Unblocked reservoir? RWSA may okay dredging study

news-palmerthomasAlbemarle County Service Authority board member Liz Palmer and Supervisor Sally Thomas contend that dredging won't supply enough water.

Over a year after newspaper reports revealed that a Pennsylvania-based engineering firm may have wildly overestimated the cost of dredging the Rivanna Reservoir, the caretaker of that water body, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, may finally vote to authorize a dredging study to reveal exactly how much water supply could be gained and whether a controversial pump-and-flood proposal in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area–- one that could cost citizens over $200 million–- might be averted, or at least delayed.

"I think it's about time; it's past time," said dredging proponent Kevin Lynch during a May 14 water debate organized by students at Monticello High School.

The vote could come as early as Monday, May 18. Some officials, however, having already tried to block the study with a 22-official confab in November and a task force that recommended merely recreational- and spot-dredging, have indicated a desire block it again.

news-mooneycollinslynch-medDredging supporters Rich Collins, Betty Mooney, and Kevin Lynch listen to Liz Palmer at Monticello High.

In what has become known as the "Obama White" meeting, due to an alleged statement by its chair, a body named the Albemarle County Service Authority held a special meeting April 22 to brainstorm ways to halt a dredging study. The group, eager to voice its objections before the RWSA meets Monday, then held another special meeting on Thursday, May 14 to hammer out a letter.

"Today was just to tell me what their thoughts were so I can write a letter," Service Authority director Gary Fern confirms. "But I also need to run a Service Authority. The letter hasn't been drafted yet."

Even if Fern doesn't find time in his busy schedule to pen a letter, he also sits on the RWSA board, so presumably he can just tell the other board members–- in case they momentarily forgot–- how much his group dislikes anything that might delay the dam plan.

That letter appears to create something of a showdown Monday since the Charlottesville City Council–- whose citizens own all three urban reservoirs and merely lease them to RWSA–- voted last year to halt design work on the dam which would put a reservoir under Interstate 64 and fell approximately 54,000 trees in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area.

In other business expected Monday, the board will hear from the public on its proposed 11-12% hike in wholesale water rates. Also, the board is expected to consider a new way to save money: going off the grid and generating its own electricity during summer heat waves.

One upcoming twist is that the RWSA board will be augmented Monday by two new elected officials, City-based dredging fan Holly Edwards and County-based dredging foe Sally Thomas.

"The reason it doesn't work to dredge," Thomas said May 14 at Monticello High, "is that the reservoir isn't big enough."

If the RWSA allows the study to happen, she might soon be able to prove that.


Saturday, May 16 update: Fern emailed his letter Friday night. It demands that the City pay for a dredging study since such study would allegedly only address the City's "particular needs."

Read more on: rwsawater supply


Gary Fern confirms. ââ?¬Å?But I also need to run a Service Authority. The letter hasn’t been drafted yet.”
How about the members of this body, don't they have better things to do than stop the dredging study ?

What I don't get is why I don't hear more outrage from the people who are always screaming about "our tax dollars" and "tax and spend liberals." We're talking spending upwards of $200M. That would make sense if we were, I don't know, PHILADELPHIA? But the a population we're talking about serving is less than 130,000 (since some large pct county folks live off well water).

I had a very funny conversation with one of my Republican buddies last night (yes, I do have them). And he told me that his peeps thought there was some "secret plan" among water plan foes to halt growth. I just laughed and said, Look, buddy, the water skeptics' tent is a BIG tent. There are people who don't have a secret plan to halt growth, but a very overt and up-front agenda. And then there are all these other people who are saying, "Whoa--am I getting stuck with that check?"

The older I get, the more I think the old people had it right. I'slike my great-granddaddy used to say: "Common sense ain't so common."

It's actually pretty simple. There's one thing that Republicans love more than whimpering about "tax & spend liberals" and that's helping their rich developer buddies get even richer. They have no concept of smart growth. For them, it has to be one of a pair of polar opposites: No Growth, which is being forced on them by a cabal of evil tree-huggers, or their own preferred method, Scorched Earth. They don't understand that there's this vast area in between those two called Smart Growth. It contains wacky and far-out ideas like sustainability and economic responsibility. The Scorched Earth approach requires a LOT of water- certainly a lot more than Smart Growth- so We the People need to get them their water, tout de suite, and just STFU about it already, okay? (oh, and we'll need to pick up the tab on that one, too...)

All the Repubs, BOS, and ACSA members know is that they want to have a big parade, but these mean pro-dredging people are trying to pee all over it.

Too bad we couldn't get that kind of righter when she was on city council. Good government ain't so common 'round here neither.

I'm in favor of the City paying the $100,000 for the dredging survey since the RWSA has to do the bathymetric survey anyway,so they're already committed to $150,000 of the cost . Then the city can control how it's done and make sure it's not a scam and gets the needed information for restorative dredging that the Sierra Club and Citizens are calling for that will allow a valid comparison. Otherwise the study will be controlled by Sally, the ACSA and Frederick--bad idea !

Liz Palmer and John Martin, both on the Albemarle Service Authority are trying to block a 200 thousand dollar study so they can spend 200 million making our water plan into a river restoration project for the organization they helped establish Friends of the Moorman's River and they don't pay water rates. Why would anyone let them do this ?

Rate Payer has an A+ for teh comment. Council needs to realize exactly the type of people that they are dealing with and circumvent their obstructionist practices. Contrary to popular saying, keep your enemies at a distance, otherwise, you'll spend all of your time dealing with them and getting nothing done. I wouldn't howl if Council picks of the entire tab for the study. Didn't they have $750,000 left over from the bricking project? This water proposal should take top priority over CIP spending in the near future.

City Council Water and Sewer Rate Public Hearing 7pm tonight council chambers

the Rivanna public hearing is to set wholesale rates for the city and county. Both bodies then set their own retail rates. The City will hold a public hearing on their proposed rate tonight.

The question for both bodies is since they are using inaccurate estimates for what the dam would cost and have no estimates for the pipeline and have not completed the dredging studies which may save over a 100 million dollars for rate payers how can they pass a budget now ?

"Who’s in controll here, City Council or RWSA?" Good question, but what about option C, someone else entirely?

I couldn't get to the meeting tonight or even watch it. What happened there anyone?

The reason the reservoir isn't big enough is because it needs to be dredged!!!

Both sides of this debate have actually acknowledged that even if the SFRR is dredged, it's still not big enough.

Gene, no one knows that until we we do the study and re-do the consultants figures on water needed. We are currently using over 20% less water than they projected and that doesn't begin to account for future conservation. Remember what Rivanna does if you conserve they raise your rates. Can you imagine what they're bills will be if they spend over $200 million on a new dam and pipeline. And imagine what you will pay if we use less water as we are now and are trending to do in the future. We have plenty of water and with better information I'll bet dredging is enough for 50 years. This we wouldn't have enough water argument is full of holes and meant to scare people into emptying their pocketbooks to build this monstrosity.

Let's settle this and get the dredging surveys done !

This article shakes my confidence in the members of the RWSA. Why are they not eager to get full information about all options ASAP? Do they not have enough staff? Are they lazy?

And is it in fact so clear that the new members have already made up their minds about dredging? If they are not open to new information, they will do a bad job.

They can dredge the Hudson for 750M but it would cost 200M to do our tiny Rivanna? Something stinks with the dredge study & consultants! Were they expecting PCB's in the Rivanna????


I support a dredging study. But are there any estimates on the cost of a study alone? We should have all options looked at, but we need to do so responsibly.

"Why are they not eager to get full information about all options ASAP?" Many ofthe stronger voices are not serving the public's interest but rather special interests with hidden agendas. At no time in the history of Charlottesville has it ever developed a 50-year water supply plan, why is it trying to do something so ridiculous now? Has the State started requiring it or are they still looking for a 30-year plan?

This process has now become so corrupted it's time to dissolve the RWSA which never should have been formed in the first place. The city should take over the operation of its water and sewer facilities and charge the county for it products. At least the city rate payers will not be helping the county pay for its growth.

"Why are they not eager to get full information about all options ASAP?" Many ofthe stronger voices are not serving the public's interest but rather special interests`.

Going to be real hard to find a dredging contractor for at least the next 2 years, now that the COE has released the stimulas project list with additional 450 Million going toward waterway dredging in the US. Unless you want to pay top dollar.

That $450M won't go far or last long. It will probably be used up around the Mississippi Delta.

Since this project will indirectly affect protected lands why not ask the US Army Corps of Engineers to do a free survey?

What do you mean by "protected lands?"

You have never been righter, Kendra Hamilton.

So the county sends a letter to council indicating they won't pay for their part, dredging study. If I were on council, I would be furious as the county often manipulates and exploits the city successfully. The city holds the cards here. Why are they hesitant to play them?
Don't they realize the county is playing games? Norris should get in their faces, but he won't.

Sally will vote with the ACSA to oppose any and all dredging --just watch. It's time for the City to look out for their Citizens first and make this an issue of City resources and affordability. If that means pulling out of the RWSA as a joint endeavor so be it .

Norris doesn't need to get into their faces. That pack of jackals only have one vote out of five on the RWSA. If the other six vote to pay for it, then ACSA will have to go along with it or withdraw from the RWSA. I believe eventually members of the ACSA will get tired of being bullied by Don Wagner, John Martin and Liz Palmer and tell them where they can vacation. Remember, this issue is evolving into a contest between elected officials and appointed private citizens.
It's interesting that the county chose Sally Thomas to represent them in this sticky matter until December. It actually makes the BoS look as though they adhere to the politics of who rather than what and why. This issue is also showing the county voters what they have put into office and it's not that pretty of a picture.
Council's biggest mistake was in re-appointing Mike Gaffney (developer) back to the RWSA.

Amen, Jeff. The Authority should be dissolved and a new one formed constitued with elected officials. That I think the County would go for rather than the ideal plan which would be for the RWSA to be dissolved and the City sell the water to the ACSA. I hope people will begin to see the future hassles the City will have with the County over this new transportation authority and take heed.

Something has to happen here for sure, I'm not seeing why creating an elected water authority would necessarily be the right move.We have an elected city council and can't get good people to do the job.

This wouldn't even be an issue if we had effective city leadership. Norris is ok, but realistically, in most cities he wouldn't even be noticed. It's just against the blank backdrop of the rest that he is even visible. Maybe the rest are following the Hamilton/Lynch model and waiting to leave council before they start leading anything.

and if Fluvanna can collect 2,000 signatures surely Charlottesville can collect 5,000 signatures to dissolve the RWSA if the elected officials refuse to get the dredging info needed to compare the 2 alternatives.

The county has successfully bullied the city government in many ways including the parkway issue. Council just sighs,makes excuses for the county, etc. I have heard council members make comments such as "well we need to work with the county or they won't talk to us". "Not talking" with the city just ain't gonna happen. Spouting off such garbage makes any councilor appear stupid. The county is playing the city for a fool. In fact, they are masters at it! Rooker and Thomas are the ring leaders as I see it. Jeff is correct. Sally has dug her heals in here. She has an agenda, and her mind is made up.
I want to hear Norris and the others on council say: "Oh yes you will help the city pay for a study or we'll cut the county off. We'll also start charging for water". Council taking a tough stance is the only fair route for city taxpayers.

Let's see. The RWSA is setting its rates today at 2PM and Council is having a public hearing on the 2PM rates tonight at 7PM. That certainly doesn't give the public much time to evaluate the rates. Is this what people mean by "transparency in government?" It certainly doesn't encourage public scrutiny of RWSA either. Who's in controll here, City Council or RWSA?

Water and Sewer Rate Public Hearing 2pm today at Rivanna, directions:


If the South Fork Reservoir stops being a reservoir, Doesn't that open up a bit of land along its shores for more development? Who owns that land? If it were only dredged for "recreational" reasons wouldn't that make the surrounding land even more desirable? I'm just sayin'...