Water park? Dredge force stresses rowing, not dredging
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