Soil & Water board joins City seeking dam halt

The elected multi-jurisdictional board serves four counties plus the city of Charlottesville.

A second public body has moved to seek a halt to further work on a financially and environmentally questionable water project that would flood a sensitive nature area and place a reservoir around Interstate 64.

The Thomas Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District sent a letter Friday November 14, that aligns itself with the City of Charlottesville, which voted November 3, in pressing the halt until dredging and other studies determine how best to meet the community's long-term water needs.

"We want to see these studies go forward and get some better numbers before we commit to that dam," says District chair Nick Evans, a hydro-geologist.

One of the larger issues looming in recent days is the fact that the dam would be practically worthless as a water source without a 9.5-mile, electricity-dependent pipeline that even its backers admit is just a concept.

Some folks, such as Jeff Werner, who spoke during a public hearing two days earlier, declared that the dam-reservoir project has been unfairly maligned, particularly by this newspaper, and that debate should cease.

Supervisors Sally Thomas, Ken Boyd, and David Slutzky have set up a November 25 meeting with their City counterparts.

"I'm really tired of the Swift-Boating of this issue," said Werner, in reference to an infamous presidential campaign tactic, as he repeatedly kicked the carpet of the County Office Building, "As a City resident, I just cannot let this continue."

Werner's pro-project view was shared by only one of the other eight speakers (a member of the Albemarle County Service Authority named John Martin who said he once found a live spiny mussel at the site of an earlier planned reservoir).

The Supervisors also heard from former Charlottesville mayor Francis Fife, who noted that prior dredging studies–- which were conducted by Gannett Fleming, the firm that eventually won the $3.1 million contract to design the dam–- were "vastly exaggerated." One such study, conducted before multiple private firms clamored to do the job for under $30 million, put the price as high as $223 million.

John Martin flexed a mussel.

Yet, Werner's wisdom appeared to resonate with at least three Albemarle Supervisors.

"I don't understand the backlash," said Supervisor David Slutzky. "We went through a public process, an extensive process, and we voted."

Because the public comment session had closed by that point, it was impossible for anyone to point out that Wednesday's meeting was actually the first ever held by the County Supervisors on the 50-year water plan. So Slutzky went on.

"We just have a lot of frustrated people unhappy with the outcome," Slutzky said. "They continue to beat the drums of dissent in hopes of delaying the outcome."

Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier seemed to fear further impediments to the project when he said, "We've been told by Mr. Frederick,"–- that's Tom Frederick, the head of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority–- "that any delay could be expensive."

Area businessman William Crutchfield, however, has issued two missives blasting the project itself as expensive. And while at least six neighborhoods, a petition with 481 signatures, and two conservation groups (both previously counted as steadfast project backers) have moved to embrace a new look at dredging, Supervisor Sally Thomas insists that the public definitely wants the pipeline/reservoir. After all, she said, she received 237 supportive emails.

Jeff Werner spoke at four public meetings November 12.

But her colleague Dennis Rooker argued against a vote. "I just don't see the rush," he said.

The whole point of the Wednesday, November 12 public hearing was a long-planned change to the County's Comprehensive Plan that would have removed from future water supply consideration both the long-ago proposed Buck Mountain Reservoir and the existing Chris Greene Lake–- and Chris Greene is a component of the alternate plan put forward by project critics.

Rooker urged delay, which passed 6-0. The County will meet with the City and the RWSA on Tuesday, November 25.

–last updated 11:28am, November 18


Ms Thomas has received 237 emails which she assessed as strongly in favor of The Community Water Supply. But they and she did not know of the cost revisions. They did not know the cost of the required pipeline. They have not considered the long term problems in allowing sediment to over load the SFRR dam. And they are willing to sacrifice the Ragged Mountain Nature Area (owned by the city) including 52,000 very large trees.

How can Ms. Thomas and her various affiliated community organizations (Board of Supervisors, League of Women Voters, Rivanna River Basin Commission, +++) ignore the hundreds community residents who continually come to meetings and speak out against the water plan? How can she ignore the petitions (reported above) from the neighborhoods which total 461. And how can she ignore the organizations that oppose the APPROVED Community Water Plan? The numbers of individuals in opposition far outweigh the supporters.

If she relies on these old emails, perhaps she could respond to them with today’s information. Not the old proven misinformation but the real situation. They may appreciate the information and the opportunity to update their support.

Mr. Slutsky seems to have made some good points.

Richard, You have surely hit the nail on the head. Thomas appears very out of touch in making such a comment. The good thing, her old emails don't matter anymore, as things have changed. She, Dorrier, and Werner are unconvincing at this point, and they are not looking well here. Members,public have caught on. Thanks HOOK. It is your paper that truly makes a difference in our community.

It was interesting that John Martin mentioned during the ACSA meeting that he was present when an unnamed "authority" jumped in the creek and produced a single James Spiney Mussel from beneath some bridge near Buck Mountain. He did not identify who identifing authority was, or the name of the creek, but did say they were on the way to someones home (I cannot recall who).

After reading some on the James Spiney Mussel, I recall that there are scores of freshwater mussels in Virginia. Several of them are the "Spiney" variety although only the James Spiney is endangered. Evidentially it is difficult to discern which one is "the one". In fact there is a DNA research program being conducted at The Va Tech Mussel Labatory, in Blacksburg. The intent is to use DNA from the shell, or some internal organ to identify mussels. It is somewhat difficult and misidentification is common.

Knowing this, I wonder who this individual was, why he only inspected one speciment, why no report was made, and what information on the mussel colony was collected. Individuals who can identify mussel breeds, especially rare mussels, should have interest beyond throwing it back after casual observation.

What ever happened to the North Rivanna Resovoir ?
I seem to recall the land for it was purchased years ago.


I found your post very informative. Partly based on it, I believe that we should revisit the construction of the Buck Mountain reservoir. It would probably be the least expensive, quickest to build, would consume virtually no energy, provide a wonderful recreational area for the community and, ironically, may have the least environmental impact. The stumbling block appears to be alleged existence of James Spiney mussels.

The logical course of action would be to determine if this endangered mussel really does exist in the watershed. To make that determination, we should engage scientists from Virginia Tech to locate them. They have the professional training to identify them in the field and, as you point out, the DNA testing program to validate their field findings. And, coming from Blacksburg, they would be credible to all parties since they don’t have ââ?¬Å?a pony in our race.” If public funds are not available, I am sure that their services could be funded through private donations.

If these impartial scientists find James Spiney mussels, there must be logical procedures to mitigate the problem. Mitigation is a common practice when wetlands are disturbed. It is inconceivable to me that state and federal regulators would hold our community’s best water plan hostage because of such a finding. Relocating or, even, destroying them would have far less environmental impact than disturbing the Ragged Mountain Nature Area, cutting 52,000 large trees and generating the electricity to pump a river uphillââ?¬â?three accepted outcomes of the current water plan. My experience with bureaucrats is that they eventually see reason. If James Spiney mussels are found, I am confident that we can overcome the permitting issues. At least, we should try this approach before adopting a terribly flawed water plan that is rapidly losing community support.


Jeff Werner: "As a City resident, I just cannot let this continue." The last time I heard similar arrogance, it led to an election to council. Lawdy, the cooperation between his organization that was instrumental in founding the Ragged Mountain Natural Area and The Nature Conservancy with its mega-bucks will buy him a seat on council!
"ââ?¬Å?I don’t understand the backlash,” said Supervisor David Slutzky. ââ?¬Å?We went through a public process, an extensive process, and we voted.”" "ââ?¬Å?We just have a lot of frustrated people unhappy with the outcome,” Slutzky said. ââ?¬Å?They continue to beat the drums of dissent in hopes of delaying the outcome." Duh, it is becoming very clear to the public that both governing bodies just simply went through the motions. This time they got caught with not caring about grossly erroneous data. What are THEIR REAL reasons for "serving" in government? At least Slutzky adnowledges the significant numbers in the public who are opposed to moving ahead without adequate data. Before, he acted as though the vast majority of the public approved and I'm sure the people brought in by PEC, SELC and TNC would have overwhelmed any prior public hearing.
Is John Martin the sole source of the spiney mussel spotting? Why has his collaborator not come forward?

There is BIG money in PEC. They are paying Werner's salary. Come on folks, Werner is probably supporting certain projects because the PEC board directs him to do so. For example, Werner lives in downtown Charlottesville. Why in the world would he invite pollution, increased traffic via Meadowcreek Parkway, in his own neighborhood? Why has he supported the initiatives layed out in this writing? He works to protect certain interests. The wealthy don't want bypass roads in the Stony Point, Keswick, or Ivy areas. The easy fix, push a road through Mcintire Park!
Why is Werner kicking his foot? Because he knows others are getting the best of him.

plop, I believe you're right, as usual. It's amusing and sad to see the "leaders" who was leading us blindly down the road, are beginning to be lead by the electorate, although they're kicking and screaming trying to carry out the program of special interest groups.

Cville, thanks for the support. I do think we are gaining ground, as the public is "catching on".

I have been trying to learn as much as possible about the water supply issue and feel I am probably more knowledgible than a lot of people but I keep learning more and more damaging information related to the Ragged Mountain plan and pipeline. I was under the impression that the James River Spiney mussel had definitely been found and that some government agency had ruled that the dam couldn't be built there. Now I learn this absolutely false. This is like the $223 million dredging estimate and other lies. There has been a definite program of false or hidden information and the more I learn the madder I get. The big problem is most people don't know anywhere near as much I do so they are mislead by the program of misinformation. I have to really thank the Hook for being the one media outlet to continually publish the truth. We have to spead the word to as many people as possible to get the politicians to act properly. Slutzky is probably already trying to campaign against Rob Bell.

Can anyone explain to us how creating a whole new reservoir from scratch (Buck Mountain), and the massive construction work that that will entail (earth-moving, tree-cutting, stream-filling, etc.), is in any way more environmentally-friendly than dredging an existing reservoir and expanding another? Isn't it better to use what you have versus create anew?

That is exactly the argument we have been making. Dredge first and then look at your options for the future. Ragged Mt. doesn't work as a future option because it can't fill itself ( inadequate watershed) so a pipeline from SFRR was proposed but the route, cost, and design are unknown and all estimates, adjusted for inflation are probably more than 100 million.

Dredging was thrown out because of the cost, which we now know was highly inflated, the Ragged Mt dam and pipeline are looking like they will be double or more likely triple what they were estimated.

There are many alternatives that are far more appealing than expanding Ragged Mt, which must be filled with a yet to be designed pipeline.

We simply do not have adequate information to move forward and the City is taking the responsible course. Please contact them and support their efforts. And contact the Board of Supervisors and try to help them see the light!

This is the first page of our web-site which you can get to by clicking on my name. As Mr. Rooker said at the last BOS meeting--

Let Reason Prevail

A Citizens Guide to the 50 Year Water Supply Proposal


TJSWCD the latest to support a study of dredging before a dam is built
Read the letter of support

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) has formulated a 50-year proposal to increase our water supply for future residents and businesses. This very expensive proposal will make drastic changes to the storage of our water and the community's natural resources.

* The plan now costs $200,000,000 (and rising)- water bills will skyrocket.
* The plan destroys 180 acres of mature forest (~50,000 trees!)
in a Charlottesville park.
* The plan abandons two of our three reservoirs.
* The plan threatens downstream flow in the Rivanna River.
* The plan puts public safety at risk.

CITIZENS FOR A SUSTAINABLE WATER PLAN is a local group of citizens concerned about these unproven changes to our water supply.

We believe that there has been insufficient information and debate concerning the plan. We are dedicated to helping bring factual information to the public. This website is part of our effort. We welcome your questions, interest and support.

The true costs of the water supply plan
Common Myths about the Water Supply Plan: How they talked them into it.
Timeline: A not-so-public planning process.

News articles, podcasts, blogs, and MUCH MORE!

In this analysis, the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan explain the current water supply debate and offer three alternative scenarios that are less environmentally damaging and less expensive.
Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan release paper on problems with the "conceptual pipeline"

Sierra Club throws support to dredging
Advocates for a Sustainable Population supports dredging study
William Crutchfield, Jr., a business perspective(pdf) (in Word)
William Crutchfield, Jr. calls for re-evaluation of the water supply plan
Dennis Rooker, a politician's perspective

You will find the following information on this website:
Information about the Current and Future Water Supply

Current Water Supply

Future Water Supply Plan

The True Costs of the Future Water Supply Plan

Alternative Plans
Nature Lost in the Future Water Supply Plan

Loss of the Ragged Mountain Natural Area

Loss of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

Impact on the Rivanna River
What You Can Do

What you can do

Contact City Council

Contact Board of Supervisors

Contact Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

Contact The Nature Conservancy

I don't understand why "environmentally-friendly" is even an issue when discussing something as important as a sufficient local water supply. Everybody will keep dragging their feet on this water issue until we finally run out of water one long hot summer. And once we do run out of water, it's not going to be very easy to replenish the reservoirs with what little precipitation we get in the fall and winter. In speaking with our grandchildren, a discussion of the bypass that never came to be will take a back seat to the discussion of our water problems for the last few decades.

I just don't get it here. Why is the BOS wasting so much time beating a dead horse? Can't they see the public won't stand for their silliness anymore? I hope the city fathers are finally waking up to the fact that Albemarle officials seek to manipulate the city. Once again, look at the Parkway situation. It is the county desiring to shove their own traffic through the park. Of course, the county seeks to avoid objectionable bypasses in their own territory. Look at this dam issue. It is the county that seeks to avoid taking a sensible path. Jeff Werner hangs with the so-called environmentalists on the BOS too. They have traditionally hung together to push a certain agenda. In the past they have pulled the wool over eyes, public. I'm sure PEC and chums on BOS are furious. Too bad, they deserve to be embarrassed. Taxpayers have seen through the haze and their game is over.

The DEQ has said dredging can be permitted all we need is the surveys which have been stalled since July when the RWSA voted to get them done.
There are laws which need to be followed. The current permit obtained by the RWSA to build the dam and pipeline is now based on faulty data which according to the RWSA consultants Gannett Fleming needs to be re-evaluated before moving forward. There currently in not enough money in the RWSA budget to build a $100 million dam and $100 million dollar pipeline plus all the infrastructure inprovements that are needed. We need water and we need water we can afford !

How about a new group Affordable Water ---

Virginia Water Protection Permit Program Regulations provide that the permit applicant "must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the [State Water Control] board that practicable alternatives, including design alternatives, have been evaluated and that the proposed activity, in terms of impacts to water quality and fish and wildlife resources, is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative." Reference 9VAC25-210-115



As you know, I am a strong proponent of dredging. However, the Board of Supervisors and City Council need an alternative to the Ragged Mountain reservoir/pipeline scheme. Otherwise, the argument will be that this plan has its problems but there are no other alternatives for addressing the area’s long-term water needs. I strongly believe that dredging the South Rivanna reservoir should be done while understanding that it is not a long-term solution to our water problem.

I fear that there are other alternatives that have not been adequately vetted. The Buck Mountain reservoir has been planned for many years. Previous boards found it to be the best long-term solution to our water situation. The land has been purchased. The lengthy condemnation suits are resolved. Had it not been for the alleged discovery of the James River Spiney mussel, we probably would have started construction on the reservoir several years ago without controversy.

The important question is now being raised about the degree of due diligence that was conducted regarding the James River Spiney mussel discovery. Was its existence confirmed by a professional? If it was, was environmental remediation aggressively studied? If the answer to either of these questions is no, we may have wasted an enormous amount of time and money concocting this current, seriously-flawed plan.

RWSA needs to grow a spine and build the Buck Mtn Reservoir. If there are endangered mussels, then move them first.

So, wouldn't it make sense to move forward with dredging now and asap? Can't other accompanying issues be addressed later? It is time we demand the BOS stop wasting our time with their talking in a circle. It appears it is a given, the enlightened public wants,expects dredging to now happen. The BOS is putting both the city and county at risk for future health and safety issues, as they spin wheels.


I greatly appreciate the letters you have written to the Hook. I do agree we need a long term solution and that no options should be taken off the table, as was about to happen at the last BOS meeting. They planned to take Buck Mt. and Chris Greene Lake out of the Comprehensive Plan as future water supply options. This action was deferred thanks to citizens coming forward. The BOS plans to re-visit this on Dec. 3rd and the majority indicated they wanted to eliminate these options from the Comp Plan and include the new Ragged Mt dam and new uphill pipeline from the South Fork as the 50 year water supply plan. Hopefully this will not happen.

Presently given the lack of adequate information all options should remain open. Dredging may or may not be enough water for 50 years, we simply will not know that until the surveys are completed and we have more accurate demand, conservation, and population projections, but given changing weather patterns and the desirability of Charlottesville as a destination we need to plan for water well beyond 50 years.

Dredging is just the most obvious place to begin. We have outlined several scenarios at our web-site that provide the same amount of water as the current proposal from RWSA , for far less money. All these proposals include dredging as one piece of supply.

I am sure creative, business minds will come up with a far less costly, and more reasonable solution than the one presently before us to supply our community with water well into the future. We are blessed with many possibilities.

Is the county vulnerable to suit by those (city), who would be negatively affected by county actions in this case? As far as we hear, the county will be named in suit,Meadowcreek Parkway. It seems to me, the county officials had better be cautious. In fact, seems they would do all they can to avoid costly legal battles. The taxpayers will certainly hold officials responsible for poor decisions, as suits move forward.


I think that we are in total agreement. Although former community leaders came to this conclusion years ago, I am not suggesting that the Buck Mountain plan is the best. I don't know enough about the other alternatives. The purpose of my post to this blog is that Buck Moutain should not be eliminated because of erroneous information and/or the absence of good due diligence.

Speaking of the Buck Mountain reservoir, "Land purchased by the RWSA to build a reservoir at Buck Mountain, it was determined, would be used to offset the environmental impacts of streams inundated at Ragged Mountain." ( Does anybody, including the elected officials understand how one can use a waterway in Free Union to mitigate the enviornmental damage done to the Ragged Mountain Natural Area? The article mentions the inundation of streams at Ragged Mountain will be mitigated; will it be by creating more streams at Buck Mountain? Does any of the elected officials or anybody in the public have any understanding of exactly what will be mitigated and how?

How does the determinations of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the VA Department of Environmental Quality have to do with the determination of the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries? More from the source above: "In an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow, RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick wrote that the Buck Mountain option was eliminated after state regulators with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries said they could not support a permit application which used that watershed. Frederick said a 'rational screening process' eliminated the Buck Mountain alternative.

'Federal law, regulations, and "case law" on selecting the "least environmentally damaging" alternative is vastly more complex and multi-faceted than the simple "proof" of the presence of a mussel,' Frederick wrote. 'It was clear early in the evaluation process the a Buck Mountain Reservoir could not have lower overall impacts than more favorable alternatives among which were Ragged Mountain, and it would have been an unnecessary expense of public resources to thereafter keep studying more details of Buck Mountain.'

Frederick also said that the regulators support the adopted plan, and pointed to the permits approved earlier this year by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers." Who the regulators?

Sorry, one more question: "Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said he agreed that regulators had made it clear to him that Buck Mountain could not be an option, given that other options would be less environmentally damaging.
ââ?¬Å?It was made pretty clear that Buck Mountain in our circumstances where we could obtain water from the James by a pipeline, where he have other options in the community, that that was not something that would be approved,” Rooker said. He said the standard is calculated using measurements such as 'feet of stream inundated' and 'wetlands taken' and the creation of a new reservoir would have more of an impact than other options." Doesn't this sound as though the "regulators" preferred our taking water out of the James rather than inundating streams? Will the "regulators" insist upon our putting the James back on the table instead of the Ragged Mountain environmental disaster? The BoS need to realize that taking anything out of the Comprehensive Plan does not have the effect of law; it just provides guidance information to those who come after. Future decision-makers are not bound by it.

Mr. Crutchfield

In regard to Buck Mountain, you may find the following interesting. It is taken from the minutes of the April 18th, 2005 meeting of the 4 Boards and the "Authorities". This entire document is good reading for everyone.

Prior to leaving the meeting, Mr. Gaffney read the second question submitted by
Mr. Boyd as follows:
2. What do we need to do to get a reservoir approved at Buck Mountain where
we bought land years ago?
RWSA Special Board Minutes (cont.) April 18, 2005
Joint Meeting and Work Session of the Boards with Regulatory Agencies
S:\Board\RWSA\Board Meetings 2005\RWA May 2005\Minutes of April 18, 2005 Meeting.doc
Mr. Schwinn stated that this option would need to go through the same process
previously discussed at this meeting. COE would review the purpose and need of
that particular reservoir, the environmental impacts, and whether there was a ââ?¬Å?less
damaging, practicable” alternative available that fulfilled that purpose and need.
Mr. Rooker followed up by stating that they had been previously informed that it
would be highly unlikely that a new reservoir application would be approved
given the fact that there were other alternatives available to the community. He
asked if this statement was correct.
Mr. Schwinn responded that COE would never place itself in the position to
prejudge any project and would need to follow the process as described
Mr. Rooker asked for DEQ’s input on this question.
Mr. Hassell stated that it would be difficult to permit the Buck Mountain project,
due to it being a request for a new reservoir. The aquatic impacts with building a
new dam occurred during building the first few feet of the structure. With this
project, there would a large inundation of streams and impacts to the wetlands.
The impacts associated with raising dams would be somewhat less per million
gallons of additional storage. He echoed COE’s comments concerning not
prejudging projects. He did not have the technical information for the Buck
Mountain project in order to make a determination on whether it could be
Mr. Watson with DGIF stated that Buck Mountain was a known documented
location for the currently state-endangered James Spinymussel. Those records
had been documented from 1998 until last year from the survey conducted by
Virginia Tech. Applying for a permit for this project would probably require a
formal consultation by DGIF on this issue, as there would be no way to remove
all the species in the inundation zone. He felt that DGIF would probably not
support building a reservoir in the Buck Mountain Creek because of the ââ?¬Å?take” on
the James Spinymussel as well as the other impacts to that species that have
occurred in the watershed.
Mr. Kauffman added that in the late 1970’s he had several discussions with
George Williams and Gene Potter when the Buck Mountain proposal was first
being proposed as far as condemning the land. He had advised that before the
land was condemned a study be conducted for the presence of the James
Spinymussel since there was the potential for that species to be at that location.
This study was not conducted until later in the process.

Here is a link to the VT Mussel group that provides surveys of the James spinymussel The site says it has found two instances of James spinymussel in the Upper James River watershed but it does not say where.

Sorry, copied the wrong link. This is the home page: