Dredge fans take it to the streets

Dredge fans such as Ryan Susa (shown here at left) have begun taking to the streets in an effort to get signatures on a petition calling for a study of dredging the Rivanna Reservoir.

"We want to make sure that government keeps its word and does a study that's unbiased," said Susa Friday night as he chatted up the cause, in this case with Fridays After Five-goer Veronica Price-Thomas.

Already, charges of bias have been roiling a community that finds itself seemingly committed to a $143 million consultant-driven water plan that's supposed to supply 50 years of water while budgeting nothing for maintenance dredging any of the existing reservoirs. The situation boiled over earlier this month when first the Charlottesville City Council and then the Albemarle Supervisors passed resolutions demanding that the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority commission a study of dredging the Rivanna Reservoir as well as bolstering conservation efforts.

"For me it's personal," says Susa, who moved to Charlottesville from Hawaii about three years ago, "because I'm environmentally conscious, and I love hiking in Ragged Mountain."

The $143 million proposal would not only clear-cut 180 acres of trees in the environmentally sensitive Ragged Mountain Natural Area for a new reservoir that would sprawl all the way to Interstate 64, it would only supply sufficient water if a new pipeline and pumping stations were built to pump millions of gallons of water uphill each day.

Supporters contend that the project would reduce the strain on the Moorman's River and benefit the Buck Mountain Creek area by creating new forests as part of an over $7 million environmental damage "mitigation" plan.

The embattled Authority has steadfastly refused to second-guess its decision to ignore dredging. But the two local governments are now well aware that the consultants, Pennsylvania-based Gannett Fleming, may have overestimated the difficulties and costs of dredging–- which environmentalists agree is the least damaging way to bolster water supplies. After dismissing dredging as a viable option, the company landed a $3.1 million contract to design the new dam at Ragged Mountain.

Authority director Tom Frederick has long defended the process, but in recent months a diverse array of people–- starting with a group of mostly ex-officials called Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply–- have begun requesting less damaging alternatives. The local chapter of the Sierra Club threw its support to exploring dredging in April, followed later that month by electronics mogul Bill Crutchfield. More recently, three of the four most recently departed City Councilors got together on radio to say they'd been duped when they green-lighted the then-unpriced long-term water supply scheme.

The next skirmish may come June 23. That's the date of the next scheduled meeting of the Authority board, whose members were actively downplaying dredging as recently as March, but that was before private contractors began publicly clamoring for a chance to submit proposals.

Susa says he hopes they get a chance to have their concepts considered. By presstime earlier this week, fellow petitioner Betty Mooney said that "hundreds" of citizens have signed the petitition.
–updated 3:40pm June 17


I have watched Tom Frederick and taken the time to meet with him on several occasions. My experience is that he is a committed public employee, skillful and experienced. Mr. Frederick faithfully carries out and supports the policies of the Board of The Rivanna and Sewer Authority without interjecting any personal bias. Charlottesville needs and deserves good employees like Mr. Frederick. Policy is defined by the Board and it is they who should be responsible for policy.

I agree with Observer's comments above with the exception of those dealing with Mr. Frederick's character. I know no one's character but my own.
The process has been twisted and maybe the following example will help to explain why.
On April 21, 2008 at a regular city council meeting, a request from O'Connell-Mueller-Tucker-Fern-Gaffney (developer) for the city to grant an easement of 14,060 sq. ft. on city-owned land off Franklin Street near Moore's Creek AT NO COST to provide "wetlands[?]" to mitigate the losses at the future Ragged Mountain Expansive Reservoir under I-64. The council was told to direct all questions to Judith Mueller, the city's director of Public Works. It seems the request came from Mrs. Mueller while wearing her hat as a director of RWSA, but the recommendation to council came from Mrs. Mueller while wearing her hat as city employee. She could not ask for the deed without cost, then turn around and recommend a charge. Knowing no one else to consult, council passed the measure without discussion, then voted to fore-go the second reading of the measure by staff's recommendation to hurry up, thereby getting it off their desk. Mr. Huja did ask what was the value of the property and was told by another staffer that it was virtually worthless. Net result, RWSA got a free easement (county rate payers pay nothing, city rate payers bought it; just keep that Revenue Sharing coming boys)with no demonstrated interest by a council that seems to prefer spending more time giving awards and recognitions.
Good luck on the petition, Mr. Susa, but I'm afraid the people may have to deal with these Louis-Maries with a revolution to get their attention.

Why let the South Fork die and become a stinking swamp of quicksand? Why throw it away? Even if it costs more dollars to save, why destroy more land and pump water UPHILL from a new reservoir? Has anyone calculated the lifecycle cost of PUMPING WATER UPHILL millions of gallons per day for 75 years?

Remember, hydroelectric captures energy from water falling down, so conversely you must burn a pile of coal or nuclear energy to pump it uphill. How green is that? How much does THAT cost? AND DON'T USE TODAY'S ELECTRIC RATES....JUST LIKE OIL AND FOOD, THE NEXT BIG ENERGY STORY WILL BE ELECTRIC RATES!

The City and County have both indicated their desire to investigate dredging. Everyone agrees that dredging is necessary. Enough already....

Here's a link to the audio of the Hamilton-Lynch-Schilling show on WINA: http://www.wina.com/page.php?category_id=361&item_id=28050

Mr. Frederick, executive director of RWSA, has listed the myriad of topics concerning dredging that need to be studied by a consultant, indicating just how much information the decision-makers did not have when they decided upon the current proposal that was obviously nothing but the result of brain-storming: http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2008/06/rwsa... contains a link to this powerful memo with an exhausting list of no-know-about items. It's strange to see the number of people in this university town that feel the RWSA has taken a real stab at problem-solving.
It will also be interesting if RWSA decides to appoint PEC and NC to the talk force.