County Supervisors concerned about city’s study of Ragged Mountain Dam
This article is an extended version of what appears in today’s
By Brian Wheeler
Thursday, February 4, 2010
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors raised concerns Wednesday about the Charlottesville City Council’s
decision to study a new dam option
Ragged Mountain Reservoir
. County leaders said that could lead to delays and increased construction costs for the joint water supply plan.
called for a new, higher dam at Ragged Mountain and a pipeline that would transfer water from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the more expansive Ragged Mountain site. The plan has come under fire by opponents who question its original $142 million pricetag and suggest such an ambitious plan would not be needed if officials considered dredging at South Fork as part of the solution.
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Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the
Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority
, warned that the city’s study of a smaller dam expansion, one built 13 feet higher on the
existing 1908 dam
, could set back the schedule.
“City staff have suggested that, because of the procurement process they now have to go through … this particular evaluation may not be available until the fall of this year,” Frederick said. “We were teeing up the additional studies … to try to focus on making some decisions this summer on where we go with implementing the new water supply.”
Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd (Rivanna) asked if the community would lose a “whole season of dam building” if there was a delay in selecting a dam design past August.
Frederick responded that while some dam construction activities could be done any time of year, the actual construction, depending on how it is built, could be season specific.
Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker (Jack Jouett) said he also had concerns about the city’s proposal.
“You have got City Council maybe spending $150,000 on a study of that dam — and the delays and the potential missing of the favorable construction bid climate — all based upon doing some studies for something that may not even be feasible,” Rooker said.
City Councilor David Brown is the only member of council who was in office when the water supply plan was approved in 2006.
“I share some of the county’s concerns and I am still a supporter of the original plan,” Brown said in an interview. “I am concerned about tinkering with the plan with the expectation we will have fewer people using less water. I think there is a good chance we will have more people.”
3-D model of the Norris Plan
concept dam for Ragged Mountain in Google Earth.
See more of Charlottesville in 3-D in Google Earth
Mayor Dave Norris said it was “staff and key parties dragging their feet” that had kept the assessment of his dam alternative from moving forward sooner. Norris first outlined his water plan concept in February 2009.
His concept involves a combination of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, water conservation and raising the existing Ragged Mountain Dam by 13 feet. The exact amount of water such an approach would provide and its ability to be approved by state and federal regulators has yet to be determined.
“We have information that we need to get that could potentially save a tremendous amount of money and minimize environmental impacts,” Norris said in an interview. “If it takes a little bit of time and money, it is worth it. This project is now years behind the original schedule, so again I don’t think a few extra months will have any major impact.”
Supervisor Boyd said it was the county that would pay the price for any delays.
“I think the biggest burden of the cost of this new dam — because the capacity is going to be needed in the county where the growth is — is going to fall on the county,” said Boyd. “We can’t let the persons who [would pay] a small portion of this cost control what’s done and lose some tremendous opportunities here with the bidding environment.”
“I am concerned about spending more money,” said Brown when asked about investing in the new study. “I am, however, really interested in getting the dredging study results first so we can make sure that we know exactly to what degree dredging [the South Fork Rivanna reservoir] could contribute to water supply. We need to err on the side of having plenty of water rather than too little water.”
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