Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s

(RWSA) Board of Directors has begun their annual review of the utility’s

Capital Improvements Program (CIP) plan

. The budget contains the costs of all major capital projects that RWSA is planning to implement in the next five years to support the urban water supply and waste water treatment systems in Charlottesville and Albemarle.

RWSA staff presented a draft capital budget through Fiscal Year 2013 that totals $149.8 million, an increase of $31.7 million (or 26.84%) over last year’s plan.  The RWSA will need to raise $100 million in bond financing to pay for the improvements.  Much of the funds will go to rehabilitation projects, particularly for the sewer system.

“Many parts of our waste water collection system are frankly wearing out,” said Tom Frederick, to the RWSA’s Board of Directors. “This organization in past years, for whatever reason, hasn’t been putting funding into rehabilitation and repair of piping and keeping current, doing things like repairing manholes and pipes where corrosion has occurred.”

The funds to support the capital projects will ultimately come from ratepayers who purchase water and sewer from the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) or the City of Charlottesville. The RWSA is expected to raise its wholesale rates later this spring, and the ACSA and the City will follow suit passing along price increases to their customers.

Frederick said based on the debt service required to fund the CIP, the City can expect an annual water rate increase of at least 1.2% and the ACSA can expect 2.5% for water. Waste water rates will increase by at least 6.8% for the City and 5.7% for the ACSA. However, final wholesale rates may end up being higher once the RWSA factors in final operating and capital costs.

Those two agencies will calculate their retail rates accordingly after the RWSA Board adopts its operating budget later this spring.

The budget for urban water supply projects in this five-year plan is $59.7 million. The major portion of this amount would go to the first phase of the 50-year

community water supply plan

, which was endorsed by both Charlottesville and Albemarle County in the summer of 2006. This involves building a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir, with a cost of $42.7 million.  The CIP also includes funds for the purchase of the required right-of-way for the pipeline connecting Ragged Mountain Reservoir with the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.  The second phase of the community water supply plan includes construction costs for the new pipeline which will be covered in future capital budgets outside this five-year plan.  Frederick said the target date to complete the pipeline is now 2020*.  The permit for the water supply plan is now pending before the State Water Control Board and final approval is expected as early as March 2008.

The break-down for the Ragged Mountain dam project also includes $3.36 million for a mitigation plan that proposes protecting approximately four areas of wetlands near the Charlottesville Stockyard as well as the preservation and restoration of 75,500 linear feet of streams near Buck Mountain Creek in the County.  The Buck Mountain property in Free Union was acquired for a future reservoir but the site was later deemed unsuitable because of the presence of the James River spiny mussel, an endangered species.

Other urban water projects include upgrades at various water pumping stations ($1.7 million) and more tanks for the storage and distribution of water ($13.6 million). One of these distribution improvements includes a new water pumping station and pipeline along Route 29 to provide for redundancy in the RWSA’s northern service area. The approximately 3-mile long pipeline would travel between the North Rivanna Water Treatment Plant and Carrsbrook Drive. A second phase to complete the Route 29 project is not included in this CIP.

The total for urban waste water projects is $88.26 million, and involves two major items. One is a $44.6 million plan to upgrade the system of interceptors and pumping stations to transport waste water to the Moores Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant. The second is a $46.38 million project to upgrade that facility to be compliant with Virginia Department of Environmental Quality guidelines.

The $25.5 million Meadow Creek Interceptor project will replace a sewer line that was installed in the 1950’s.  Frederick said the project’s price tag went up because RWSA engineers know more about the deteriorating condition of the line. The Schenk’s Branch Interceptor is also slated for replacement as part of a $3.4 million project.

The Moores Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant is the RWSA’s largest facility, and processes 15 million gallons per day. Built in 1982, the plant is no longer compliant with the state’s regulations on the release of nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients into the stream. The RWSA is hoping to receive $15.6 million from the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund to help cover the costs of making the upgrades. The cost estimate included in the draft CIP includes $6 million to institute odor control measures as part of the upgrade.

Frederick acknowledged that the cost for urban  waste water projects was steep, but said the projects being undertaken are necessary to comply with environmental regulations. “Until within the past couple of years, an understanding of the deficiencies  of the RWSA system were lacking,” Frederick said.  An in-depth sewer interceptor study will be completed in the Spring of 2008 which may identify additional capital needs to improve and expand existing infrastructure.

The RWSA Board deferred action on the CIP until its February meeting.

Sean Tubbs


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