By Bridgett Lynn & Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

August 10, 2010

Opponents of the adopted

community water supply plan

held a forum on July 29 to explain why they feel dredging the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

is the best solution to meeting the community’s future water needs.

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Dede Smith, of the group

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

, provided a presentation to explain why the group is against the plan adopted by

City Council

and the

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

in 2006. That plan, which has received state and federal permits, calls for an enlarged

Ragged Mountain reservoir

as well as a new pipeline to connect it to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

“In a nutshell, it’s over priced, oversized, and based on faulty data,” said Smith.

The plan is based on a 2004 demand analysis conducted by

Gannett Fleming

that established the water supply would need to be able to provide a “

safe yield

” of 18.7 million gallons a day. The analysis factored in population estimates, water consumption trends and historical data on rainfall.  It did not incorporate changes to the city and county comprehensive plans made after 1997.  Albemarle County completed its first master plan for a designated growth area in 2004.

Former City Councilor

Kevin Lynch

argued the community is using less water today and that the demand analysis does not account for these changes in behavior.

Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch

“It was relevant once,” Lynch said. “It’s not that it’s false stated, it’s just no longer relevant data.”

Lynch voted for the plan when he was on City Council, but has said since that he did so because the estimates for dredging provided by Gannett Fleming were too high.  In March 2008, the firm estimated that dredging continuously for the 50-year period of the water supply plan could cost as much as $223 million.

City Council asked for several studies to examine various components of the 2006 plan. The firm HDR Engineering was hired to evaluate the feasibility and costs of dredging the South Fork to restore it as close as possible to its original storage volume. The firm is recommending a multi-phase, one-time dredging project that would cost $34 million to $40 million and take about seven years.  HDR said resale of the dredged materials could reduce the dredging costs by as much as $12.7 million.

Another reason the community water supply plan’s implementation has been delayed is due to the rising cost estimate for the new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. In September 2008, Gannett Fleming announced that the cost estimate for a concrete dam had increased to over $70 million. The RWSA hired another firm, Schnabel Engineering, who concluded that switching to an earthen dam would save money, and could be accomplished for a cost between  $28.5 million and $36.6 million.

Members of the group also took issue with a recent draft study from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality which assessed an alternative water plan at the request of Charlottesville

Mayor Dave Norris


“What it says is that if we dredge the South Fork Reservoir and build a 13 foot dam … that we can increase the safe yield of our system by about 4 million gallons a day over and above what we have now and still meet the existing flow requirements into the streams that are spelled out in the 45 foot dam permit,” Lynch said.

Banner displayed at forum

However, according to Scott Kudlas, a DEQ director responsible for surface and groundwater planning, the Norris plan would not meet stream-flow requirements in the community’s previously approved permits.

“Our conclusion is that the safe yield of the alternative will not meet the demand,” Kudlas said in a July interview. “In order to meet the in-stream flow requirements in the permit, the locality would have to be in voluntary [water] conservation [mode] all the time, and they still wouldn’t meet the in-stream flows from the original permit during the full range of conditions.”

The draft study by DEQ also indicates that the dredging of South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, combined with a renovation and expansion of the existing 1908 dam at Ragged Mountain, would deliver a safe yield of approximately 16.8 million gallons a day, 1.9 million gallons short of the original goal of the community’s 50-year water supply plan.

Richard Lloyd

, a representative of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan and a board member of

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population

, also discussed an alternative dredging plan he is recommending for consideration.  Lloyd wrote in a recent advertisement featured in

The Hook

that a study of his ‘

Small Bites

’ alternative would “probably find that this method costs less, is more environmentally friendly and produces a much better long-term result.”

In an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow, Lloyd could not provide the exact actual costs of his dredging plan nor the amount of water storage in “safe yield” that would be provided.  His ‘Small Bites’ advertisement claims that dredging would “cost about $1 million a year” and provide enough water supply for 30-50 years.

“It’s time for us to go out and find out what that cost would be. It’s time to issue an inquiry and have a competitive situation where different companies would bid,” Lloyd said.

In August, the

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

(RWSA) Board of Directors will get the results of a new review of the 2004 demand analysis to determine if changes in consumption and community growth might raise or lower the safe yield target. Swartz Engineering Economics was paid $24,000 to conduct the review.

A brand new demand analysis could cost as much as $100,000, according to Tom Frederick, executive director of the RWSA.


00:45 – Bob Fenwick talks about recent goals and accomplishments of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

05:00 – Rich Collins of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan disputes claims in the media about the water supply issue

14:05 – Kevin Lynch interprets the DEQ report as supporting dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and building a 13 foot dam

22:10 – Dede Smith presents a power point comparing water supply alternatives and information on water consumption

46:25 – Hawes Spencer, editor and publisher of The Hook, questions if Rivanna’s sewer service is equal to the water service

47:45 – Lynch addresses question from a retail perspective and at the wholesale perspective

51:37 – City resident Rebecca Quinn, one of Charlottesville’s citizen representatives on the dredging firm selection committee, questions how much of Rivanna’s treated water is lost through old infrastructure via seepage out of the system

52:13 – Smith addresses question

53:43 – Richard Lloyd talks about the amount of water available and his alternative dredging plan called ‘Small Bites’

1:15:01 – Quinn argues that the economy will never be favorable to build the proposed dam

1:19:43 – Conclusion


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