Water park? Dredge force stresses rowing, not dredging

The task force met in the County Office Building in October.

A task force created to help save the shrinking Rivanna Reservoir has finalized a  24-page report but decided–- ironically, its critics contend–- that no major dredging should occur anytime soon. The news came on the eve of a key meeting, about a month after the group missed its own self-imposed deadline.

"It would be funny if it weren't so outrageous," says Betty Mooney, a citizen activist who has been urging dredging for about a year.

One of Mooney's fellow activists alleged in June, upon the 13-member task force's creation, that the advisory group was stacked with people trying to preserve a water plan rife with hidden environmental and financial costs. The group voted 11-2 to accept the report on Monday, January 26.

According to the approximately 11,000-word document, no dredging study should be undertaken until separate studies have been undertaken on emerging wetlands and recreational uses, and only after determining whether UVA should foot a bill for its use of the reservoir as a boating area for its competitive rowers.

"It's funny almost," says Mooney. "It doesn't accomplish the goal that was put before this task force: to get the dredging surveys done."

The Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club expressed similar frustration two weeks earlier when a draft report was circulated. Blasting the idea that the the reservoir, created in 1966 for water storage, should be treated merely as a "water park" or "cultural asset, the Sierra Club, in its January 12 release, insisted that a dredging feasibility study was the appropriate outcome.

The Hook reported last May that local officials relied on a single engineering firm eager to portray dredging the Rivanna as more expensive–- it turned out–- than a recent contract to dredge the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.

"Possibly excessive estimates of the cost of dredging," said the Sierra Club's statement, "may have led to the mistaken rejection of dredging of the Rivanna Reservoir as the primary means of providing long term water supply."

However, the leader of the task force, Albemarle County Supervisor Sally Thomas, contends that the water supply lay outside the group's purview.

Formerly a key dredging proponent, Thomas has recently turned her efforts to preserving a plan pushed by the Virginia chapter of the Nature Conservancy to place a new, potentially siltless reservoir around Interstate 64 in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area.

Asked whether the activists have a point in their claims that $100 million might be saved with dredging and other measures, Thomas responded, "They certainly have not put this down in any way that people can compare apples to apples."

Reminded that the activists not only submitted an alternate scenario back in May but also that the Hook had unsuccessfully contacted her at least twice for comment on same, Thomas contends that infrastructure costs may be omitted in such plans.

"Anybody can make any sort of claim," says Thomas. "We've got an adopted plan. It's a sustainable, intelligent plan that many communities would be celebrating."

–updated 3:19pm Tuesday, January 27


The public should take the time to listen to the podcast of the Task Force meetings and then read the report. It is outrageous to see how the report is so disjointed from the actual meetings.

The Rate Payers are not being considered. The South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir is being written off as an asset and the replacement will cost hundreds of millions of rate payers’ dollars.

Look at the list of Task Force Members. The vast majority do not pay water bills, hook-up fees or sewer bills. Yet they are the ones in charge. And The Nature Conservancy is in the county and wants a demonstration water park to prove out their experiment that this plan will actually work.

From the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan January 26, 2009

The Rivanna Reservoir Task Force report is a carefully constructed but thinly disguised attempt to prevent the public and our governing officials from learning that the true cost of dredging the Reservoir to near its original capacity would be far less, possibly $100 million less, than the original estimates on which decisions were made. Since those decisions, estimates by dredging professionals have suggested that dredging the Reservoir is likely the least expensive, the fastest, and the least environmentally destructive method of significantly expanding our water supply storage capacity.

We are in total agreement with the statement made by the Sierra Club and overwhelmingly supported at the public hearing and in the surveys that the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir should first and foremost be maintained for water supply and not primarily as a cultural asset.

Water supply planning decisions should be based on facts. The recommended technical surveys of the Reservoir should be implemented without further delay, as has been recommended by resolutions of both our City Council and Board of Supervisors.

The following task force members voted in favor of the recommendation for dredging below: Holly Edwards(City Council), Wren Olivier( Sierra Club), Dede Smith(Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan). The remaining Task Force members voted to not allow it to be included in the final report. Citizens for A Sustainable Water Plan and the Sierra Club voted against the final report. A minority report will be issued

The recommendation that was voted down:

Proceed with a Comprehensive Professional Study of Dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

1. Get a baseline evaluation of the reservoir condition with defining physical and geophysical information.
a. Bathymetric measurements to determine capacity
b. Side scan of reservoir bed to determine conditions (obstacles)
c. Geotechnical samples to determine composition of sediment

2. Identify potential dewatering and disposal sites

3. Identify potential commercial uses for sediment

4. Work with the community and the Army Corps of Engineers to establish an integrated resource management plan for the reservoir
a. Analysis of new sandbar/wetlands and potential for removal
b. Assess the impact of dredging on the control of hydrilla
c. Prevention of future sedimentation: i.e. forebays and other sediment entrapment methods

5. Cost estimates for a menu of dredging options

6. Evaluate Permitting conditions

RWSA has identified $300,000 in the Watershed Management Fund that can be used to fund a dredging study

just old time southern politics as usual...

This whole situation should be an embarrassment to the this entire area.


Betty, who are the Task Force members that voted against the recommendation?

Kudos to Edwards, Smith, and Olivier for doing the right thing. The SFRR reservoir is just that: a RESERVOIR. Over the years it has been used in strictly secondary capacity for rowing and fishing. It's primary use is not recreational. I find it ludicrous that the Task Force is allowed to get away with using recreational uses and wetlands studies as a red herring.

I really really want to know the answer to this question: WHY is the Task Force so opposed to getting a real estimate on dredging costs for our existing reservoir, and doing it sooner rather than later? What's up with the delays?

Ms Edwards, Ms Smith, and Ms Olivier, you're three strong women. I ask you to look into this and find out what's going on. The public deserves to know.

The complete list of Task Force member is at the end of this article


I think we need to conduct a study of this task force to make sure all the people meet the criteria of the Association of People Who. This study will be costly and time consuming but based on past experience we need to be sure we are sure before we can be sure about what we are approving.

Perhaps we may even need to study clouds to be sure they do in fact produce rain!

Stay tuned!

Did anybody in the city or county notice their water consumption magically double on the December billing cycle for no reason? Mine did. My brother's comsumption magically doubled. My next door neighbors did too. And a friend up he street, his water consumption doubled too. None of us had changed our water consumption habits at all, and none of us see any way imaginable that we used twice as much water as we had in the November billing cycle. mOST OF US ACTUALLY FIGURED WE HAD USED LESS WATER!! Did the city and county rape everybody, or just a random selection of homes hoping people wouldn't notice? I know they are hard up for money, but is this how they are finding much needed "funds" now? I called city hall. They said the concumption doubling was indeed unusual. They sent a workman out to check for leaks between my home and the street. He said there were no leaks and that some magical red thing on the water meter confimed this. There are no continuous drips or leaks anywhere in my home. And of course the only explanation city hall could then give me was a sarcastic, "Well sir, the meter says you used the water, you have no choice but to pay for it!" They beat me out of $50 this month.

So you call a painter to give you an estimate to paint your house. The painter comes back 6 months later and says, think you'd better get an estimate before you paint your house. Isn't this what the Task Force accomplished after meeting for 6 months and countless hours. Haven't they just asked for more studies to study whether the dredging surveys should be done?

ââ?¬Å?Anybody can make any sort of claim,” says Thomas

Let's see today on WINA's morning show you said dredging will only give us 31% of the water for our 50 year plan. How do you know this given we've had no surveys done? And you said dredging was more expensive. How do you know this given that there are no accurate cost estimates for the dam, pipeline , or dredging ? Isn't that why the Council voted not to proceed before inaccurate cost estimates are backed up with solid facts ?

Guess you're right about one thing anybody can make any sort of claim

Citizen, Thank you for pointing out the facts. I'm afraid Thomas is not looking well in this situation.

Ridge Schuyler has admitted that if the South Fork is dredged the dam would have to be only 30' higher instead of 45' and the consultant from Gannett Fleming says the main problem with dredging is that he was unable to find someone willing to dispose of it, which is no longer true. Of course, no one wants to defend the estimated amount of water usuage we will need AFTER fifty years have passed.
Sally Thomas says "Thomas said she has always considered three goals when developing a community water supply plan: keep drinking water supply in watershed, have an adequate supply, and to maintain a healthy watershed as a byproduct of the plan.

ââ?¬Å?For a long time it seemed that it wasn’t going to be possible to have a reasonably priced plan that met all three of those goals,” Thomas said. " Well, now it does if the over-estimated population consumption figures for 50 years down the road are examined. I am becoming convinced that these anti-growth characters, Liz Palmer, John Martin, Sally Thomas, and Ridge Schuyler believe that making the cost of water and the cost of living will only allow the "right" people to move here.

Liz Palmer, John Martin, Sally Thomas, and Ridge Schuyler believe that making the cost of water and the cost of living will only allow the ââ?¬Å?right” people to move here.

CvilleEye, could you explain abit more of what you mean? thanks

ââ?¬Å?Anybody can make any sort of claim,” says Thomas
I guess the Nature Conservancy is making some claims of their own
this is at CvilleWeekly

The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Conservation Programs Bill Kittrell replies: The Nature Conservancy believes the loss of treesââ?¬â?even on a designated reservoir siteââ?¬â?should concern us all. That’s why we protected 602 acres of forests adjacent to the Ragged Mountain reservoir. It’s why we support RWSA’s plan to plant 200 acres of additional forest upstream of the South Fork reservoir.

Regarding costs, even with dredging, we will need to replace the brittle, 81-year-old pipeline that fills the Ragged Mountain reservoir. The proposed replacement pipeline will be 30 percent shorter than the existing one and won’t drain sensitive headwater streams.

Finally, spending $30 million to dredge will create just 21 percent of the water storage we will need in times of drought and will allow us to reduce the proposed dam height by only 5'.

The Conservancy will continue Ridge’s constructive efforts to seek solutions that balance the economic constraints and water needs of our community with our sensitive environmental conditions.


So here's my claim

If we use Gannett Fleming's own numbers for how much water will be gained by dredging, and combine that with the Greg Harper approach to conservation, then dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir will give us the 50 years of water that the consultants say we need. Now it's up to dredging experts to confirm all these claims. We need to get the surveys done ASAP so we have the apples to apples comparison of the competing claims. Our elected officials owe it to the community to get this information.



If you want to be accurate, only about %40 of respondents to the RWSA survey indicated that dredging should be a part of the water supply plan. That is far from an "overwhelming" majority. Also, many that indicated they were in favor of dredging, indicated they were in favor it specifically FOR recreational uses.

Are we absolutely SURE all of the RSWA "on line" surveys are accounted for? I have no idea really, but I made a copy of mine "just in case" someone chooses to find this out.

This whole thing has become a sad lampoon of the political process. The "leadership" in our area is non-existent. Citizens who want to know (of which there are too few) are forced to become detectives and decryption specialists. It is a simple fact that the SFR was not properly maintained by those charged with that duty; nor was the Ragged Mtn. Reervoir Dam, obviously. It is also a fact that the demands of increasing population have caused development which has been allowed without thought to infrastructure/water needs. Building a water system that requires the uphill pumping from the old, unmaintained, reservoir to fill an older renovated and questionably located one is just stupid. And now we are in a state of politicized egoism and butt-covering. It is all completely ridiculous.

Numbers: Just because people surveyed said that they want the reservoir dredged for recreation purposes doesn't indicate that recreation should be its primary, sole, or best use.

ead: Bravo. You hit that nail square on the head.

Well, i listened to the podcast of this meeting, and it's quite revealing. The resulting report is a very fair outcome, in terms of what the task force was charged with considering. The group was not given direction by the 4 boards to review dredging as it relates to the existing and adopted water supply plan. It was charged with analyzing the reasons for dredging, but was specifically told NOT to reconsider the existing adopted plan.

At the end of the meeting, Ridge Schuyler gives a pretty convincing description of why dredging is NOT the panacea for this community's future water needs.

To listen, go here:


Is Ridge Schuyler qualified to make such a declaration?

Remember what Ms. Thomas said:

ââ?¬Å?Anybody can make any sort of claim,” says Thomas

Enough with the amateurs bring on the dredging experts !

His "claim" is based on numerous studies conducted by experts. I don't think Mr. Perriello would hire someone who ran around making wild claims based on mere speculation. He's obviously operating with a set of expert studies and hard science in mind.

OK, Let's talk about "the experts".

Numbers, What kind of statistical method are you using? Are you combining all answers regardless of the question?

In response to the question, ââ?¬Å?What are your expectations or desires for the future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir?”
Of 251 responses: 85% indicate they want SFRR preserved, maintained, restored, or enlarged; 70% of those use the word dredge.

In the report -- of the thirty lines dedicated to describing (and dismissing) the public input, 3 were devoted to the results, as follows:

"A large number of the questionnaire respondents expressed interest in dredging the Reservoir, to save money, to provide capacity, and from a feeling of ethical obligation."

Half of the 30 lines were devoted to saying that the public input was useless,
". The survey was not a scientific or statistically valid survey, as noted in the following statement contained at the top of the questionnaire:

This questionnaire has been created to gather public information on the community’s expectations for the reservoir. It is not intended to be a scientific or statistically valid survey but rather was developed as a way to solicit feedback from as many people as possible. The results of the questionnaire cannot be used to draw any specific conclusions or assumptions about the general community’s preferences, but will be helpful in providing the ideas and perspectives of those who chose to participate.

Accordingly, the Task Force was able to gain perspective and to appreciate the many suggestions and opinions expressed, but cannot use the questionnaire to draw conclusions."

Why did they bother to ask if they weren't going to listen???
Perhaps this disclaimer should be made at every public meeting, if this is how public input is regarded among our representatives.