Keno, Lynch dredge up divergent views
So what happened last night at the big dredging confab called by Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris? Well, the two-man team from visiting engineering firm Gahagan & Bryant repeated its pitch from the previous night for how dredging could be knocked out in a matter of months, not years– certainly not 50 years, as Aaron Keno (in photo), the Gannett Fleming engineer who has been blamed for portraying dredging as an expensive, ineffective 50-year nightmare, contends.
Although he avoided mention of his own prior cost estimates, which have prompted such diverse parties as the Sierra Club, netrepreneur William Crutchfield [RTF], and Albemarle supervisor Dennis Rooker to reopen the topic, Keno got paid to reiterate his view last night, but perhaps the biggest shocker was off-topic.
Water plan architect Ridge Schuyler revealed that his Nature Conservancy has received a 340-acre donation adjacent to the City's Ragged Mountain Natural Area that could become a fabulous new park with access from Route 29.
"At the end of the day," said Schuyler, "we hope to have a 1,200-acre park with full public access."
For all its charms, the 980-acre Natural Area must now be reached via a long, winding, and graveled Reservoir Road, and it's bisected by Interstate 64. Schuyler envisions an architecturally significant "gateway" pedestrian bridge that would cross I-64.
"To me, that would be the ultimate," says Schuyler, "to make it one unit."
In another shocker, Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority chair Mike Gaffney claimed that City water rates would only need to rise 1.5 percent annually and that County water rates would only need to rise 2.5 percent annually, despite ambitious dam plans at Ragged Mountain. (Meanwhile, the Albemarle Service Authority is proposing rates that shoot up 13 percent for water and 29 percent for sewer. Director Gary Fern says capital projects combined with an increase in wholesale rate necessitate the rise.)
In another presentation, airport director Barbara Hutchinson told the crowd of about 70 why any hopes of using dredged materials at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport's planned runway expansion hang on the "ifs" of whether dredging will occur, whether the FAA will back the plan, and whether the various projects can be synched.
"It could come about, but those are a lot of ifs," said Hutchinson. "We just don't see that the stars are aligned."
Dredging supporters have suggested that sending Rivanna Reservoir sediments to the airport could save both projects millions of dollars, as they did a decade ago in Philadelphia in a project lauded by Al Gore. But even that example didn't wash with Hutchinson, who said the comparisons weren't "apples to apples."
At meeting's end, we asked Gannett Fleming's Keno if he might be embarrassed that it was his portrayal of dredging as a $225 million operation–- more than a recent contract to widen one side of the Panama Canal– that pushed the community to this point.
"Direct all your questions to Mr. Frederick," said Keno, as he headed for the exit.
While Keno has branded dredging as too expensive and insufficient to supply enough water to meet the 50-year community demand (which he says will double), former City Councilor Kevin Lynch gave an alternate view last night.
Lynch showed that dredging, combined with data showing that local water use has actually declined every year for about a decade, gets us within "spitting distance" of the 50-year need.
"How many years of conservation," Lynch asked, pointing to the steady usage decline, "do we need to see before we can call that a trend?"
Last night's event was a "work session" of City Council, i.e. no comments from non-officials, but the public will get a chance to opine on May 19 when Council holds a hearing on proposed water rates. Although that's just 12 days away, the City has yet to reveal its proposed rate structure.