By Sean Tubbs
Wednesday, September 22, 1010
John Martin has resigned from the Albemarle County Service Authority’s board of directors, saying he will not stand by while Charlottesville leaders rewrite the area’s long-term water plan.
His resignation, which is effective immediately, came a day after the county supervisors, ACSA, Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority and the City Council met to discuss the status of the plan.
“The city is basically revoking its approval and wants to negotiate a different plan,” Martin said in an interview. “My sense from the four boards meeting [Tuesday] was that there seemed to be things set in motion to negotiate a compromise, and I am unwilling to compromise.”
The original plan would raise the height of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir dam by 42 feet and build a new pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to fill the larger pool.
The original cost estimate was $142 million, which included other infrastructure work.
On Monday, the City Council voted to endorse a revised plan that keeps elements of the 2006 plan but advocates a smaller initial dam increase with future additions considered when more water is needed.
The council-backed plan also would include dredging the South Fork reservoir as well as more conservation measures.
No agreement was reached on the water plan during Tuesday’s meeting among the boards.
“My intention is to defend the plan at the state level vigorously in the hope that no changes to the approved plan will be made,” Martin said.
Martin has been active in regional water issues since the late 1990s as a member of the group Friends of the Moormans River. The river flows between the Sugar Hollow Reservoir and the South Fork Rivanna River. Martin said he got involved after growing tired of seeing the river run dry every summer.
The Ragged Mountain Reservoir near Charlottesville is filled via a pipeline from Sugar Hollow, which diverts water from the Moormans.
His advocacy for water issues led Supervisor Ann Mallek to appoint him in 2008 to represent the White Hall magisterial district on the ACSA board. He became vice chairman in January.
“I think he’s done a fabulous job of representing the needs of the environment and filling that role for the White Hall District,” Mallek said. “So much of the Moormans is suffering due to the draw-down of water into the Sugar Hollow pipeline.”
The approved 50-year water plan, which received permits in 2008 from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers, would return the natural stream flow to the Moormans and allow water to be collected downstream and transferred via a new pipeline between the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and Ragged Mountain. The water storage capacity planned for an enlarged reservoir at Ragged Mountain would ensure stream flows could meet the targets identified in the plan for the Moormans River, Moores Creek and the Rivanna River.
“It was clear from the early part of the planning process that the state would require in-stream flow protections,” Martin said. “A lot of work went into taking a look at the amount of storage we would need to cover the amount of demand and what the rivers and streams would need.”
He said the time to amend the plan was in 2006 because RWSA has been working off the assumption that unanimous approval by both the City Council and the Board of Supervisors was the direction desired by the community.
“If council had not approved it, we could have done something else,” Martin said. “I think it’s unfair and I don’t think it’s in the community’s best interest.”
Martin said it was necessary to step down because he could be more effective as a citizen-advocate, and because he did not want his personal concerns to conflict with whatever position the ACSA ultimately adopts.
Dede Smith of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said she was surprised Martin felt the need to step down because he has been advocating for the approved plan in his capacity as a board member.
“This has been his position all along,” Smith said. “He wants everything in the 2006 plan and nothing new.”
Smith said meeting stream-flow requirements in the Moormans River was an important goal of the modified plan advocated by her group.
“We absolutely feel that the stream flows for the Moormans can be met with a revised plan,” Smith said.
“We concur with [Charlottesville Mayor] Dave Norris that we should only build new infrastructure as it is evidenced to be needed,” Smith said. “There seems to be a race to get this monstrous infrastructure installed before we get [a new demand analysis].”
Mallek said she has already reached out to potential replacements for Martin on the ACSA board.