Dredge this!

The public can watch three dredging doubters (Ken Boyd, Mike Gaffney, and Don Wagner) and one possible believer (Dave Norris) build a task force to guide the recently launched dredging study. Dredge fans worry that the group–- the bosses running the local water trade (City, County, RWSA, and ACSA)–- with their embrace of a $143 million no-dredge water project, will marginalize dredging. Find out 8am Monday, June 30 in Room 241 of the County Office Building.


I hope this panel will avoid reserving spaces for "advocacy" groups who have been serving mainly as lobbyists. Lobbyists have taken over D.C., let's not have them take over Charlottesville. Ideally, they should not have greater representation than ordinary citizens. The Nature Conservancy, for example, is a multi-billion dollar, world-wide group. God only knows where the Piedmont Environmental Council, a multi-jurisdictional group, gets its money from.

I hope that the panel will remember that the Gahagen firm said that their estimates of costs for dredging had consistently come within 5% of the actual costs (bids). In contrast, the ASCE has estimated that the costs of a project like the new dam (even without the pipeline)based on recent surveys of similar projects could be 150% of estimated price.

I also hope that the panel will use RWSA sources and, perhaps, outside engineering experts to calculate the comparative costs of borrowing funds for a dam vs the transfer of ownership responsibilities that would ensue following a dredging bid.

Rich Collins

Mr. Collins, it is not clear to me what you mean by "...vs the transfer of ownership responsibilities that would ensue following a dredging bid." Are you referring to the transfer of ownership of the silt and the resulting income from its sale?

What I mean is that once the bid price has been established the successful bidder has the risk of price changes for better or worse, shifted to them. Assuming that Gahagen can meet its usual standards for doing a "turnkey" dredging assessment; their estimate of what a winning bidder would offer is likely to be close to the actual cost. Unlike the dam/pipeline proposal the uncertainties of the financial and commodity markets (concrete, energy,etc.) make the real price much more uncertain...and given RWSA and Gannett-Flemings history, likely optimistic .

Mr. Collins, thanks for the explanation and I agree. Unfortunately, I'm afraid money is no object in Charlottesville.
I have been wondering, too, if a sizeable amount of waater capacity can be reclaimed fro South Fork, could that translate into a dam expansion at Ragged Mtn with a much smaller footprint? Mayor Brown's argument is that the base accounts for a larger proportion of the cost of the new dam than additional height but he doesn't account for a possible reduction in the area of the base, which may cheapen the total cost of construction and be less destructive to the area.

Water, thanks for the link. It seems a lot of decisions were made behind the scenes before this meeting occurred this weekend. So, was it three county residents and one city resdient making these decisions this morning? Of the county residents, how many are customers of RWSA? Why in the world is the Chamber of Commerce included on this task force? Their position on any issue has been to spend tax payers' money. Why would the Nature Conservancy be included since it has already expressed its immovable conclusions? Who on this task force will be able to look at this issue with a fresh eye? Frankly, I would rather have impartial representatives from the state and other small Virginia cities serve. Again, it will behoove this group to make all of its meetings public.

Hello Cville Eye\

You are correct that David Brown has adopted the argument made by Dennis Rooker that a "new base" if it is necessary to achieve the pool size to achieve "safe yield" at RMR then the marginal costs of a larger dam are probably worth the investment.

The difficulty with this argument is that it is highly contestable that the "safe yield", often translated into "meeting the water supply needs" requires a new base for a dam. The existing dam can be modified (to address the fears of overtopping) for less than $5 million, and according to the best evidence could support additional height of up to 13 ft. The assumption that a new base for a new, expensive dam is necessary. This argument combined with the calculated dodge that the existing RMR dam must be replaced combines to make their case. This argument is like the dodge that the existing pipeline from Sugar Hollow must be replaced. The figures that I've seen on the Sugar Hollow pipeline show only one large expnditure for reparirs over the last 15 year. I'm not familiar with the material properties of this pipeline, but people who are familiar with it, say that the pipeline (which feeds by gravity and which has easements along the Moorman River) may eventually need to be upgraded. But the supporters of the RMR mega-dam plan to use the Sugar Hollow pipeline to fill it for at least 10 years.

The biggest dodge is that the dredging study has been framed by dredging and conservation advocates to meet future needs by its opponents as superfluous or external to the water supply plan. This dodge rests on the assumptions that I've mentioned above. It hangs together once you accept their assumptions/framing of the issue. Getting someone to accept the framing of an issue is a powerful tool. The RWSA framing, supported by TNC's claim tht they will "save" the Moorman's is what is at issue.

Mayor Norris and City Council challenged the City Manager's proposed endorsement of the "plan" by adding two amendments to their approval. One was to have a dredging study conducted; the other was to re-evaluate the demand figures in light of conservation potential and other aspects of the "golden numbers" that constitute the demand. ]

The Task Force which is to be created will apparently have an opportunity for public review prior to any RFP. This will be an opportunity to "frame" the issue appropriately.