League of Women Voters explains support for water plan

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


League of Women Voters of Charlottesville/Albemarle

held a forum Tuesday to explain how they reached the decision to support the

water supply plan

adopted in 2006 by

City Council

and the

Board of Supervisors


The event was part of the League’s Treva Cromwell series, named after the woman who served as chair of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority during 1979-1986.

“[Cromwell] and others recognized the need for water supply planning because it was anticipated that the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

, built in 1966, would have inadequate water storage by 2050,” said Lois Rochester, a past president of the League.

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The League’s Natural Resources Committee long been involved in local water supply and watershed issues. Rochester said that in the 1980’s, the group supported a plan to build a new reservoir in the Buck Mountain area. However, that alternative was later dropped in part because federal regulators were concerned about the presence of the endangered Jamesriver spineymussel.

“They looked unfavorably on new reservoirs if other alternatives could be found,” Rochester said.

League member

Liz Palmer

(also a current member of the

Albemarle County Service Authority

board) explained at the forum that after the Buck Mountain decision, the RWSA restarted the process of identifying new water supply storage options. One proposal was to pump water via a new pipeline from the James River at Scottsville.

In 2005, the League joined an informal coalition called

Drink Local Water

to promote an alternative plan featuring a larger reservoir at Ragged Mountain and a new supply pipeline  from South Fork. That option had the environmental benefit of returning natural streamflows to the Moormans River where water has been withdrawn since 1925 to supply Ragged Mountain.

City and county governments adopted that plan over the James River pipeline in June 2006, and it received federal and state permits in 2008.

However, a different City Council voted in September to amend the plan to add restorative dredging and to build a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir in phases. Doing so would require existing permits to be amended.

“DEQ’s bottom line is that any modification to permits would have to go through a full public  notice and comment process again,” said former Mayor

Kay Slaughter

, who recently retired from the

Southern Environmental Law Center

. “And if they considered it a new project, you might have to restart the process.”

Slaughter said she only appeared at the League’s forum to explain the regulatory framework and not to weigh in on the plan. In an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow, she expressed continued support for the 2006 plan, but said it was up to city and county elected officials to come to an agreement.

“The city and county has worked together for years on [water supply planning] and I’m for finding the common ground and not exacerbating the conflict on either side,” Slaughter said.  “I do think it is distressing that we’re still dealing with re-deciding these things. There’s always new information and I do agree that you need to adjust plan. But this is something that we need to decide on and move ahead.”