City will pay to initiate work on dredging proposal

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The city of Charlottesville has agreed to pay $50,000 in upfront costs to prepare a request for proposals to dredge a portion of the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir


“We’d like to see dredging move forward as soon as possible,” said City Manager

Maurice Jones



Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

voted 4-3 Tuesday to allow the city to pay for the hiring of

HDR Engineering

to finalize preparations for a request for proposals to seek bids for dredging in at least the upstream portions of the reservoir.

Albemarle County’s three representatives on the RWSA board voted against the proposal because they said action on dredging should wait until the city and county agree on how the two jurisdictions will split the cost of pending capital projects such as the new earthen dam at Ragged Mountain.

“Given the dynamics around dredging and water supply, it seems like it would be prudent to make sure that that final agreement talks about what we’ve talked about here,” said County Executive

Thomas Foley


However, Jones reminded the RWSA board that the

Albemarle County Service Authority

was previously allowed to spend nearly $900,000 to pay Schnabel Engineering to proceed with final design of the new dam.

“The city would do the same thing with dredging until we have an official cost-share,” Jones said. He added that the city and county would still split the cost of both projects, but would determine the ratio later on.

Michael Gaffney

, chairman of the RWSA, voted for the proposal.

“I think it’s important that we treat both the dam and dredging equally and I think this does it,” Gaffney said.

Thomas L. Frederick Jr.

, executive director of the RWSA, told the board he hoped it could reach agreement on the cost allocation by the end of October so a request for proposals to build the dam could be issued.

Jones said he felt a cost-share agreement was near, but the ACSA’s executive director,

Gary O’Connell

, said he was not as confident they were ready to present something to the City Council and the Board of Supervisors.

“We have some more discussion and I don’t know exactly how close we are at this minute,” O’Connell said. “Ideally, by the end of October we will have something in place to go forward with.”

One remaining issue is specifying the conditions that will trigger a second phase of the dam expansion. In February, the

City Council voted 3-2 vote

to proceed with an earthen dam built at an initial pool height rise of 30 feet.

City councilors had expressed the hope that that might be the only reservoir expansion necessary, but county officials have sought to build the dam at its full designed height of 42 feet.

“You’ve got a bunch of different issues that are being looked at all at once,” O’Connell said.


Kenneth C. Boyd

said he believes the two sides have reached an impasse and asked if they would agree to arbitration. Jones disagreed with Boyd’s interpretation of the reasons for delay.

“It’s not unusual to have a back and forth during negotiations and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Jones said. “We’ve never reached a point where we’re not sure what to do next.”

Foley asked what would happen if an agreement is not reached by October.

Frederick said the RWSA board would be asked at its next meeting, on Oct. 25, if it wants to put the dam project out to bid.

“There’s no law that says you can’t go ahead and advertise for bids without a cost-share agreement,” Frederick said. “I do not think that it would be wise to award a contract without having the agreements in place.”

Frederick reminded the board that if the contract for the dam is not awarded by the end of December, the RWSA will be violation of

an agreement it made with the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation board on a schedule for replacement of the dam

. That panel has extended an existing permit on several occasions in the past.

On Thursday, the Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing on

modifications for the permit that allows the RWSA to construct the dam

. Because the dam will be built in two stages, the permit had to be amended to allow the RWSA to release less water into streams until the dam reaches its final height.

Download cover letter from DEQ to RWSA Director Tom Frederick

Download cover page for permit modification

Download general conditions under which permit modification would be issued

Download special conditions under which permit modification would be issued

The new dam has received permits from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. In October, the RWSA will present the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration with plans for an enhanced embankment for where the expanded reservoir would touch Interstate 64. A public meeting on that aspect of the plan will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Albemarle County Office Building-McIntire.