By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The South Fork Rivanna Reservoir was built in 1966

At the conclusion of the

March 3, 2009 meeting of the four boards

with a share of control of the community’s water supply system, the Charlottesville City Council was asked to put in writing exactly how they wished to proceed with a feasibility study of dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. At their meeting on April 6, 2009, Council approved a Request for Proposals (RFP) prepared by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) that would solicit engineering firms to submit full and selective dredging proposals and cost estimates.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast:

Download 20090407-CC-Dredging

The RFP calls for a full study of what would be required to restore as much of the water supply capacity that was present when the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir opened in 1966. This would include:

RWSA Executive Director Tom Frederick said the most important part of the dredging study is to select potential disposal sites.

“That’s something that’s not been done in the past, and perhaps more so than anything else can affect the cost of dredging,” Frederick said.

As Council’s discussion began, Councilor

Julian Taliaferro

objected to language in the introduction that described the history of how the existing water supply plan came to be adopted. Specifically, he said this sentence from page 2 of the RFP should be removed:

Tom Frederick of the RWSA helped write the RFP on behalf of the Council

“As part of the selection process which led to creation of the CWSP, dredging of sediments from the South Rivanna Reservoir was considered as a water supply alternative, but was not selected as the preferred alternative for purposes of the CWSP.”

Frederick responded that the RWSA always includes detailed historical backgrounds to help would-be contractors determine how to proceed.

“It’s not giving them direction how to do the study,” Frederick said. “That’s in the scope of services… Most of the consultants that we’ve spoken to about using historical information suggests it is very helpful.”

City Manager Gary O’Connell, a member of the RWSA Board, directed Taliaferro’s attention to another sentence further down in the RFP.

“This RFP requests qualified firms to conduct a feasibility study for restoring as much of the original water supply pool of the reservoir as practical, and to address the extent of further steps that should be taken now if continued dredging is desired in the future as further sediment enters the reservoir or a forebay area.

“That’s what I think I’ve been hearing City Council say they want the study to do,” O’Connell said.

Download the RFP


Dave Norris

echoed Taliaferro’s concerns about the extra information in the background section out of a concern that it may lead potential contractors to decline from responding to the RFP.  Norris requested the removal of three paragraphs that detail the history of the adopted community water supply plan.

“I don’t think anything in here is necessarily inaccurate, but one might read between the lines and infer that this is a community that isn’t particularly interested in dredging for water supply,” Norris said.


David Brown

said that any contractor who responds should know the full background of how the community has arrived at this point. He asked Norris and Taliaferro to point out any inaccuracies in the three paragraphs. Norris acknowledged that he was perhaps looking at the document “too conspiratorially” and he wanted to move on to his concerns with the RFP’s scope of work.

In general, Norris said that the RFP was asking one firm to perform a lot of different functions. He asked Frederick if it would be possible to split the RFP into several tasks. In particular, Norris wanted to know if one firm could be tasked with finding a disposal site for the dredged material.

“This whole enterprise hinges on that question,” Norris said. “Because if there isn’t a site that’s going to meet all these criteria… I don’t see how it makes sense to proceed with any further exploration of dredging.”

Frederick responded that nothing in the RFP would prevent a firm from subcontracting other portions of the scope of work. However, he warned that asking for separate RFPs for separate tasks could create an unmanageable situation.

“[The RFP] does require one firm that has the expertise in dredging to be the overall coordinator of what are all the detailed things that get surveyed, what are all the detailed steps in following up to make sure that all important details to the overall investigation get addressed,” Frederick said. He warned that multiple contractors could lead to a situation where not all of the appropriate information will be gathered.

Norris said he disagreed that bidders should be asked to identify four sites. He said his goal was to try to determine one site, and that the RFP process should result in establishing one site where a landowner is willing to either sell or lease the land for the purposes of disposing the material. He somewhat jokingly called for an RFDS (Request for Disposal Site) to separate that aspect from the rest of the technical scope of services.

“Having the overall firm demonstrate its ability to form a partnership with a local property owner who can demonstrate how their disposal site is going to work could accomplish these goals,” Norris said.


Satyendra Huja

said he was concerned that if only one potential site is analyzed, that could cause that landowner to ask for more money. Norris said he wanted language in the RFP that addressed the ability of a site owner to make a commitment to the RWSA. Frederick said the scope of work as written does include contacting property owners.

“I would envision this as a screening process,” Frederick said. “The way you want to make sure you don’t preclude something that turns out to be a good option is that you start broad by looking at maps around the reservoir… you start looking at what the best potential sites are and you want the expert eyes looking at that. As they narrow it down, then you want to make contacts with property owners and find out if they’re interested.”

Norris said that he heard Frederick say exactly what he wanted, but he wanted the language in the RFP to reflect that that contractor would seek to obtain the conditions under which the potential disposal site’s owner would be willing to sell or lease the land.

Norris asked if it would be possible for a property owner to come forward with a proposal and subcontract out all of the technical work. Frederick said that the RWSA requested that an engineering consultant perform the work to “provide the content that we need for an objective evaluation.”

Norris eventually dropped his request to separate the RFP into two tasks. But he sought other changes too:

Councilor Huja said the RFP was in line with Council’s wishes. Brown said the RFP was very a very responsive proposal. Norris said his questions shouldn’t take away from what he called a “big step forward” for the water supply plan.

Brown made a motion to approve the RFP with minor changes, but not to drop the historical background. Norris agreed that the more important thing was to adopt the scope of work.

In other water-supply news, Councilor

Holly Edwards

was named to serve on the RWSA Board of Directors as soon as the agency’s amended Articles of Incorporation are accepted by the State Corporation Commission. The Board of Supervisors will select their representative at a future meeting.


Interested in what we're working on next? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.