Head of DEQ encourages Charlottesville-Albemarle to resolve differences on water plan

By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The head of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has responded to local officials regarding the status of a proposed public meeting on the community water supply plan.  DEQ Director David K. Paylor says the agency will “stand down” on its November offer to facilitate the public meeting since at least one local body, Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors, has declined to participate.

In the

letter dated January 7

, Paylor encourages the chairs of the “four boards” with authority over the local water and sewer system to work locally to resolve its differences over the “duly submitted, reviewed, and approved” water supply permit issued in 2008.  Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Supervisors are meeting later today to discuss the status of the water plan that was unanimously approved in 2006.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors said in December that it would not attend a meeting facilitated by DEQ to discuss the 50-year community water supply plan.

“We support no compromise of the approved and permitted water supply plan in the belief that to do so, would compromise the county’s future,” wrote Supervisor Ann H. Mallek in a December letter. “[I]t would be disingenuous for the county to agree to a DEQ ‘facilitated’ joint public meeting, the mere organization of which would suggest to you, and to the public, that there is room for compromise …. There is none.”

Paylor’s letter also indicates that the agency will respond to any newly submitted water supply permit, or an amendment of the existing permit, if it is submitted by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority with the approval of the four boards.  The letter does not explicitly address whether the agency will respond to other questions submitted by local officials last October.

Charlottesville City Council had hoped DEQ would respond to those questions in advance of their regular meeting this evening.  Council has sought to determine if the phased construction of a new dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir could be limited to a 13’ increase of the reservoir pool initially, while still meeting DEQ’s goal of improved stream flows in the Moormans and Rivanna Rivers.

“The position DEQ is in, we do not want to speculate on various possibilities, which is what we are getting lots of questions about,” said Bill Haden DEQ’s director of public affairs in an interview.  “Under the regulations, we are saying that if we get a permit request we will respond, otherwise we don’t have any other comment because it would be speculation.”

Paylor also says the agency welcomes public input on the Charlottesville-Albemarle community water supply plan, but it will not respond to letters from individuals or groups. Seven local advocacy groups and a former water official were all copied on the letter.  Paylor says requests to change the permit must come from local officials via the RWSA.

See tomorrow’s

Daily Progress

and Charlottesville Tomorrow’s website for complete coverage of the joint meeting being held today by Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.