Can kicked? Waste decried as dredge study firm named

water-frederickgaffney2With chair Mike Gaffney in the background, RWSA director Tom Frederick, foreground, defends his dam July 28.

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has just chosen a Nebraska-based engineering firm to study dredging the Rivanna Reservoir. However, to one of the people who offered to actually perform a dredging for a fraction of the price the Authority's experts originally predicted, it's just more money and time wasted by the Authority board and its director, Tom Frederick, who has staked his reputation on blocking dredging.

"They could have said, 'Let's get it dredged,'" says engineer Pat Enright. "Instead, they said, 'Let's study it again.'"

A year ago, Enright was heading a consortium of firms that offered to dredge the Reservoir for about a tenth of the last estimate cited by Frederick. Having moved to another company, Enright now says he feels free to speak out over what he considers the folly of study over action.

"I'm just not that impressed with Tom and how he approaches projects of this magnitude because he's gonna get another half-answer," says Enright, who made his comments in an interview August 5, the same day Frederick announced the selection of the Omaha-based study firm.

"Most of the information will prove to be useless," says Enright, calling the latest study a "smokescreen," a way, he claims, "to kick the can down the road, so they can start building the dam."

Pat Enright and Katurah Roell wanted to get into the dredging business in May 2008.

The old quarry they'd have used for silt lies about 3,000 feet from the Rivanna Reservoir.

The dam in question is a 2.2 billion-gallon behemoth that Frederick envisions as replacing all three of the urban water system's existing reservoirs with a single, interstate highway-hugging lake that would require felling about 54,000 trees on 180 acres.

The project has sparked numerous controversies, including its dependence on building a 36-inch, $56-million pipeline to move water over nine miles uphill from the Rivanna River, a project that–- although essential to filling the dam–- budgets just $249,000 for acquiring all 9.5 miles of land. And the $56-million pipeline figure inexplicably is not included in the Authority's five-year capital spending program.

Because Charlottesville owns the proposed dam site, Ragged Mountain Natural Area, City Council could halt the project in a heartbeat. Mayor Dave Norris, its chief public detractor, has chosen instead to fight more gently by seeking more information. And the project manager for the chosen study firm, HDR, contends that he'll supply plenty of that.

"We don't know exactly what we'll find," says HDR's Carey Burch from his office in Glen Allen. "In our experience, where projects run into difficulty is when you look for that upland place where you put the sediment."

Citizen Enright, however, maintains that with marine engineering experience and its own dormant quarry astride the reservoir, his former consortium had all bases covered.

"We had the land, we had the technology," says Enright. "The only thing we didn't have was the solicitation to respond to.

"It was always my belief," he continues, that the Authority "should have put out a solicitation that said, 'Take X cubic yards of sediment out of the reservoir. Tell us where you're going to put it, and deal with the permitting.'"

Instead, Enright points out, dredging got pushed into the arms of a task force whose members, including avowed dam/pipeline defender Sally Thomas as the chair, ended up downplaying dredging as a way to augment water supply and calling it better suited for specialized goals such as recreation.

"There's no question," says former Charlottesville vice-mayor Kevin Lynch, "that Rivanna's interest is to bury any discussion of dredging."

Now part of a pro-dredging group called Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, Lynch says he actually hails the impending study, even as he laments the spending that led to it, which included having the Authority's $515-an-hour lawyer sit through four hours of presentations and deliberations over which dredge study firm to choose.

"This is our money they're playing with," says Lynch, "and is not to be used for any vanity projects, which is what the dam is."

The Authority has paid a single Pennsylvania firm, Gannett Fleming, $2.17 million for studies including development of the dam-pipeline scheme and and another $1.71 million toward a planned $3.1 million dam design contract (although the Authority recently announced that it intends to hire a new firm to replace Gannett Fleming).

Enright says he was tempted to help draft a Request for Proposals for dredging.

"If I had gotten involved in writing the RFP," says Enright, "then there was a chance that I might not be able to bid for the contract."

Actually, no. The Authority awarded the dam design contract to Gannett Fleming despite all the firm's work leading to it.

The Authority's credibility took another hit last year when its last estimate for dredging the 366-acre Rivanna Reservoir topped $223 million, exceeding a contemporary contract to dredge the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. As numerous dredgers expressed drop-jawed disbelief and insisted the job could be done for much less, Enright stepped forward with a detailed 15-page concept that proposed not only dredging but dealing with all the permitting and spoils for just $24-29 million.

The controversy continued at the Authority's last board meeting July 28 when Dede Smith, a former official overseeing the Ragged Mountain Natural Area, blasted the dam-pipeline for allegedly exploding far beyond its original $143 million estimate.

"We're talking about 200 million dollars," said Smith."There are people in jail who have defrauded the public out of less money."

Smith also noted that the 22 percent drop in local water consumption over the past decade has quashed the need for a new reservoir.

"The demand analysis is now wrong," said Smith. "It might have been reasonable 10 years ago, but history has shown us that times have changed."

Asked at the meeting whether the suspect dredging numbers and now-disproved consumption projections–- both supplied in the application for a federal dam permit–- might imperil that permit, Authority board chair Mike Gaffney deferred to Frederick, who declined to immediately respond.

The last page of the permit from the Army Corps of Engineers does declare that either "inaccurate" information or "significant new information" can cause Corps to reconsider. Frederick eventually responded by denying there was any inaccurate information in the application or that any significant new information has arisen.

"Like weather," Frederick said in a week-later email, "short term demand is highly variable, and that is why all of the data that are reasonably available at the time are examined, and 50-year trends are most widely used for water supply planning purposes."

Rich Collins, a UVA professor and elected member of the local Soil & Water board, doubts that the Army Corps will reopen the discussion because that would threaten its business partner, the Nature Conservancy. Collins points out that the Conservancy–- which has spent tens of thousands of dollars assisting the Authority on devising the dam/pipeline plan as a national model it hopes to replicate in other communities–- administers millions of dollars that the Corps collects from parties that damage wetlands.

Collins was fascinated in March when a federal judge ruled that an Army Corps-approved dam for King William County was unnecessary because its would-be builder, the City of Newport News, inflated demand projections and downplayed less environmentally damaging alternatives.

Could that happen here? At presstime, the local manager of the Army Corps of Engineers, Vinny Pero, had not responded.

As for the dredging study–- which Rivanna officials have said might cost around $275,000–- it will measure the extent of reservoir's siltation, determine whether stumps are still in place, ascertain the composition of the silt and sand, and determine potential sites for placing the spoils.

"There are a lot of different goals and objectives you can apply to dredging a reservoir," says HDR's Burch. "They usually take somewhere in that six months to a year time frame, depending on how much public input Rivanna [Authority] wants."

A reporter asked for details about prior dredging projects Burch has overseen, and Burch said he'd call back. He did, just an hour or so later.

"I'm sorry, but I've got to shut you down," said Burch. "I've been asked to refer all media inquiries to Tom Frederick."

–updated 7:31pm


I don't remember Tropea.

"Asked at the meeting whether the suspect dredging numbers and now-disproved consumption projections� both supplied in the application for a federal dam permit� might imperil that permit, Authority board chair Mike Gaffney deferred to Frederick, who declined to immediately respond." Would you call Gaffney weak also? I think people are forgetting that Council can relieve the City of Gary O'Connell at any time. Remember Dr. Scottie Griffin? And RWSA and RWSA can relieve themselves of Forked-tongue(?) Frederick at any time. Remember Tropea? The real problem is that each of the employees are governed by boards composed of members without the experience, expertise, or accomplishments to serve in that capacity. Thus, they constantly yield to employees that can out talk them. They are in way over their heads. That's why the idea of having a "strong Mayor" is ridiculous. You'd only get another Gary O'Connell. The other big problem here is that public is wowed by new transit centers, new bricks and colossal dams and go back to complaining about traffic and let the officials do whatever they want because they know the public isn't paying attention.
Forked-tongued(?) Frederick: ...and 50-year trends are most widely used for water supply planning purposes.”
Does anyone know if it has been true that RWSA has been using 50-year demand figures all along or has it been using 20 (with the exception of 2002-2003)?

Bruce is totally correct - the big problem here is that a non-elected official is basically running the show.

If there is anyone who ought to know bout the "weak mayor" system, it's good ole david Brown, the weakest mayor this city has had in recent memory.

Mr. Crutchfield's letter can be found in this article. I agree that by continuing to pour money into a dam scheme that will never work, and is far too costly for this community, the elected officials are putting themselves and our whole decision making process for this area in serious jeopardy

from Mr. Cruthchfield's letter:

"The credibility of our elected officials is being undermined and this water supply plan is becoming our community "bridge to nowhere." Lost credibility makes it much more difficult for our elected officals to govern effectively."

They have missed two prime opportunities to dredge. This little economic melt down being number one, and then the huge drought we had while back being number two, maybe the thierd will be really charming. How about tossing the dredge for some jobs.

Enough of the studies....move ahead with the already adopted water supply plan. Dredging the SFRR simply will not supply enough water for future generations. I am amazed by the amount of misinformation opponents of the adopted plan continue to spread, and the one sided coverage of this issue by the Hook.

Time to socialize the water supply? Frederick Is high on something,
probably himself, and isn,t there something wrong with having a
leader such as Gaffney who at the same time owns a construction
outfit. Ever heard of conflict of interest. If ever the damn gets built your looking at instant water front property. I wonder who now owns the properties surrounding the proposed reservior site. Something smells here.

Yes, Betty Mooney, it was a shocking statement to read, but, then I wondered if Burch was putting that answer on the time sheet. Remember, they paid Kurt Krueger $515/hour to set in on one of their four hour meetings and CRHA is paying WRT each time a WRT staffer talks to anyone locally. Holly Edwards should make it clear, however, to the press and public that she is available to answer questions from the public.
@travel lite, the mayor isn't so weak as you may think. After all, he got Council to agree to a dredging study despite opposition from Gary O'Connell and the boards of ACSA, RWSA and the county supervisors. He's getting a homeless day care center in North Downtown and homeless apartments on property surrounded by North Downtown, Starr Hill, 10th & Page and Rose Hill Drive neighborhoods. That's pretty powerful.
Charlottesville is no lovelier than any other place. It's a matter of taste. Far more people move to Phoenix AZ (desert country) in a month than move to Cville in a year. And, yes, I can easily see in the next 50 years, the State or the feds will take control over the water facilities. "...WATER is going to be more valuable then GASOLINE." Localities will no longer be able to take as much water as they please from our streams. To curb usage, water prices will be inflated during peak periods and will be too expensive for water-intensive enterprises to locate here. There are other localities that are not completely re-working their water and sewer systems for so few customers as our $500 - $800M water and sewer projects will.
No responsible person handling other people's money would spend that much money today to provide for a population that may or may not be here 50 to 70 years from now, because of the issue of maintnenance. Why repair a pipeline every 15 years or os just to maybe need 50 years from now? As a newly wed, did you and your wife by an 8 bedroom house just incase you have a lot of children in twenty years?
Of oucrse the State will expand the opportunities to use grey water. It will come about as the State considers more alternatives to stormwater management. Why let it go down storm drains when it can be distributed over soil and purified? A small percentage of our water is used for drinking.

What is water but news from the cosmos we can live a little longer?>

I would buy a 8 bedroom house if I could afford it. We might have as much water as we have hospital with are shinny new dam. They really don't seem to know what anything is going to cost and that is the real problem. How about a comparison of what the cost would be for the systems in place now between when they were built and if rebuilt today? If the "vanity" dam is not built then the speculated growth will never happen becouse there won't be any water. If it is built then the the city will grow and the water will be needed becouse Charlottesville taste so darn good!

You can pee outside all you want. I think a rain barrel is a great idea but I would much rather conserve as a practical means rather a necessity.

At the Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting tonight, staff mentioned that Southern Development is discussing with city staff using grey water to flush the toilets in its proposed 80,000 mixed use project for the corner of Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue.

It's amazing how compliant we can be. The regulatory authorities offer two bad, expensive ideas for reuse. Treating greywater to flush a toilet with--that's a lot of treatment! Greywater turns black very soon if it sits. Subsoil irigation, is that the other one? They let us jump through hoops to keep us occupied. Like recycling.

We have barely scratched the surface of water conservation or reuse. Have you all seen this:

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

Actually Cville Eye, the firm chosen to do the dredging study by the 9 member selection committee, isn't officially hired yet. That must be done by the RWSA board. It is my opinion the Mr. Frederick has no more authority at this point than any other member of that panel to tell HDR that they can't talk directly to the press, or the citizens of Charlottesville for that matter. Since there is no contract at this point I would assume that there would be no charge, and from the portrayal in this article HDR would have liked to answer Mr. Spencer's questions, but were not allowed to by Mr. Frederick. This is clearly censorship of information that is valuable for the public, and I am interested in what our elected officials and the other panel members think of this.

It is my belief that this is a clear signal that Mr. Frederick, as he has in the past, will attempt to control the information from any dredging study that is done, and manipulate it so as to make dredging an unsatisfactory alternative to the 200 million dollar dam/pipeline.

PUBLIC HEARING Schenk’s Branch Interceptor Project ââ?¬â?? Easement to Rivanna Water & Sewer
ORDINANCE* Authority (through McIntire Park) (1st of 2 readings)

This item has been removed from the agenda of Council's meeting next week.

Durn, Travel Lite, you got that right.

Just taking out the toilets and replacing them with urinals? they could send me to Jamacia every year! Yeap, no more dump on the state huh?

Please someone watch where the money spent here PLEASE!!!!

I think the weak mayor should fix his problem about being so weak.

In the next hundred years or so WATER is going to be more valuable then GASOLINE. How about a nice new damn so we don't have to worry about it. Charlottesville loves growth, this place is so lovely it will never stop growing. It is a really small town if you take out all the people that go to school here and just come to town and shop or whatever.

what one town puts back in the river system the next town drinks in. Good thing waynesboro is on the other side of the hill we would all be sick. Nobodies gotten sick off grey water becouse what dummey would drink grey water, clear stream water can kill you in a few hours. City water taste funky becouse it's cleaned.

In New Mexico homeowners can collect all the water they need from roof runoff. We could certainly do it here. Check out, their Rainwater Handbook.

We don't need to flush toilets. Joseph Jenkins's Humanure Handbook is my guide at this moment.

As long as the prohibitions on reuse stand we can build for the day they are gone. Greywater drainfields like those Art Ludwig describes in Create an Oasis with Greywater could be fed with rainwater. House plumbing could be switchable from those drains to sewers--not a bad idea in any case if a homeowner should harbor doubts about their grywater.

We don't need RWSA.

How could that water supply plan have seemed like a good idea in 2006? Even believing the lies about dredging cost and using those cost estimates-- Conservation is necessary everywhere, and the service authorities obviously have no interest in that whatsoever.

We need new approaches to wastewater handling. Greywater should be subtracted from the wastewater stream as it becomes safe and practical (not that greywater has ever hurt anybody in this country). Treated sewage should not be released into streams (Check out the Streamwatch map of Charlottesville area water quality--doesn't Moores Creek have a treatment plant on it? It's unacceptable.)

It's a privy on a creek. I hear sewage and wastewater mix in times of high water--RWSA isn't doing anything right. OK, we aren't doing anything right, except when we try to conserve.

Charlottesville forbids any reuse of the water we pay so much for. RWSA wants it all back, in a form only they can use--utterly polluted. Of course monopolies will be staunchly defended.

I hear sewage and stormwater mix in times of high water. Pardon.

Take a few hours and travel up 29 to see the new shinny water tower ruckersville just got and all the red dirt laying around that will soon be something. with out that tower it would still be a bunch of cows.

@travel lite, when has the city denied a permit for lack of water?

There is way to much hidden agenda for all the money that is going to fly around. On both sides not just Fredrick. For 50-60 million I could get into the dredging biz real quick. Even if you screw it up it's still under muddy water. Evan the fish won't know if the job was done to spec. Really if you look at the lake it is full of logs and wood doesn't rot under water! They pull logs from under water and sell them as antique flooring in the north where loggers would float logs down to the saw mill. Some of the logs sank and have been there ever since, a hundred or more years.

A theird party needed!

Who's we?

I realize my comments here have been directed entirely at homeowners. I assume, though, that public uses could be similar. If you know how to do it to some, you can just multiply the recipe. There will be economies of scale, obviously, once we realize the right way to handle our waste.

If you would like to bye me some new toilets please feel free. The one's I got now are really nice I got that cushy seat on their and when I been eating chilli they really seem to do the job nicely! There like woooooooossssshhhhhh! and it's gone! I don't know if low flow could flush that.

On second thought didn't the town mandate that the water sacs be put in every toilet tank in town when we had that drought that started the hole thing with water shortage. I remeber seeing the lil pink sac's in the mail and I've since seen them in toilets all over town, becouse I go there. Wouldn't that make them semi low flow to begin with. That is probilly why rswa's data is off. Why don't they just mail the pink sacs out agien?

@Betty, I stand corrected. Thanks.
@Downing Smith Thanks for the informative missive.

As Maxwell Smart used to say, "sorry about that, Chief!" In speaking with a girl the other day, she was telling me about hours being cut back for all employees. I apologize for any bad information I was given. And it's entirely possible she might have been talking about the place on Forrest Street, the place located where Ovenaire used to be.

Yes, Charlottesville looked like that in 1888. So it built a reservoir.

& Cvillian%

There won't be any growth. The city won't issue building permitts. Developers size up a town often and do some home work before they start playing with there little green monopoly houses. Why put together a progect and get all kinds of drawings done and everything else if the town is going to say "no permit no water" and hopefully they won't have more homes on the grid then they can supply water too, there not that dumb. hopefully? Most of a {75% or more} development is done before the ground is broke.

Re the letter that Downing posted above-- imagine what would happen if both the City and County replaced every single one of the toilets in all their gov't buildings with the dual-flush sort! I'm not sure how many total toilets there are in the County office bldg, City Hall, the County bldg out on Fifth St, etc, but wouldn't that potentially save an enormous amount of water per year? I imagine that anyone that bought that many toilets at one time from Toto would surely receive some sort of volume discount as well.

Handling We Are! Waste is recycled more then you'd think Bruce. There are some really good companies that give are waste to are farmers as fertilizer. Keep in mind good clean water on the other end. The Real Debate of the issue above is nobody Knowing how much anything is going to cost and at the dollar amounts from above I'm really glad there not jumping into cold water.

Watering your yard with TAP WATER IS STUPIED!

In response to "Sick Of The Local Rambos" (Aug 13), I just wanted to confirm that Indoor Biotechnologies is doing well in the recession and we have not cut or reduced any employees hours. To the contrary, we increased our employees by one FTE in 08-09. We haven't done the math to see how many employee hours we would need to cut to save over 53,000 gallons of water!

@travel lite:
If the ââ?¬Å?vanity” dam is not built then the speculated growth will never happen becouse there won’t be any water.
What will happen to it? When will it run out?

travel lite,

I miss those cows! I also miss the lake that was destroyed and filled in by that big clearing's red dirt. (Lake Saponi) Let's definetly not use Greene County as a good example for anything. Unless you like environmental destruction.

Excellent article ! Hope everyone will read the Hook article from 2005 " Pipedreamer Frederick wants millions "

the amount of water from the Gannett Fleming studies quoted in this article is now totally wrong. We are using 24% less water in 2009 than Mr. Frederick claims form their data, and 22% less water than in 1999, as reported in the Hook.

When will we see the political courage to call the RWSA's 200 million-dollar scheme for a new dam and pipeline, as Mr. Crutchfield has, Charlottesville's "Bridge to Nowhere."

I am shocked by Frederick's statement and find it unbelievable that our elected officials would allow this type of censorship. This shows me that it is an untenable situation to allow him to be in control of the dredging studies unless we want a whole repeat of the Gannett Fleming fiasco.

"A reporter asked for details about prior dredging projects Burch has overseen, and Burch said he’d call back. He did, just an hour or so later."

ââ?¬Å?I’m sorry, but I’ve got to shut you down,” said Burch. ââ?¬Å?I’ve been asked to refer all media inquiries to Tom Frederick.”

@Randolph, how do you know how much water we will need 50 years from now? RWSA doesn't.

For an objective overview of this dredging problem, my sevices and dredging experience should be considered.

Structural problem:

Awesome article. Former Mayor David Brown gives a fascinating talk about Charlottesville's "weak Mayor" system. (Inspired by abuses of mayoral power, the first was enacted in Staunton around 1908)--the mayorship rotates among the City Council, and you can say whatever you want to a city councillor, but they can't do anything without going through the City Manager! The City Manager in the case of Charlottesville happens also to be on the board of two powerful Service Authorities--one of the most insulated-from-Public-opinion entities that have ever been (perhaps). So--Charlottesville has a weak Mayor and a thrice empowered City Manager. Who is surprised by this scenario? How soon can these Service Authorities be dismantled? Ideas?

Favorite bumper sticker? "If we don't change direction, we'll get where we're going" --this quote from the interview with Frederick says it all.

The question is, where exactly are we going, and perhaps we don't want to go with him.

Their drop in water consumption could be due to scaling back the employee's hours. Some employees have been reduced to 2 and 3 days a week if I am not mistaken.

Aren't we sure we're handling our wastes the right way?

What if?

That is, provided water costs what it should. Cities give water--or should I say, they have given water away, sort of, as a bribe to development. That needn't concern us--we're in a recession.

It's not thought of as a bribe.

Either the possibility is there or it isn't.

But if it is not there then the growth will not be there.?

The RSWA should be able to match are highest growth estimate. do not low ball my water!

good call, good call.

All I can say is HOORAY! Sally Thomas isn't running for re-election.