Pipe dream: Mega-reservoir tied to moribund Bypass

Could dredging prevent this coal-burner?

Tom Frederick, the head of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has never publicly revealed that his wished-for mega-reservoir in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area won't work without a pipeline to fill it. But a memo prepared for him does.

The memo, recently obtained by a band of water watchers through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that without the pipeline the planned reservoir–- now in turmoil over a price tag which may hit $100 million and push the total project over $200 million–- would provide a small fraction of its promised water and just one fifth of what would be supplied by simply dredging the community's main reservoir.

According to engineering firm Gannett Fleming, dredging the existing Rivanna Reservoir–- an officially dismissed but increasingly popular alternative–- would supply five million gallons per day. A pipeline-less reservoir, by contrast, bolsters today's water capacity of 12.8 million gallons per day by just 1.1 million to just 13.9 million gallons per day, according to a memo by Amanda Hess of the same firm.

"I know that, at first glance, that might not seem correct," writes Hess. "Without the pipeline to fill the reservoir and with the treatment capacity issues prior to the pipeline," she writes, "the volume is simply not as 'efficient' as it will be in 2055."

In other words, the dam can't work. It's trapped in a natural bowl without a river to replenish it.

And the pipeline, despite being only at the concept stage, already has some eyebrow-raising flaws. For starters, the budget for obtaining land easements along its 9.5-mile route is just $249,000. Frederick had hoped to gain free easements by piggy-backing the majority of the route along a planned road: the Route 29 Western Bypass.

The memo.

Blasted as Charlottesville's own road to nowhere for failing to actually bypass much local traffic, the $270 million Bypass is unfunded, and when we checked in with the traffic planners, most agreed that because it's unlisted on all local wish-lists it will remain just a dream.

"There's a lot of questions in this community about whether a roadway will ever get built in that corridor," Frederick conceded at his September 22 board meeting, "and trying to use that corridor may not be the right answer. In fact, we tend to think it's not the right answer if a roadway will never get built."

Although the pipeline remains integral to the reservoir, Frederick, at the same meeting, indicated that he's in no hurry to supply an alternate path.

"There is no design work for the pipeline right now," Frederick told his board. "I'm certainly much more focused on getting the dam."

Later in the meeting, board chair Mike Gaffney indicated that hiring a panel of experts for the dam takes precedence. "I would rather," Gaffney said of the pipeline, "discuss that at the next meeting."

But the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan couldn't wait. They issued a statement expressing their fears that the Water Authority "has no idea of the actual location or the actual cost" of the pipeline, an allegation Frederick seemed to confirm–- at least in part–- during the meeting. "There is," he admitted, "no specific, defined corridor that is exact that someone could review."

Citizens member Kevin Lynch, a former Charlottesville vice-mayor, slams the pipeline's proposed $56 million cost as a "back-of-the-envelope" guess. Lynch notes that documents show zero budget for chemicals, zero for maintenance, and zero for personnel to maintain the pumphouse and pipe of an uphill waterway that would–- overnight–- become Albemarle County's third largest river, requiring the electrical equivalent of burning about 1,000 tons of coal annually.

"You all are well aware that the dam won't work without the pipeline," Lynch told the Rivanna board last week. "It's time to admit that you have no business making decisions. We need a new plan, and a new board."

Board member Robert Tucker said that the five-member body has the full support of the two governments that appointed it, the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

Indeed, Charlottesville mayor Dave Norris notes on his blog that creating this system might augment flows of the Moormans River, a state scenic waterway in the White Hall area, which currently supplies water into the urban system.

Albemarle supervisor Dennis Rooker has likewise reaffirmed his support for the project. He says he's less worried about finding a pipeline route than recent cost revelations.

"Personally," says Rooker, "I'd like to see harder numbers on the costs of the various components. I would not like to find out that the pipeline costs twice as much after we've already built the dam."

After the Authority meeting, which was dominated by the fiasco of learning that the planned $37.2 million dam might turn out to be a $99 million dam, Lynch said he noticed that before Gannett Fleming was hit with a stop-work order, the company issued a report whose cost-cutting measures include re-evaluating all pipeline costs. That wasn't all Lynch spotted in the report.

Gannett Fleming, the engineering company that once scared local officials with anti-dredging visions including near non-stop noise, a never-ending convoy of mud-laden trucks, and an infamous over-$223 million price tag, was suggesting that one option might be.... dredging.

–last updated 1:17pm September 30

Read more on: amanda hesspipelinerwsa


told you to follow the money..

keep on em like lindsay on a popsicle

I thought Music Lover told us to follow the money.
I'm so glad the RWSA seems to have everything hand, since it has so many supporters and defenders.

at least it ain't a $700billion f&&& up.

ââ?¬Å?Personally,” says Rooker, ââ?¬Å?I’d like to see harder numbers on the costs of the various components. I would not like to find out that the pipeline costs twice as much after we’ve already built the dam.” -- Rooker
Why does he think RWSA is rushing to build the dam before the pipeline? Once built, the dam is useless without the pipeline. The pipeline will have to be built at any cost. It's not like we really need water for 300k+ people next year, if ever.

First sentence of the article...

"Tom Frederick, the head of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has never publicly revealed that his wished-for mega-reservoir in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area won’t work without a pipeline to fill it. But a memo prepared for him does."

The pipeline was known and discussed publicly at many meetings before the plan was approved June 2006. This lead-in sets up a false premise for the article, that Frederick is dishonest and didn't tell anybody that a pipeline from Sugar Hollow already fills the existing reservoir. The 50-year plan won't die because its supporters have more integrity than the increasingly unhinged dredge-only folks.

When public officials do not give all of the facts I consider them dishonest (lying by omission). The whole plan for the acquisition of land for the new pipeline has not be publicly discussed in any real sense, so somebody is lying somewhere. Is that the kind of relationship the public should expect to have with its officials and their employees? Blair Hawkins has often held public officials to a higher standard of trust and I find it odd that he doesn't in this case.
This whole process has been conducted in an incredible fashion. If these people were building a house, they would hire a contractor and sit around and talk concept (walls, roof, foundation, yard space, plumbing, wiring). Then, after the foundation is built, they'll decide where the rooms will be, the placement of the windows and doors, and where to run the plumbing for the kitchen and baths. When its time to hook up to the sewer line, they'll make that decision. Driveways, decks and porches can come later.

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan have attempted to present accurate information and to call on the RWSA to do the same, If any of our information is incorrect please let us know by contacting us thru the web-site. If you read our white paper we are not in favor of dredge only for the 50 year plan. Under the myths section we address how the SFRR pipeline came into being

# Myth #8:
The plan emerged from numerous public meetings and joint board meetings.

FALSE. This plan was NEVER discussed at any of the first eight (of nine) public meetings including joint board meetings held to evaluate and compare the list of options that had been narrowed down as part of the planning process.
See timeline of planning process.

In a meeting held on April 18, 2005, for the joint boards and 15 federal and state regulators, the Chair of the RWSA Board stated publicly that four options were still on the table (top of page 4) citing extensive public input. NONE of them were the current plan. At the next public meeting on October 27, 2005, the new concept of linking the SFRR to RMR via a new pipeline was presented for the first time and then as one of only two options (the James River being the other) and shortly after on April 18, 2006 it was announced by RWSA as the "preferred alternative." See timeline of planning process.

Mr Hawkins, I'm also somewhat surprised that you're castigating the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan folks. You've always been a watchdog for citizens. I NEVER thought I'd see the day when I'd agree with anything that Kevin Lynch and Kendra Hamilton would say, but that day has definitely come. (Hamilton, in particular, was a rude nightmare as a City Councilor.) The amount of work that Mooney and Lynch have done, and keep doing on this issue, is astounding. It doesn't mean they're unhinged though! Have you considered that perhaps they are onto something very important here?

Cville Eye, I love your housebuilding analogy-- very apropos.

As an aside, I've always known Tom Frederick to be a decent and honorable guy in my dealings with him. That's not to say that he is entirely blameless in this mess, just to say that he is a good and reasonable person. My finger is pointed primarily at the RWSA Board. I smell a developer behind this boondoggle.

On a perhaps pipeline-related note: does anyone know what the goal of the recently completed earthmoving project where the proposed bypass crosses Garth? I believe the roadside sign announces that it is issue #2 before the county (the planning commission?) but I can't find a description online.

Mr.Rich Collins wrote the following on a previous Hook blog. These comments also address the public participation and process that brought us to the SFRR pipeline decision.

Speaking for myself, only, I attended several of the public meetings organized and directed by RWSA and its public involvment and engineering consultants. I believe that I was the person who first suggested that a guiding policy ought to be ââ?¬Å?water from within our own wateshed”. This policy guide was designed to foreclose what appeared to be a favorite alternative: a James River pipeline with all the huge capital costs, primary and secondary environmental impacts, and an uncertain water quality because of a lack of control over source water.

I participated extensively with a group that was dedicated principally to eliminating the James River option. It was this group that celebrated the announcement that the James River option would be dropped by RWSA. It was also the group that never really ââ?¬Å?vetted” the scheme that has evolved from its initial form as proposed by the Nature Conservancy, to a two phase, build a big dam, and later fill it with water from SFRR when it can be afforded.

This scheme was concocted largely out of sight in negotiations between the The Nature Conservancy and the RWSA. I was never invited to such meetings where the crucial decisions were made and then ââ?¬Å?announced and defended” by those who made them.

Public participation is a vital part of the public choice process; in fact, the James River pipeline was dropped because of public mobilization in reaction to the public participation processes run by RWSA. The so-called ââ?¬Å?50 year plan” is a product of ââ?¬Å?announce and defend” decisions made largely by RWSA and TNC who then marketed their joint product as ââ?¬Å?saving the Moorman’s” and ââ?¬Å?meeting future demand”. This was marketing, not public participation.

Rich Collins

I'm glad I have a blog so I can I can refer back to what I myself have observed and documented. Sometimes I'm criticized for not referring to other articles to corroborate my story. So somehow I must be making it up. That logic only works when someone else is actually covering the same aspect of the same subject or news event. My blog is filled with examples of media omission on huge issues. Search it for Rich Collins to find out the record of this guy. While I've harshly criticized RWSA, its current administration is an improvement over previous administrations. I trust the current RWSA more than I trust the critics because I've seen both groups in action.

But I'm glad to see, so far, everyone agrees the opening sentence of the article is a rhetorical trick to bias the reader against Tom Frederick. Fair and balanced? Yeah, get luck with the smear campaign.

I think that the article Mr. Hawkins argues creates a false premise or unfairly brands Mr. Frederick needs to be understood in this way. Initially, the mega- dam and the SFRR pipeline were one project to be funded and built concurrently so that the new capacity could be filled by a larger source of water. Everyone knows that RMR, can't be filled, even today, from its own watershed. The Moorman's River people got snookered. Ask them if that isn't the case. They bouth into one plan, and got stuck with another. But they've played down their protest by getting a side bar agreement from RSWa to give them a stream flow during the interim period. Sugar Hollow people belived, and were disillusioned when the two components ]separated. One of the prominent backers of the Moorman's river told me that they had been "double-crossed" by the TNC. They knew that Sugar Hollow would have to be the main source of water for RMR if the SFRR pipeline wasn't built concurrently. What Hawes said, as I took it, was that once you separated the SFRR pipeline (by 10 years or therabout) the enlarged pool at the RMR dam site couldn't be filled ( or store water) with only Sugar Hollow water piped to it. Without that capacity the 50 year plan couldn't be met. Interestingly, Mr Spencer, didn't emphasize the apparent inconsistency that the only source available to fill RMR now is the existing Sugar Hollow pipeline that was failing until the SFRR pipeline was parked at the financial siding. . So I think Hawes was fair and didn't impugn Mr. Fredricks' motives, only a failure to disclose the implications of the separation of the pipeline and mega-dam project for safe yield.



Rich Collins

bought it!