Surprise! Dredge meets 115% of 50-year demand

Perplexed by persistent allegations of an alleged "deficit" between future water supply and demand, this reporter phoned the Coy Barefoot show on WINA radio Tuesday afternoon and learned, contrary to assertions on its website that the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has current capacity of only 12.8 million gallons per day, it actually has 16 million daily gallons today.

Authority director Tom Frederick, whose February "fact sheets" on dredging and on a new $37 million dam that won't work without a $60 million pipeline consistently speak of a future water deficit, conceded that a large part of that deficit comes from making legally binding the voluntary stream releases that the waterworks currently cease when reservoirs run low. This was news to the Hook!

In a cover story published today, we found that dredging the Rivanna Reservoir would supply up to 5.5 million gallons of daily capacity, according to an Authority consultant. That combines with 16 million gallons to make 21.5 million, which is 115% of the projected need in 50 years of 18.7 million gallons per day.

A new citizens group has complained that information coming from the Authority–- which wants to phase out both the Sugar Hollow and the Rivanna Reservoir for a new pipeline and a mega-reservoir along Interstate 64–- has been inadequate. In fact, as Frederick conceded Tuesday, current voluntary stream releases only become mandatory under the permit for the new dam.

"The permit that we just recently approved made them mandatory," Frederick admitted on the radio program. In a post-interview email, Frederick contends that he has "consistently communicated" this point. However, citizens group member Betty Mooney disagrees.

"In the more than half a dozen times I have listened to Mr. Frederick explain the RWSA water supply proposal," she says, "I have never heard him mention that stream flow requirements have gone from voluntary to mandatory."

On the same program, former City Councilor Kevin Lynch reminded Frederick that last November, four out of five City Councilors asked for a second opinion on dredging, which the Authority estimates to cost about $145 million–- about $100 million more than some private contractors have claimed.

"Getting another study is going to take the expenditure of funds," said Frederick. "We haven't gotten direction that there needs to be another study."

Frederick has, however, released to the Hook, nearly four months after it was promised to the City Council, an update from consultants Gannett Fleming, the firm that steered Charlottesville away from dredging with its nightmarish cost and timetable depictions, now claiming that dredging would cost $225 million.

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December 11 correction: The Hook having re-examined the 2004 study “Safe Yield Study [PDF]” by Gannett Fleming, it does not appear that dredging's 5.5 million gallons per day, or MGD, can be added to today's existing capacity of 16 MGD because there is siltation yet to occur. Instead, the 5.5 MGD figure should be added to the reduced 2050 capacity of 12.2 MGD. Such dredging will only supply 17.7 MGD. While that's more than enough to satisfy, say, the 14.7 MGD demand figure devised by Albemarle water resources manager Greg Harper, it's not as much as originally claimed in the above story.

4 comments

I'm still skeptical as all hell whether dredging is the best course, but I'm certainly listening.

THANKS! for following this. It seems that decisions have been made and now justification for it is being manufactured. Someone will make a ton of money fixing a problem we may or may not have, (not to mention the "studies"), meanwhile upkeep on the Rivanna Reservoir is neglected. Given the scope of the Ragged Mountain project it is hard to believe this is cost-effective given the alternatives. This is a project that is not without risks, and something about it smells bad! Where is the money coming from for any project? The area is already overbuilt and prices/property taxes are sagging. Too bad we don't get to vote on it. The flip-flopping of the supervisors positions on this is rather suspicious.

I have never heard Mr. Frederick say that he believes dredging will be cost-prohibitive. He just pulls out the report that his bosses are relying upon and says that his bosses have not appropriated any money for a real study. That's part of his job. I think the name Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority is somewhat misleading to some. "Authority" in this case implies financial privilege rather than superior knowledge. After all, four of the five appointees are City and County bureaucrats. It issue should be thrown into the laps of the founding governing bodies who are mysteriously silent on the issue.

Mr. Tucker seems to be joined at the hip with the City's spendthrift, Gary O'Connell in his "World Class" (expensive) water, transit and EMS plans.