By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, January 22, 2010


Albemarle County Service Authority

will not help pay for the

Charlottesville City Council’s plan

to study raising the

Lower Ragged Mountain Dam

by 13 feet, the authority’s Board of Directors announced Thursday.

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Marvin Hilton

New board member

Marvin Hilton

(Samuel Miller) said it was an unwise idea to build on top of a dam that is already 100 years old.

“If you’re talking about 50 years to a hundred years hence, it would seem a little off the deep edge to consider a 13-foot raising right now,” Hilton said. He added that the community ought to pursue one water plan, rather than considering multiple options.


City Council

on Tuesday decided to get an independent cost estimate for expanding the existing dam, built around 1908, by 13 feet as part of an alternative water supply option. That plan would also involve increased conservation and dredging the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

to restore its original capacity.

Some councilors had asked whether the service authority would be interested in helping fund such a study. Authority Executive Director

Gary W. Fern

had previously indicated that the board would not pay for any portion of the study.

During the authority’s meeting Thursday, Fern sought input from his board.

Member Jim Colbaugh said if the feasibility study under way indicates that dredging should be pursued, then perhaps the authority might consider the extension of the existing dam.

“I think it’s appropriate not to pursue right now with the 13-foot dam study, but I don’t think we should pound on the table and say absolutely never ever,” Colbaugh said.

John Martin, vice chairman of the authority’s board, was adamant that the board should not consider revising the water supply plan, and that any dredging of the South Fork should be done only for aesthetic or recreational uses.

“We took the position that the dredging feasibility study was not needed because we have a water supply plan, and ultimately we compromised and agreed to pay for some of the costs of the study,” Martin said. He said the community cannot afford to both dredge the reservoir and implement the adopted plan.

New board member

David Thomas

said he wasn’t opposed to dredging if necessary in the short-term, but that he was opposed to the study of the dam expansion.

Colbaugh said he was open to the possibility of dredging the South Fork.

“Dredging is an operational necessity to any water body being used as a water supply,” Colbaugh said. “At some level you have to preserve the reservoir that you have.”

Martin countered that the

South Fork Rivanna Stewardship Task Force

concluded last year

that dredging was not necessary to continue using the reservoir as a water supply resource.

“A huge amount of flow would continue through that area and the dam would stay there and there would always be an area for water intake in and around the dam, even if you did no dredging at all,” Martin said.

The service authority board also agreed that it wanted to make sure it was represented on any steering committee that might be established at the city’s request to oversee the ongoing studies being conducted and that might recommend potential alternatives to the approved plan.

The existing plan calls for the replacement of a dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir with a higher, more stable structure, with water piped in from the South Fork reservoir. The plan was originally estimated to cost $142.8 million, but officials are revising estimates because problematic fractured bedrock was found last year at the site of the planned Ragged Mountain dam.

In other business Thursday, service authority members unanimously elected Clarence Roberts to serve as board chairman. Martin was elected as vice chairman on a 3-2 vote, with Colbaugh and Richard Carter dissenting. Colbaugh also had been nominated for the vice chairman position.


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