By Sean Tubbs
Friday, January 29, 2010
How much water does
need to withstand the next severe drought and support a growing population? Are there alternatives to the
50-year community water supply plan
adopted in 2006? What will it cost the ratepayers? When will it be implemented?
Those are just a few questions explored during a community issues luncheon held by the
Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce
on January 28, 2010. The panel was moderated by Neil Williamson of the
Free Enterprise Forum
. Panelists included Brian Wheeler with
, Charlottesville Mayor
, and Thomas Frederick, Executive Director of the
Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority
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Wheeler provided an overview of how the adopted water supply plan was crafted, and explained some of the reasons why it has come under question. As part of his presentation, Wheeler showed a Google Earth video that provided a virtual fly-over of the three reservoirs operated by RWSA. The visualization included 3-D models built in Google Earth [
] and also depicted different scenarios for expansion at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, as well as how water is moved from the watershed to your tap.
“Charlottesville Tomorrow, which formed in 2005, has been focused on the community water supply plan ever since,” Wheeler said. “We don’t have a specific position on any of these elements… Our job is to give you the best information possible.”
During his presentation, Mayor Norris explained why City Council has been questioning some of the fundamental assumptions of the 2006 plan. He pointed out that three out of the five City Councilors who voted for the plan then have since reconsidered their vote.
“We in government need to be willing to respond to new information that may arise and be willing to modify our plans accordingly,” Norris said. Only one sitting member of Council, David Brown, actually voted on the plan.
Norris said he supports the existing plan’s framework, but said there are fundamental assumptions that he wants to revisit. He said the plan does not take into account how increased water conservation could reduce the community’s projected demand. Additionally, he said it overestimates the cost of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir while underestimating the cost of a new dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
Council has asked for several additional new reports, including a feasibility study to determine a new cost estimate for dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to its original capacity.
“We owe it to our citizens to make sure a decision [on the community water supply] is based on the best information possible,” Norris said.
Tom Frederick, who has lead the RWSA since 2004, used his time to give context on how the adopted supply plan came to be after nearly thirty years of development. He described many of the alternatives that were discarded, including reasons why expanding the Ragged Mountain Reservoir was chosen over dredging.
Frederick also described the challenges that have come up, including a growing dissatisfaction with Gannett Fleming, the initial consultant hired by the RWSA to put together the 2006 plan. He said the RWSA chose in September 2008 to go on a “fresh path” by hiring new consultants and producing new studies.
“We certainly respect the right of folks to offer alternatives and we are actually studying some additional ideas right now,” he said. “However we choose to go, I hope it’s something that we can come to some consensus [on],” Frederick said.
The next step in the ongoing community discussion is a public meeting to be held on the results of the first phase of the dredging feasibility study. That event will be scheduled shortly, according to Frederick.
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