Stacked deck? Dredge foes outnumber fans on force
Exactly six weeks after the waterworks voted to conduct a dredging study, and five weeks after the local water bosses decreed that a new task force should guide the study, the waterworks announced August 4 the appointment of 13 citizens to a new Rivanna Reservoir task force.
Controversy, which had already arisen over word that Albemarle Supervisor Sally Thomas would chair the group, has now expanded to the make-up of the task force which appears stacked with parties who would have let the Rivanna Reservoir wither away from sedimentation.
Calling it a "County-originated ploy," water activist/Soil & Water official Rich Collins claims the committee has been loaded with dredging opponents to deflect the City's resolution to pursue conservation and dredging. "It is so transparently loaded," Collins says, "as to offend even the Ragged Mountain pipeline/dam proponents."
"I don't oppose dredging," says Thomas. However, she has been a stalwart supporter of the local proposal to devote at least $143 million–- and what critics fear might easily top $200 million–- to a controversial plan to flood over 130 acres of the Ragged Mountain Natural Area for a new reservoir fed by a 9.5-mile pipeline, a plan that earmarks nothing for dredging the slowing choking Rivanna Reservoir. Dredging is a plan of action supported by a growing number of community members.
The jumbo price tag and environmental havoc (which includes felling 54,000 trees and flooding land under Interstate 64) have convinced skeptics–- among them electronics magnate Bill Crutchfield and the Sierra Club–- to request an unbiased look at dredging, which was discarded when the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority let the same firm angling for a $3.1 million dam design contract dissuade the public of dredging's merits for the community's long-term water problems.
"The present plan does not insist that dredging cannot be done," Thomas wrote [RTF] to the Sierra Club in April, "but it does create an amazing, environmentally responsible, local long-range water supply. It even manages an almost unique feature–- a reservoir that won't silt in."
Whether it'll be unique enough to justify the financial and environmental pricetag appears to be the big issue.
Thomas has told her dozen task force members that they have four months to render their opinion.
Herewith, the task force members:
Ms. Sally Thomas, Chair Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬“ League of Women Voters
Ms. Holly Edwards - Charlottesville City Council
Mr. Mark Fletcher - University of Virginia official with recreational interests
Mr. Mike Gaffney - Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority Board of Directors
Mr. Tom Jones - citizen representing property owners with land adjoining reservoir
Ms. Karen Joyner - Ivy Creek Foundation
Mr. Chris Lee - Charlottesville/Albemarle Chamber of Commerce
Mr. John Martin - Rivanna River Basin Commission
Ms. Wren Olivier Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬“ Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club
Dr. Liz Palmer - Albemarle County Service Authority Board of Directors
Mr. Dennis Rooker Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬“ Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Mr. Ridge Schuyler - The Nature Conservancy
Ms. Dede Smith Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬“ "Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply"
–last updated 3:35pm, August12