Frederick briefs County on water supply, drought

The director of the

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

(RWSA) briefed the

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

on the drought warning and the 50-year water supply plan at their meeting on December 5, 2007. Tom Frederick’s presentation came just two weeks after

a City Council meeting where the public called for a reconsideration of the plan


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Frederick said his staff is reviewing a draft permit to expand the Ragged Mountain Dam from the Department of Environment Quality.

“It is hoped that within the next thirty days, this permit will go out to public comment,” Frederick said. That means the project is on the timetable for an appearance before the

State Water Control Board

in March. That body has the final state approval on permits to expand water capacity, but safety concerns will eventually have to be considered by the

Department of Conservation and Recreation


Frederick said if the Board wanted to support the permit, the appropriate time to do so will be during the public comment period, which Frederick hopes will begin at the first of the year. If approved, there should be an engineering design complete by this time next year.

RWSA staff is conducting preliminary engineering work to determine the best location for the new dam. Technical crews are investigating rock formations underground to help inform their decision, and recreational activities at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area are already being  affected.

“We have been coordinating very closely with the Ivy Creek Foundation because some of the geotechnical work is in the vicinity of where existing trails are, and for the safety of the public, we have relocated a section of trail, created a detour so the trail stays open, and the public that’s interested in using the trails are still satisfied but we keep everyone safe at the same time,” Frederick said.


Sally Thomas

(Samuel Miller) asked Frederick if a decision has been made regarding how construction vehicles will approach the area. She has previously expressed the concern that the existing Reservoir Road will not be able to handle heavy equipment.

Frederick said using a special access ramp off of Interstate-64 is not an option, and that the RWSA will seek to minimize capacity upgrades to Reservoir Road.

“There may be some places where some curves need to be straightened a little bit to allow for concrete truck traffic,” Frederick suggested. The consultant working with RWSA to develop a construction plan is preparing options.


Ken Boyd

(Rivanna) asked when the RWSA would make a recommendation on how to schedule the project, a decision that will be determined in part based on how the community wants to fund the project.

In September, Frederick outlined three financing options


“At this point in time, we are continuing down the path that the entire dam will be built in one phase between now and 2011, and the right of the way for the [South Fork] pipeline will be acquired in the next five years,” Frederick said. He added that funding for design of that pipeline is not currently included in the RWSA’s five-year plan for capital expenditures, but that could change if the community demands it.


Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett) requested a further presentation on the three financing options, and how ratepayers will be affected. However, the RWSA and the Albemarle County Service Authority will ultimately make the decision on financing. Frederick said the ACSA and the City of Charlottesville need to decide on a cost-sharing agreement, and that such a decision should be a “high priority.”


David Wyant

(White Hall) asked what provisions the RWSA has for utilizing Beaver Creek Reservoir if the region remains dry. Beaver Creek is the public water source for Crozet, and is a backup reservoir for  the rest of the urban water system maintained by the RWSA. Frederick said the safe yield for Beaver Creek is about 1.8 million gallons per day (MGD) but consumption varies between 400,000 and 700,000 gallons per day.

“We are not anticipating any near term problems in supplying Crozet,” Frederick said. “The one thing we do have to be careful about is that if we do get into a critical drought period and want to pass water from Beaver Creek to South Fork to augment the urban system, we must be extremely careful and watch our data very closely to make sure we don’t take too much.”

Supervisor Thomas also asked if dredging would be revisited as part of the 50 year water supply plan. A group opposed to the expansion of Ragged Mountain Dam is suggesting dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to add additional capacity. Frederick says he wasn’t going to entirely rule out the idea, but that dredging is expensive and requires extensive permitting.

Boyd said given the severity of the drought, he would like to see Frederick make more frequent updates to the Board of Supervisors, perhaps one every two months.

Sean Tubbs