RWSA approves decision to begin search for new Ragged Mountain Dam designer

By Julia Glendening

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tom Frederick, RWSA Executive Director

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) announced on June 25, 2009 their plans to hire a new engineering firm to re-start the design work on the new Ragged Mountain Dam. Gannett Fleming was the firm working on the dam design and originally stated the dam would cost $37 million, but in

September 2008

raised the cost projection with contingencies to almost

$99 million

(2010 dollars). The RWSA Board approved a motion to begin searching for a new design firm and a selection is expected later in the summer.  Construction of a larger dam at the existing Ragged Mountain Reservoir is a key component of the 50-year water supply plan.

“We have significant respect for Gannett Fleming, but decided that a new direction on design best serves the current discussions in this community,” stated Mike Gaffney, Chairman of the Board, in a RWSA press release.

Gannett Fleming raised their cost estimate for Ragged Mountain Dam in part due to the discovery of weathered and fractured rock in the area. The RWSA obtained a

second opinion from Schnabel Engineering

. They said it would be possible for the dam to be built for about $57 million, which was still a 53% increase from the original $37 million estimate.

Tom Frederick, RWSA Executive Director, presented the proposal and said staff recommended selecting a new firm for the design of the dam, but did not state a specific reason for the change.

City Councilor Holly Edwards, who became an RWSA board member in May 2009, asked Frederick about how the timing of the dam construction would be changed. Frederick responded by saying the new firm would be picked no later than September 2009 and hoped to begin reviewing design plans in early 2010, with completion in early 2013. He also assured the Board the new firm would collaborate for a short time period with Gannett Fleming so the process would not be started completely from scratch.

“Our staff will work diligently in the coming weeks to make this as smooth a transition as possible, and we understand and appreciate that Gannett Fleming shares that view,” stated Frederick in a RWSA press release. “A significant amount of work to-date, including the underground geotechnical investigations, is of sound quality and will be a great aid in resuming the design.”