By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Charlottesville and Albemarle officials alike were surprised Friday by news that city Mayor

Dave Norris

met privately in October with the head of the Department of Environmental Quality, the agency reviewing key questions about the area’s long-term water supply plan.


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Albemarle County supervisors say they are concerned Norris was lobbying DEQ and undermining the joint city-county efforts to come to an agreement on a water plan.








Clarence Roberts


, Chairman, Albemarle County Service Authority, and





Ann Mallek

, Chairman, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at a joint meeting on November 5, 2010


Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

serves with Norris on the board of the

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

.

“Based on what I am hearing, I think he is trying to undermine the work of the RWSA and the work we have done as a community on the water supply,” Boyd said.

Norris said Friday that the meeting with DEQ Director David K. Paylor was purely an effort to get more information on the agency’s approach.

“It has been inaccurately characterized as a rogue lobbying effort by a city councilor, which is categorically false,” Norris said.

“We had a great conversation and spoke about DEQ’s role in water supply permitting and planning. We did not talk in specifics about our water supply plan,” Norris said. “There was no new information, but the conversation reinforced what I have believed all along: They want to see the city and county work this out among themselves.”

Norris said he was driven to the breakfast meeting in Richmond on Oct. 22 by two members of

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

, a group opposed to the 50-year water supply plan approved in 2006.

Norris said at the October RWSA board meeting that he favored asking the DEQ to come to Charlottesville and facilitate a compromise between “squabbling children.” In light of those remarks, Supervisor

Dennis S. Rooker

said he was surprised to learn of the Norris trip.

“I think that it is somewhat a breach of trust with the Board of Supervisors, and perhaps people on City Council,” Rooker said. “You don’t ask people to come in and mediate and then meet with them alone in advance.”


Four days after meeting

with Paylor, Norris told the RWSA board that he wanted DEQ to “mediate” a compromise and provide feedback on the revised water plan adopted by the City Council. Norris did not inform the RWSA board about his meeting with the DEQ’s top official and says now he didn’t want to ‘put words in Paylor’s mouth’ by bringing it up.


News to councilors

Three city councilors interviewed for this story – Kristin Szakos, Satyendra Huja and

David Brown

– all said they were unaware that the meeting had taken place.

“I am not completely surprised, because this is not the first time I have learned of the mayor’s initiatives from reading the newspaper or from a member of the media,” Brown said. “I am discouraged because [the water supply] is an issue council agreed to work hard together on.”

“We left

the ‘four boards’ meeting

[in September] agreeing to see if something resembling the ‘Norris plan’ could work,” Brown said. “To have a private meeting could be seen in some ways as going against the spirit of cooperation.”




The matter came to light Friday at a joint meeting of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and the

Albemarle County Service Authority

. Supervisor

Ann H. Mallek

inquired about a rumor of a DEQ meeting, asking, “My understanding from the four boards meeting was the letter would be the contact with DEQ. Are you aware of any individual emissaries that have trekked down to Richmond to have private meetings with DEQ in the last couple of weeks?”

In response,

Thomas L. Frederick Jr.

, the director of the RWSA, said he knew of the meeting between Norris and Paylor.

Norris said the meeting was organized by

Richard Lloyd

and Keith Rosenfeld, both with

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

. Lloyd is also a member of the board of

Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population

, a group that has

encouraged both localities

to adopt an optimal population size or range and then build only enough water supply capacity for that number.

Rosenfeld, an environmental scientist and owner of Hot Cakes, said the meeting was a good opportunity for the mayor to get a different perspective on DEQ’s work.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the reservoir debate has been highly colored by misrepresentations, bad facts, and incorrect science,” Rosenfeld said in an interview. “People have said DEQ is inflexible and difficult to deal with when it comes to amending the [water supply] permits.”

“DEQ, at least David Paylor, is very open to permit modifications,” Rosenfeld said. “They are especially interested in hearing the true science and facts. They want to accommodate that and they are not an awful bureaucracy as they are often portrayed.”


Prior meeting

The meeting in Richmond was not the first time Norris has quietly paid a visit to DEQ officials at the urging of the water plan’s critics.

Norris previously met with the DEQ’s Scott Kudlas in July 2009

.

“We have been urged by Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan to … go straight to the source, when it comes to what the state will allow or not allow when it comes to potential modifications for the water supply plan,” Norris said in an interview last fall about that trip.

Norris was accompanied at that meeting by then-Supervisor

David Slutzky

, and the meeting was not publicly disclosed until several months later, by Slutzky.

Kudlas was asked then to model a water plan alternative, which Norris said he hoped would save millions in construction costs without having to restart the state and federal permitting process. The Norris proposal included a smaller dam at

Ragged Mountain

combined with dredging at the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

, key elements in the plan currently backed by the city.

DEQ’s official letter regarding that modeling effort was sent to Norris and Mallek in early August.

Norris said he had not seen the letter at the September ‘four boards’ meeting

when it was shared by Mallek. David Brown said he was not given a copy of the letter before the council’s September vote on the city’s water plan compromise.

As was

reported by Charlottesville Tomorrow in July

, DEQ’s modeling determined that the original ‘Norris plan’ did not provide enough water for the community’s projected needs over 50 years, and stream flow requirements called for in the community’s previously approved permits would not be successfully met.


At the request of the ‘four boards’

that will vote on any changes to the local water plan, the

RWSA sent Kudlas a letter last week

to determine the extent to which the DEQ would approve permit amendments. The questions deal largely with the city’s proposal to phase construction of a new or expanded dam at Ragged Mountain.

The letter asks the DEQ to respond by Nov. 22 and/or consider facilitating a discussion by local officials at a public meeting in Charlottesville. The next meeting of the RWSA board has been scheduled for Nov. 23.

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