RWSA board of directors

The South Fork Rivanna Reservoir dredging project has hit another roadblock after the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority learned recently that the Orion Marine Group will not submit a proposal for the project.

At Tuesday’s RWSA board meeting, executive director Thomas L. Frederick, Jr. called the news “disappointing.”

“[Orion] concluded that they cannot find land at a price low enough to provide a cost effective dredging program for this community,” Frederick said. “In one case the request for compensation that one landowner made just about absorbed the entire dredging budget that is available.”

The RWSA set the budget for the dredging project at $3.5 million, which is meant to cover the costs of dredging as well as the processing and disposal of the dredged material.

Three conceptual proposals for the dredging project were received in 2012, and Orion was the only group that RWSA qualified to submit a further detailed proposal. The board was expecting to see a detailed dredging proposal from Orion in the next few weeks.

However, in an Aug. 12 letter to the RWSA, Orion officials indicated that they “must decline the invitation” and noted failed negotiations with landowners in the area.

The project would remove sediment that has accumulated in the upper reaches of a portion of reservoir over the past 44 years. The volume of material anticipated to come out of the reservoir – estimated to be enough to fill up the University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium four times – makes the issue of processing and disposal complex.

During the conceptual phase, Orion had hoped to use land at Panorama Farms in Albemarle County for disposal. Steve Murray of Panorama Farms said that after engineers surveyed the farm, they concluded that there simply was not enough room to put it all, and communicated this to Orion.

“We are not willing to destroy the character of the farm and put spoils from the reservoir just anywhere,” Murray said. “We could have taken just a small portion of it.” 

Orion said they looked for but did not find any feasible alternative locations.

Curtis Huggins, Orion’s marine group vice president, will be present at the September RWSA board meeting to discuss their findings. The board will use this discussion to inform the next steps in finding a contractor for the dredging project.

The dredging project is separate from the Community Water Supply Plan which is currently focused on the expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.