But at its meeting Thursday, the ACSA decided against spending its own money now to push the earthen dam proposal forward, opting instead to wait until several final studies of the embattled water plan are finished and leaders can make a final overall decision.
“There’s a hard push to get all these studies [finalized] so that when the summer is over, [all the information] will be in front of decision-makers,” said ACSA Executive Director
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RWSA Executive Director Thomas Frederick said, “The question to be answered is: ‘Is the plan we approved in 2006 the right plan, or does it need to be modified?’”
Any long term water supply plan will need the support of the Charlottesville City Council, which has not been convinced that a new dam is the best way to meet the community’s needs.
In order to satisfy their concerns, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has commissioned several studies to reevaluate components of the plan originally adopted by council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors in 2006.
The studies completed so far include a feasibility study of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, a new design and cost estimate for an earthen dam at Ragged Mountain, as well as a reevaluation of a concept to build a pipeline between the two reservoirs.
Studies that remain to be completed include an analysis of the Interstate 64 embankment, which would be inundated by a larger reservoir and a new analysis of the water demand projections on which the water supply plan is based. Both of those will be presented to the RWSA board at its August meeting.
A 2004 study conducted by Gannett Fleming showed that the community would need to supply a safe-yield of 18.7 million gallons a day in order to withstand a drought equivalent to the worst on record. Critics have argued that amount is too high and the community should plan for a lower amount.
In addition, the City of Charlottesville has commissioned its own study to determine whether the existing Ragged Mountain Dam, built in 1908, can be repaired and enlarged. The first phase of that study will be completed by the middle of August.
At Thursday’s ACSA meeting, board member Liz Palmer said interest existed in moving the dam expansion ahead to take advantage of market conditions.
“We want to get going as soon as possible because we want to take advantage of current construction prices,” Palmer said.
Frederick had asked the ACSA board members if they would be willing to pay for three additional projects to advance design work for the Ragged Mountain Dam to speed up the time it would take to put the project out for bid. Frederick said it will take about nine months to complete the final design and another three months to bid the project.
This work includes $35,000 to apply for modifications to federal and state environmental permits, $10,000 to begin the process to receive a special use permit from Albemarle County, and $85,000 for final design work on elements for a tower that will convey water to the dam’s spillway.
“It seems like we wouldn’t be hurting anything if we waited to try and bundle this stuff in August if we felt we needed to at that time,” said ACSA board member Jim Colbaugh. “It seems like the appropriate time to take a position would be at our next meeting if we need to.”
After further discussion, the ACSA board opted not to contribute funds to any additional work at this time. City Council will hear a special briefing on dredging from the firm HDR at its meeting on Monday night.
Frederick also told the ACSA board that he has asked dam designers Schnabel Engineering to develop plans for phasing construction of the earthen dam. Frederick said the RWSA wants options to only build an earthen dam that would elevate the pool by 13 feet, to build a 45-foot dam in two stages, and to build a 45-foot dam but only fill it 13 feet for the foreseeable future.