Unblocked reservoir? RWSA may okay dredging study
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.
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."