Crutchfield Ink: Tycoon urges halt on 'bridge to nowhere'

Crutchfield wants the water plan to start from scratch.
FILE PHOTO BY LINDSAY BARNES

On a day when a new letter [DOC] from electronics magnate Bill Crutchfield began circulating, the controversial 50-year community water supply plan came under increased scrutiny from Charlottesville mayor Dave Norris and other City Councilors.

"I strongly agree that better numbers are needed for all components," Norris said in a Monday, October 6 email.

At that evening's City Council meeting, his colleagues Satyendra Huja and Julian Taliaferro also indicated that recent numbers emerging from the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority are giving Council, which owns the land on which a new dam would be built, some pause.

On September 22, the RWSA, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, unveiled new studies that claimed there are fissures in the underlying bedrock and that its preliminary figures were so far off that the dam might end up costing as much as $99 million instead of the $37 million preliminary figure.

"It kinda bothers me," Taliaferro said after the most recent Council meeting. "I've never seen numbers change like this."

A week after that debacle, the Hook revealed that, whatever the cost, the new dam would be nearly worthless as water supply without an electricity-dependent pipeline that has yet to be studied and which project foes fear could cost another $100 million.

These revelations have not, however, caused any officials to halt the project. Mayor Norris says he'd first like to see some scrutiny of a dredge-based plan put forward in May by the dam/pipeline foes as an alternate to the official plan.

The official plan, originally touted as a $143 million dam/pipeline to provide 50 years of drinking water, has been buffeted by allegations of conflict of interest on the part of its Pennsylvania-based engineers (who have steadfastly declined comment). With Authority permission, the company turned an $800,000 task into one that's committed water users to paying the firm over $5 million to date. And if the system ever gets built, the tab could easily top $200 million.

Crutchfield's first open letter back in late April presaged some of the ensuing controversy by blasting the decision to rely solely on that firm. This time, the man who built what may be Charlottesville's biggest company, suggests that the water project is Charlottesville's "bridge to nowhere" and says it needs more "business-like" processes.

"The RWSA is pursuing a businesslike approach," says Albemarle Board of Supervisors chair Ken Boyd. He says the Authority is "taking a step back, gathering all the facts, and making a decision based on solid data, honest comparisons, and what is best for their customers."

City customer Downing Smith, who appeared before Council on Monday, isn't so sure.

"The estimated cost of the pipeline is $56 million," said Smith, "but it is just a best guess by the same folks who overestimated the cost of dredging by a factor of 10 and underestimated the cost of the dam by 100 percent."

Boyd, who works as a financial planner, isn't jumping from any dams (or bridges) just yet. "It would not be prudent," he says, "to take a knee-jerk approach to such an important issue."

43 comments

If Mr. Crutchfield or others with his business intelligence and common sense were on the RWSA Board we would never have gotten into the mess we're in and thrown away millions of rate-payer dollars.

If the RWSA Board continues to spend money on dam designs and dam consultants without any knowledge of the cost or feasibility of building the SRFF pipeline they need to be removed. If our elected officials refuse to do this it will be up to our community to begin a process of dissolving the RWSA Board and setting up a Water Authority Board that is accountable to the rate-payers and exercises oversight over the decisions of the RWSA and always asks the hard questions about cost, seeks second opinions and avoids the appearance of conflict of interest.

ââ?¬Å?It kinda bothers me,” Taliaferro said after the most recent Council meeting. ââ?¬Å?I’ve never seen numbers change like this.”

KINDA BOTHERS HIM?!?!?!?!? Hey - nice to see we have a city councilor who gets kind bothered when the price tag for a public works project suddenly jumps by $63 million! Makes me wonder what it would take to get him "ticked off," or even "disappointed."

Jeeze, how do these clowns get elected in the first place? I guess it's a side effect of one-party rule in the City. You don't get the best of the best, you get whoever's turn it is.

It's enough to make one kinda bothered.

Below are the comments I submitted to City Council on Oct. 6. They agree with the article and the comments above.

The Water Supply Mess

1) Several years ago dredging was rejected as too expensive. No second opinion was sought.

2) A local citizens group challenged the dam project and said dredging should be reexamined. The estimated cost of dredging kept going up until it reached $223 million.

3) A local firm offered to dredge the reservoir for $25 million and had a big hole in the ground next to the reservoir to dump the sediment.

4) A task force with an opponent of dredging in charge is appointed to study dredging. A group of local citizens goes for a boat ride on the reservoir.

5) The estimated cost of the dam doubles from $50 million to $100 million. A second consultant is hired. Then a committee is set up to study the estimates of the two consultants. Nobody really knows what it will cost and $100 million could be low. It doesn’t include the cost of the pipeline.

6) The estimated cost of the pipeline is $56 million but it is just a best guess by the same folks who overestimated the cost of dredging by a factor of ten and underestimated the cost of the dam by 100%. The same company just paid part of a judgment for faulty engineering that killed a woman.

7) The budget for right of way acquisition is $249,000. This is for 9.5 miles through some of the most expensive real estate in Albemarle County. There is no certainty that a pipeline could ever be built. The residents of this area defeated a road through their neighborhood and probably don’t want a big pipeline running through it either.

8) RSWA admits that they really haven’t spent much time on the pipeline part of the project because they have been concentrating on the dam. They also admit that the new dam is worthless and a waste of money without a pipeline.

9) This is a problem created by Albemarle County. Irresponsible growth in the County has created the need for a bigger water supply and contributed to the sedimentation of the reservoir. The ground water has been greatly depleted which will cause even more problems.

I don’t understand why you (City Council) don’t get it. You are intelligent, honest individuals who genuinely care about the citizens of Charlottesville but it is obvious that the people handling the project are either incompetent, dishonest, or possibly both. I would like to see you do the following:

1) Remove Mr. O’Connell and Ms. Mueller from the RSWA board. They are too personally invested. We need unbiased representatives with a clean slate.

2) Withdraw from or dissolve the RSWA. Have Mr. Brown review the various agreements to see if this possible. Let’s take back our reservoirs. The reservoirs belong to the City and they should be used to benefit the City first.

3) Dredge the reservoir now.

We don’t have a bridge to nowhere. We are planning to build a dam in Nowhere but don’t have a pipeline to get there.

"The reservoirs belong to the City and they should be used to benefit the City first."

There's not a court in the country that would allow the City to turn off the county's faucet. Of course, even a hint of that from anybody in City government would probably accelerate the whole reversion issue in the general assembly. So it will never happen, and is a patently stupid idea to begin with. And it's especially galling since the City stooges have contributed heavily to the current situation.

Yeah, what Downing Smith said. His facts are spot on and his suggestions sound.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

"I strongly agree that better numbers are needed for all components."

I commend Mayor Norris and the other Councilors who supported him in calling for accurate information about all the costs including dredging
and not just proceeding with another dam study.

The test will be to see if the 2 City representatives on the RWSA Board carry out the directions of Council. In the past this was not the case let's hope this time is different

Let's say the city representatives change their two votes. That could leave 3 who do not and "Majority Rules."
Music Lover, it is my understanding that authorities can be dissolved and their mutually owned assets divorced (I really don't want to look of the Virginia code on this). Of course, the dissolution process would occur on a timeframe that would allow the county to set up its own water supply plan. I hope the citizens will remember the problems the city residents currently have with this authority when it's time to form the new regional transit authority to run buses to the county's transitless subdivisions.
Does anybody find O'Connell-Mueller's quietness strange? It seems they are not talking in the RWSA meetings either. It was only a couple of years ago they were always on TV talking about how they were doing such a fine job making the city world-class.

The source of another possible roadblock "Rooker asked about the increased cost estimates related to the embankment work along Interstate 64 where a larger reservoir would meet the road. Frederick said there had been no detailed discussions with VDOT about the protection of the roadway and that this matter would be considered by the expert panel." http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2008/10/rwsa...
Easement problems with I-64, easement problems withe the 9.5 mile pipeline and easement problems with the Meadowcreek Interceptor Pipeline, all not priced. What get's me they still keep calling it a plan that's ready for state approval and therefore should proceed piecemeal. Have these people ever heard of a business plan? Oh, that's right, they don't need to present a responsible plan, they are using customers' money. If the customer doesn't want to pay, he can move.

Interesting reading CvillEye at the above link at Charlottesvilletomorrow. Sure hope Mr. Slutzky and the others want the facts on the SFRR pipeline because right now there aren't any, and where was he when the G/F dredging estimate came in at $223 million did he think that was a fact too.

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) was the first to share his assessment of how the RWSA has handled the challenges related to the Ragged Mountain Dam. "I want to personally express my appreciation for the way you and the [RWSA] Board have approached the challenge you have encountered," said Slutzky. "What you are doing, and I think it's absolutely in the community's interest, is you are saying, 'We need to know what the facts are.'"

Thank goodness the City owns all the Reservoirs and the Ragged Mt Natural Area. In this case their skepticism of the "RWSA facts" seem well placed and may actually save all of us tens of millions of dollars and protect our current assets.

I still don't get how they can keep throwing money at the dam if they don't even know where they're going to build the pipeline or how much it will cost. Isn't that a total waste of our money?

Maybe it's time for a Rate Payer Revolt !!!!!

Cville Eye, is that the right link I can't find the article and would like to read it?

Citizen, it just worked for me. The title is "Frederick updates Supervisors on landfill, stream releases, sewer upgrades, and Ragged Mountain Dam." If clicking on the link doesn't for you, please try selecting the link in its entirety and they copy it and paste it into your browser's address and hit enter. To find the quote directly I use ALT-F for IE and search for roadway.
Yes, Rate Payer, they are contracted for $5M to G-F. At least the elected officials have swallowed their pride and are participating, even if they feel compelled to put spin on their views.

I grew up in charlottesville in the sixties and seventies. I spent many summer days riding my bicycle to the reservoir, fishing around the bridges and dam spillway. It used to be a wonderful clean body of water with abundant and varied fish species. Thanks for destroying it has to go to the ones that allowed the unchecked growth in the area. Charlottesville is a town that will be loved to death. My recent summer trip to charlottesville made me wish for what once was a great little town. Summer used to mean less traffic and congestion, the university was sleepy and quiet. Now it is a commercial mess.

Ken Jamme, when you lived in Charlottesville the population in the US was half of what it is today. Can you imagine what Charlottesville may be like when the population of this country reaches a billion? I wonder if the people where you are living today are complaining that you moved there.

Does anyone think given the current economic climate we're in that RWSA can borrow over 100 million dollars to build a dam and another 200 million to build a pipeline?

Maybe we should contact the firm with the quarry next to the Reservoir that offered to dredge for $24 million and see if they're still interested?

Does anybody recall the bypass that has been tossed around for the last 30 or 40 years? In 2040 we'll still be discussing what to do about the water situation locally. And it will be after years of hardship, running out of water every summer. And the cost by then will probably be $1 billion.

I don't recall a time we have run out of water and I doubt we will before we increase our water supply. If RWSA had gone ahead with the bladder plan of Troppea, the project would have been completed. What most people do not understand is that there are several reservoirs already in operation presently and there has been no evaluation of how they can continue to contribute to our water supply in the future because a bunch of pseudo-intelligent or lazy people allowed The Nature Conservancy which knows nothing about dam building or water supplies for that matter to design our future water supply around the idea that water flows in the Moorman's River is paramount. This fast food idea of modern society of doing something just because somebody proposed it so we can get off our to do list is childish. What happened when they jumped on the $700B bandwagon to do something immediately rather than do nothing until they conducted some kind of analysis? The stock market immediately started an unforeseen decline by 4,000. Charlottesvillians doing something (anything) rather than think are just as stupid as those people in Washington that have precipitated a world-wide crisis in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Dredging was also part of the approved plan in 2002. If the plan hadn't been scrapped by our consultants and the RWSA Board, there would be plenty of water by now. Our water rates were doubled to pay for the 2002 plan and we still have no more water.

Imagine what would have happened if the consultants had been dredging experts and not dam builders?

I suspect those who wanted a new dam in 2002 are behind Tropea's leaving so abruptly after he unveiled the plan. Then they brought in the dam building consultants. It's funny how those that smart-mouthed Cville to "Back away from the computer..." have gone into hiding. Have they abandoned their support for the currently proposed non-plan or have simply begun to question? It's nice to think that they are growing up and beginning to think for themselves. It's great that the artsy-fartsies at Cville Weekly have realized that their allegiance to people rather than principle was dumb when they tried to attack the Hook and have gone back to their wince tastings and movie reviews.

Cville Eye, when did the artsy-fartsies at Cville Weekly attack the Hook?

"But some people have stopped cheering. At first, it was a handful of people, many with interests in either protecting the Ragged Mountain Reservoir as is or in stalling water supply expansion in order to check local growth. Then The Hook, a local weekly that had largely stayed away from reporting on the water supply plan, published a series of articles that depicted dredging as an alternative water supply solution that was intentionally undermined by local officials, consultants and The Nature Conservancy. Though the reporting was rife with comparisons that oversimplified the cost of long term dredging and overplayed the environmental and monetary impacts of the current plan, the coverage stirred up local concern, particularly among those who didn’t follow the water supply planning in 2005 and 2006." http://74.125.45.104/search?q=cache:obF4YBd-xQAJ:www.c-ville.com/index.p...

" overplayed the environmental and monetary impacts of the current plan"

Looks to me the Hook called it this time----dam goes from $37 million to $98 million wouldn't call that overplaying the monetary impact and we don't have a clue what the pipeline will cost

Cville Eye, I know of a few that certainly are complaining that I moved here, but that's a family thing. you sound very knowlegeable of the water supply problem in central virginia, if you could be king for a month, what would you do.

Kendra Hamilton, former City Councilor, who sat through many of the water supply meetings offers this perspective at a previous Hook article

http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index.php/2008/06/05/schilling-blasts-wa...

#
Kendra Hamilton June 6th, 2008 | 5:36 pm

Correction to the record, folks. On June 5, 2006, I was not present for the now-notorious vote on the water plan. I was in Charleston, SC, working on an interdisciplinary art/community project (ironically, on water) for the Spoleto Festival.

This is not to say that I did not support the Ragged Mountain alternative at that time. It had, after all, been presented as the only choice.

Recall that in 2006 we had only recently fought off a plan to pipe the James that, among other issues, was estimated to cost an unacceptably high $80 or $90 million dollarsââ?¬â??before we even fixed the dam. (Around $150 million total.) Even if drinking James water hadn’t given me the willies, the pricetag induced a dizzying case of sticker shock.

But then year later, in Sept 2007, when price figures were mentioned for the Ragged Mountain alternative for the first time, it turned out that it was every bit expensiveââ?¬â??around $142 million.

It was then that dredging edged its way back into the discussion-at an estimated $100 million, it sounded like a relative bargain. It was also then that the price estimates on dredging started to rise againââ?¬â??to $200 and then $225 million.

Kevin had heard anecdotally that those figure might have been inflated. (The amount of the inflation, established recently, came as quite a surprise.) Hence, the discussion in Nov. 2007 in which four of five councilors asked for an investigationââ?¬â??in the name of potentially reducing the cost of the project.

(What I pay has doubled since 2002 without any capital improvements to the system. Can you afford rate hikes that would be in the range of 5-10% a year for the foreseeable future? Well you’re doing a helluva lot better than meââ?¬â??not to mention the nearly one-third of Rivanna customers who are on fixed or low incomes).

That direction was completely ignored by the person who had the power to move it forward or bury it. When Kevin read the text of that email from the city manager on the air yesterdayââ?¬â??sent THE DAY AFTER THE COUNCIL MEETINGââ?¬â??I can only say I was profoundly shocked. I trusted Garyââ?¬â??I had the highest regard for him. I could never have imagined that kind of behavior from him”Š Never”Š

”Š I guess that’s why we have FOIA laws.

Ken Jamme, more information and a comment from CvilleEye at the above link

#
Practical June 6th, 2008 | 8:13 pm

I agree with Mr. Schilling that the Water Supply Plan should not be anti-growth or solely about the Moorman’s River. Neither the anti-growth proponents, the Nature Conservancy or the Piedmont Environmental Council have the rate payers as their first priority. They are the ones will have to pay for whatever infrastructure is built. There clearly needs to be increased water capacity and money for maintaining the water supply system, because Charlottesville will grow. A balanced approach would seem to be
1. Maintain the infrastructure we have meaning: keep the Reservoirs and Dams currently owned by the City in good repair and see how much increased water capacity can be gained while doing that
2. Gather accurate population projections for the next 50 years which both PEC and the opponents seem to agree has not been done by the current consultants
3. Gather accurate projections for the amount of water that will be needed in the next 50 years based on more realistic conservation data taking into account the decreasing amount of water being used in the urban system even though the population is increasing. Both the opponents and Nature Conservancy and PEC agree that the consultants demand projections are inflated
4. Once the accurate population, demand and conservation numbers are obtained determine how much increased water capacity can be gained by maintaining our present Reservoirs and if this is inadequate look at other less costly ways of increasing water supply first such as Beaver Creek, Chris Green or Lake Albemarle before embarking on a costly expenditure for New Infrastructure

The elected officials who are responsible to the rate payers need all the information before burdening their citizens unnecessarily. At the present it seems there is still important information to be gathered and that is something everyone seems to agree upon.
#
Cville Eye June 6th, 2008 | 8:24 pm

Your name should be Very Practical.

If I were king for a month, I would dissolve the RWSA board and hold an election for its membership. I would then have that board present all of the scenarios that they could devise through a public process and consultation with federal and state officials, with estimated costs, and ask the rate payers which proposal to pursue. I would make sure that special interests groups are allowed only to advocate and not dictate to the public. I would also go back and evaluate our estimated water supply needs for fifty years down the road and tell the current rate payers that they are not going to pay for it now, since whatever infrastructure that is built now will haveto be rebuilt in fifty years by the future people we are trying to provide water for today.. Pretty much sounds like going back to the drawing board doesn't it?

What exactly did O'Connell write in the e-mail, the one that was FOIed? Thanks to someone for a clarification.

This is the e-mail that Kevin read on the Schilling show and that Kendra Hamilton refers to in her post. It was sent the day after the public hearing the City held about the water plan and at which 4 out of 5 Councilors asked for more information about the cost of dredging.

From: O'Connell, Gary
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2007 3:30 PM
To: 'Mike Gaffney'; 'tfrederick@rivanna.org'
Cc: 'Gary Fern'; Mueller, Judy; 'Robert W. Tucker Jr.'

Subject: RE: City Council Meeting
All
I don't believe Council changing course, contrary to what you may have heard last night. Much of last night was Mr. Lynch's opinion, who as you know leaves Council Dec. 31. No Council action, nor direction came last night to change course. And no action is scheduled in December. Don't be surprised if Mr. Lynch does not bring it up again, either while on Council, or as he returns to his citizen role.
I have meetings to confirm my view. One I may need Tom to come, but need to have a discussion first.
Mike is right, the cost share is asap "paramount", as is the compensation for city land at ragged mountain. I think we need to look for ways to keeping informing the broader pUblic, and providing information. We need to keep moving this forward.
Gary
Gary O'Connell City Manager City of Charlottesville Charlottesville, Virginia 434-970-3101 www.charlottesville.org The Best Place to Live in America!

Thanks Betty. HIS e-mail message makes me sick!

I agree, Gary and others involved should be ashamed.

I'm glad that some people are beginning to see that it's obvious that the RWSA board does not have the rate payers' interests as primary concern. Wait until you see the mess with the suggested eleven-member RTA board with two councilors and two supervisors. Who will the other seven members answer to? Do the supervisors and councilors actually have the time to serve well? Do the city and county managers? We need to be able to elect citizens dedicated to the purpose of governing these anti-democratic "authorities."

http://www.albemarle.org/SouthForkReservoir/ is where the Task Force has a questionnaire concerning the future of SFRR. Feel free to fill it out. Nice and short.

Please remember that citizens in a democracry have more responsibilities than just voting; that's only the beginning.

I love how "Cville Eye" has become a self-appointed champion of the ratepayers. Thanks, "Cville Eye," but we need champions who occasionally get their facts right and who can take off their aluminum foil hats long enough to acknowledge that there's not a conspiracy behind every corner.

Oh, and vote Obama y'all.

Ed in Greenbrier, I was wondering when you'd crawl out. You must have read my post concerning The Nature Conservancy, which appears to be your only interest in this matter; you never have anything to add. Do you live in Greenbrier or is it more like in Robinson Woods?
I'm sure you just drove some votes away from Mr. Obama.

"The powers that be"--the RWSA board and the 11 member panel are being embarrassed to the core, because they are so out of touch. The problem, the groups are still in control here. Sally T. and other power happy behaving officials think they can railroad their agenda right on through. Some should certainly be fired for what they have done or haven't done. Citizens should rally to form their own independent committee. I'm afraid the RWSA and the majority of members on the panel will now be more determined than ever to push their poor plans ahead.

The Task Force chairwoman has changed the original charge according to this article in today's Daily Progress

Critics question reservoir panel on its intentions

By Brandon Shulleeta

Published: October 13, 2008

Several local residents on Monday questioned the purpose of the South Fork Reservoir Task Force, with some suggesting the panel is failing to consider all the options available to meet the area’s long-term water-supply needs.

Kevin Lynch, a former Charlottesville city councilor, suggested the task force was charged with considering the possibility of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to increase the available water supply, but is now refusing to do so.

ââ?¬Å?Who changed the list?” he asked during a public comment session at Monday night’s task force meeting.

ââ?¬Å?It appears they have come up with their own purpose,” he said later. ââ?¬Å?I find this whole thing baffling.”

One city resident urged the panel Monday to ââ?¬Å?save yourself a lot of time and energy” by bringing in some dredging experts instead of ââ?¬Å?having all these meetings.”

Task force Chairwoman Sally H. Thomas addressed the complaints only briefly, saying the panel was carrying out the charge it had been given.

Cville Eye has questioned whether members, BD Of Supervisors have the time to put into this situation. He has raised a good question. It certainly doesn't appear they have the time to serve constructively on this committee. It is obvious why they desire to be in the group. They want to control the outcomes! They should resign and finish taking care of the many other unresolved county issues. It is clear, most public, do not believe those members are helpful. In fact, such members present obstacles instead.

Has anyone out in the blogosphere actually talked to any of our elected officials? Why don't they call halt as Crutchfield is recommending? Don't they get it they are throwing away millions of taxpayer dollars? Aren't any of them businessmen or women?
What can we do to stop this? Where is the business plan ? Where is the budget? Who is asking questions?

Rate Payer, I agree completely. I'm afraid elected officials protect each other for the most part in this area. In fact, they won't even put their foot down and demand some fireings that should happen. They guard the likes of O'Connell, Tucker, and Frederick. I believe they are also dragging down their own political chances for the future when they shield and join forces with the wrongdoing of others. A revamping of the RWSA needs to happen asap. The ridiculous committee should be stopped asap. We need scientific advisors and not BD Of Sups' here. Citizens are asking questions. The officials are ignoring the public, because thus far, they get by with it. It is time for the public to make huge demands. It is time for citizens to hold officials accountable.

"Aren’t any of them businessmen or women?" Obviously, the answer must be "Not really." Mr. Boyd is supposed to be a financial planner, I believe, but in this matter he appears to be wallet deaf. Mr. Brown has said that his business doesn't take charge cards. He appears to operate under the philosophy that "Money is no object." Remember, this set up is so because earlier BoS and CC decided either they didn't know enough to deal with the RWSA or had enough on their plates or didn't really care. It's a tradition! The public has absolutely no control over any of our authorities, housing, airport, jail, water nor sewer. The proposal is that the public will have no control over the proposed transit authority down the road either: "RTA working group discusses legislation; debates funding allocations" http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/

Come see if the RWSA Board follows Mr. Crutchfield's advise. The monthly board meeting is this Monday Oct. 27th at 2pm at the RWSA main office. Hopefully, given the current economic reality common sense will prevail. I'd say it's past time to get the information about dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and support the local economy. Dredging is estimated to cost no more than $30 million and the RWSA has that in the bank after doubling our water rates in 2002. So we could provide enough water for 30 years without having to borrow any money.

Sounds like a plan!

Betty, As always, you make perfect sense of it all. The problem, the RWSA Board doesn't. Good luck.

Some observations:
Several years ago, I believe Meredith Richards, Kay Slaughter, Charlotte Humphris and Sally Thomas served together on the local Metropolitan Planning Organization charged with planning transportation projects for Chalbemarle. They decided that no funding for the construction of the Western Bypass would be requested although the state had been acquiring property for this road for several years. The big whoopla repeated over and over by this group concerned the fact that the highway was within 100 yards of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and spills on the highway would endanger our local water supply. Chemical spills could take decades to clean up. Today, Mrs. Humphris is dead. Mrs. Richards is working hard for more passenger rail along the US-29 corridor, hoping to help remove traffic from that stretch. Mrs. Slaughter, along with her employer, the Southern Environmental Law Center, is strongly endorsing the current proposal for a pipeline in the right-of-way for the Western Bypass from South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to Ragged Mountain Reservoir, a total length of over 9 miles uphill. Mrs. Thomas is on the BoS, League of Women Voters and some Rivanna conservation group, promoting this pipeline in the right-of-way. This pipeline will deliver water from SFRR to RMR which will be straddled by I-64 (which just had a truck to turn over with spillage about a month ago). Does this make sense? For some reason, they advocate building today a "bathtub" which will start holding today the water that will not be needed for another thirty to fifty years. Does this make sense? It does if one realizes that if the pipeline is built now, it can be situated along that right-of-way that will preclude the building of the W. Bypass forever. If the Bypass is built first, then the pipeline could be built later. Is their support for the current RMR proposal simply a way of preventing a road that they have spent years opposing? Is that why several of the supposedly environmental groups are also in favor? It seems hard to believe that people would be willing to spend so much money to stop the road, but maybe they think it's a small price for each citizen to pay over such a long period to prevent such horror. Is there really any other explanation for such support of such an expensive and environmentally destructive proposal? Is that why people who deal with engineering projects everyday and understand their complexities would allow a non-engineering group, The Nature Conservancy, to design the concept?
I have also noticed that the Chamber of Commerce may back the new proposal for using sales taxes to fund the proposed regional transit authority IF funding for the WB is put back on the table and the SELC may be in favor IF funding for the WB from these taxes is permanently prohibited (http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2008/10/cart..., ââ?¬Å?October 17, 2008: Chamber of Commerce holds off endorsing regional transit initiative”). Seems like a strong position for either to take but it shows that the SELC is still fighting the now-obsolete road.
One thing I can say with certainty is that the future of this current water supply proposal and the WB are inextricably entwined.