeline plan as the most "economical."

–last updated 1:29pm, August 17


Travel Lite, who are you? You're everywhere. When you say rebuilding a dam is more eco-friendly than dredging, what do you mean? Is anything we do eco-friendly? Eco may be the opposite of ego! Let things other than us have rights--what would happen? Could we live a little longer?


People don't know what to do. The future must be invented.

I also hope Mr Snow will reconsider his opinion of water conservation in light of the following article and this letter to our officials

Dear City Councilors, Board of Supervisors and Interested Parties,

In the ongoing debate about water consumption, some figures recently generated by our company, Indoor Biotechnologies, may be of interest.

In January 2008, we replaced three older toilets in our company with Toto High Efficiency Dual Flush units with both 0.9gpf and 1.6gpf options. We compared water use one year prior and one year after the installation of the dual flush toilets. Most water in our company is used in employee bathrooms, not in company operations.

Our water consumption data (attached) shows a 59% reduction in water use and a 50% reduction in water and sewer costs after the installation of the new toilets. The net savings in water amounted to 53,722 gallons per year. This data shows how a single investment of ~$1000 (with City rebates) in a small business (15 employees) can result in dramatic water savings.

Our data are consistent with the 22% fall in water use in Charlottesville-Albemarle over the past 10 years and suggest that even greater reductions are possible. Some on City Council and in the media have attributed the fall in water consumption as ââ?¬Å?low hanging fruit.” Casual observations in restaurants and other businesses in the city suggest that substantive savings could be made through installation of dual flush units in commercial premises, residences and public buildings. Indeed, such installations should rapidly become part of City building code. The 0.9gpf option (adequate for most toilet use) results in almost 50% savings compared with 1.6gpf and is especially useful under drought conditions when further savings can be made.

Our company saved 53,722 gallons of water through replacing leaky toilets. If this was repeated by just 20 other businesses, water consumption would drop by over 1 million gallons per year. If this is low hanging fruit, let’s be sure to gather as much as we can. Imagine the savings that could be made by replacing leaky water pipes around the City, getting the juicier fruit at the top of the tree. Projections that water use could only be reduced by 5% have proved to be wrong. Given the technology being developed to reduce water consumption around the globe, it is remarkable that the RWSA would base its future plans on such conservative estimates.

It would be easy to dismiss our data on the grounds of obviousness ââ?¬â?? replace leaky toilets, save water. But that would be missing the point, which is how far the savings that we have achieved can be applied to other water users. In that regard, it would be interesting to know how successful the City rebate program has been and how many rebates have been issued. We need to know whether large institutional users and other small businesses are using dual flush toilets. Finally, we need to have firm estimates of water savings that can be made higher up the tree by making investments to improve aging water pipelines and infrastructure in the City and the County.

I hope that Indoor Biotechnologies data is helpful in the ongoing debate on water conservation and supply.


Martin Chapman

This e-mail has been sent to: Charlottesville City Council, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, RWSA, Piedmont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan.

Martin D. Chapman, PhD
Indoor Biotechnologies Inc.
1216 Harris Street
VA 22903

Man, I thought we were talking about weather or not I'd be able to take a plop in 20 years?

What foolish would be politicians, to destroy what you have dams, reservoirs,pipelines and build anew. Europeans view America as a throw away culture, instead of caring and maintaining what you have for hundreds of years. Perhaps with the fall of the dollar your wasteful ways will come to an end and you will not destroy thousands of trees, plants and creatures and favor the wealthy few who will not pay, over the common hard working man and woman, who will suffer the debt you plan to create. You are at least blessed with one visionary, Mr. Fenwich, may you have the wisdom to elect him.

I'm supporting Bob Fenwick because he's used to thinking and actually solving problems rather than sitting around brainstorming how to spend more tax payers' money. I am particularly glad of his stance on Ragged Mountain. It show a great deal of common sense, something there's not currently a lot of on Council or the BoS.

Completely agreed with Salidis and Mooney. Norris has stood up time and time again on issues like MCP and the water plan-- oftentimes with little or no support from his co-councilors, who are unfortunately not quite as forward thinking as he is.

The Y and the MCP are two completely separate issues that some are choosing to confuse. One is a highway cut through a park, the other is a building for recreation being placed in a park. Whether or not one supports the Y, you have to acknowledge that there is a tangible difference between these two projects, and their ultimate impact on the park.

We'll certainly ultimately see,learn if Norris can effectively steer the County to go his way,water issue. The city has an upper hand in many ways, but they lack assertiveness in avoiding foot dragging,too many snags along the way. My fear is that Norris will finally bend to county BOS demands, especially to those of Dennis Rooker.
As far as the McIntire PK situation goes, Norris wants the Y to be there, even though he knows the environmental destruction/impact will be significant. He has not been open to looking at other sites in the city for the Christian based Y. Norris also wants the California style raised interchange. Norris can't wait to bring the idleing busses into McIntire park.

So when we vote Fenwick, do we vote Szakos, Norris, someone else, or no other vote?

I find Norris to be a bit of a wus and don't really get what anyone sees in him other than he's much less embarrassing to have as mayor than David Brown was. I don't really like Szakos's seeming inability to state a real position and then stick with it. I'd take one of those two over Taliafero or Brown of course, but I wonder what those of us who want Fenwick should do to maximize his chances of winning. Does it really matter as long as we vote for him?

Any political strategists want to weigh in?

I think Mr. Norris and Holly Edwards are doing a great job. It is tough to sit on council with three other guys who think they are County Supervisors. The more citizens show they are aware of Albemarles dam/parkway plan for 70 more years or sprawl, the more the best of our leaders can influence events. Come to city council meetings. Speak. letters to the ed. This is a great time to great involved.

Stratton, I just don't get it? I thought Norris voted to destroy parkland and build the Y in McIntire park and isn't he also for the ugly raised interchange? I can't see him rallying to save the park?? Thought you were involved with the group to save the park,so unsure why you defend Norris' inaction here ??
Norris bows to the county way too much. I'm concerned he will not assert himself completely with the water situation. As far as Holly goes, unsure how she really feels, as she rarely explains her whole,complete position to the public.

Rebuilding the Dam is far more eco friendly then the dredge. By dredging you are creating a landfill of silt and sand that can't be used for fill or topsoil becouse it has no nutrients and is very unstable. The dredgers will use chemical to seperate the silt and water and I hope the chemical they use are safe to drink. I really think the Sierra club needs to know what all intails in a good dredging.

Lets Dredge and keep are fingers crossed that Knowbody flushes the toilet agein.

If Mr. Snow is afraid of not having enough water in another drought then he'd best read this article.( documentation included) Dredging according to Gannett Fleming studies will give us more water than a full height dam and the new reservoir can't fill itself, so dredging is a better hedge against drought. The new pipeline to fill the new reservoir isn't even in the 5 year RWSA capital budget, or planned to come on line for at least 10 years if ever.

from this article:

According to engineering firm Gannett Fleming, dredging the existing Rivanna Reservoirââ?¬â? an officially dismissed but increasingly popular alternativeââ?¬â? would supply five million gallons per day. A pipeline-less reservoir, by contrast, bolsters today’s water capacity of 12.8 million gallons per day by just 1.1 million to just 13.9 million gallons per day, according to a memo by Amanda Hess of the same firm.

ââ?¬Å?I know that, at first glance, that might not seem correct,” writes Hess. ââ?¬Å?Without the pipeline to fill the reservoir and with the treatment capacity issues prior to the pipeline,” she writes, ââ?¬Å?the volume is simply not as ââ?¬Ë?efficient’ as it will be in 2055.”

In other words, the dam can’t work. It’s trapped in a natural bowl without a river to replenish it.

They used dredge to fill under a Home Depot recently. The fill expanded and pushed the shelves around in such a way that items would randomly fall off. Under the airport runway is not a good place for dredge tailling. You can't just put dirt somewhere. What did they Report on the dredged material becouse from the reports I read it wasn't good.

I've been in some highly populated area that stank just in general.

A dog gets a misdameaner for barking more then a half an hour. This town classified music as a disterbance that could very well have been soothing. So soothing that patrons just had to stand next to the speaker.

Is the quarrie up stream? I seem to think it is.

"...discussing affordable housing, education, and public safety." What about affodable housing? What about education? What about public safety? What about economic development? Are they saying they are willing to spend whatever money it takes to provide affordable housing for whomever asks for it? Are they saying they will give the education system whatever money it asks for more administrative positions and administrative software? Public safety - police, fire, EMS, cameras a red lights? Is economic development just training more low income people for poverty level jobs as they do with certified nursing assistants? It's a shame that politicians rarely ever say what they plan to do about anything; they just throw out buzz words. Affordable housing and education, aren't they the buzz words used by IMPACT? Why don't they throw in apple pie?
I would like to add to Old Timer's list the proposed costly regional transit (transportation) authority. Most people who run for office are unwilling to be specific about any issue in the hopes that by throwing out buzz words the voters will read into them whatever they want to and vote for them. Obviously, "affordable housing" has meant to Dave Norris housing as many homeless people in the city as he can and spending more local tax money on federally owned public housing. Kristin Szakos is acting as though she has never heard of the term. She has no policy on McIntire Park or Ragged Mountain. Come to think of it, what policies does she have? It seems to me her policies will be whatever Dave Norris will tell her to have. It will be a shame if there's a voting block of Norris, Edwards and Szakos next year. A real shame.

@ Bruce; I need a job. Plus I feel the dredging folks need a good challenge here becouse what if there wrong and I have to go throw a brick through a window to flush my toilet.

In 2003 there were people that didn't have water.

All the stuff that gets dredged up is waste, it can't be used for anything and yes it has a smell. Put some nice clean nike's on and step in a creek. plus the chimical they will use isn't very nice.

Since water concervation isn't a law or Virginia state code it can't be used in any water use projections which I feel most of the very bad water use habits are avoided these days.

53,000 gallons of water is a huge number and do note that there toilets were leaking, they could have been running all day.

The real eco thing to do would be to drain the res, let it dry, then excivate as much out as you could, dump truck it to a barg and dump it way out at sea. How much silt is going to be suspended in the water and allowed to wash down stream?

Since I need a job if there are any of you out there that want a toto dual flush installed I can do it for a fair price.

Thanks Betty Mooney for the link to the article. I hadn't seen it.

The firm chosen for the dredging study, HDR, reported at their interview, August 4th , that in all the dredging jobs they have done, some in highly populated urban areas, there has never been a complaint because of smell. They also reported on re-use ability for the dredged material. Another complaint used to scare the community away from dredging has been noise. HDR also addressed this and said as reported by Sean Tubbs "dredging in the water does not make a lot of noise, and residents near one project HDR was hired for actually allowed dredging to be conducted around the clock because the low rumbling was considered to be soothing." A tape of these comments is available from RWSA . HDR has also had success with re-use of dredged material as structural fill.
The airport is in need of dirt for their runway expansion and currently does not have money to complete this. It will be important during the study by HDR to determine if the dredged material would be suitable for this purpose since the airport is in close proximity.

Travel Lite,

Isn't there an ideal place to put silt--old quarries? Right next door? Why drain the reservoir if you don't have to? Would it be cheaper or something? How long have you been out of work?

The Republicans got Schilling elected, the only Republican in years to break the Democratic strong hold by single shotting for him. That may be the only way to elect Fenwick, an independent. Don't think an indepedent has been elected since the 1930's.

Council desperately needs someone with his engineering and infrastructure experience and someone strong to stand up to the county

Noticed that the Norris/Szakos platform doesn't even mention infrastructure projects, i.e roads, water, sewer, or storm water, all the places the city is falling apart or facing major challenges from growth in the county, that wants to push the financial burden on the City to pay for their growth.

from Cvilletomorrow:

Norris said the ticket would be discussing affordable housing, education, and public safety. He also said economic development would play a role in the campaign.

ââ?¬Å?We want to promote green business, green jobs for our community and jobs that provide a living wage for our residents,” Norris said.

Most agree, Norris should assert himself, and this will be said more and more as time moves forward. And Szakos wouldn't be where she is if she were not a "tag along." In fact, I don't believe she can stand alone or on her own two feet for long.

I have complete confidence that Mayor Norris will lead the way to make sure the dredging surveys are done in order to learn the true cost and feasibility of dredging as part of the 50 year water plan, and as a cost comparison to the dam/pipeline RWSA project.

If you read Saturday's DP there is a full court press on by dam supporters to stop the City from going forward with a restorative dredging study, which they have unanimously voted to fund.

Taxpayers and Ratepayers and all Citizens who care about good government that makes decisions based on the best available accurate information need to step up now and support our City Council and Mayor Norris.

Do not let this plan move forward until we have accurate cost information and accurate calculations of our true 50 year water needs based on our 10 year trend of using less water even with increased population.

200 million or more dollars are at stake as well as all the City owned reservoirs and Ragged Mountain Natural Area, please take time to care and let your voice be heard.

Let the kickbacks begin. This is a story dealing with the ability of local board members of the ACSA to make a sensible decision. With the exception of John Martin, it seems the board voted not to charge developers the original increases for water and sewer hookup. What's wrong with that? They voted the increases in to balance their budget after many, many hours of trying to balance it. Without considering the impact upon its budget by figuring out what would be a reasonable estimate of the new revenues that will be brought in with the lower rate and how to adjust the budget as John Martin suggested, they just voted to get the measure off of their desk. When will these people learn about ramifications? Maybe they just figure they'll put off some projects until next year and then increase the rate payers' fees instead. They several of them said they would be willing to look at a "pay now, connect years later" program with the developers. They have no idea what the "later" costs will be. I guess they'll just pass that some way on the rate papers. Does anybody want to serve on this board? It seems it's run more as a club.