By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

For the past several months, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors has been reviewing all of the components of the

community’s long-term water supply plan

adopted in 2006. On Tuesday, board members heard details on the final two pieces of information they had requested.

Charlottesville Mayor

Dave Norris

said the

City Council

will review the information at a September work session before deciding on how to proceed.

“We absolutely need to get council on record, given this new information,” Norris said. “Do we still stand by the original vote or do we modify the plan in one direction or another?”

Acting city manager

Maurice Jones

said the council would also hold a public hearing in September to get further input from citizens.


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Albemarle County Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

said he had been concerned when t

he cost estimate of the new dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir tripled in September 2008

. However, Schnabel Engineering has since recommended a design for an earthen dam with a cost estimate ranging from $28.5 million and $36.6 million, which includes final design and engineering work. Boyd said at the meeting that he was ready to vote in favor of the revised plan.

Norris said he had not yet made up his mind.

“I’ve personally been swayed by some of the new data that’s come in,” Norris said. “We need to give each councilor a chance to go on record of saying whether they’re behind the original plan or if they want to see it modified … We all want to come to a decision and move forward.”






Steven Swartz

At Tuesday’s meeting, engineer Steven Swartz gave a presentation of his review of the 2004 demand analysis on which the plan is based. He said his revised figure that the community will need of 18.45 million gallons a day in 2060 was not a precise prediction, but was adequate for planning purposes.

“Projecting 50 years ahead with precision is difficult at best,” Swartz said. “The best strategy is to use the best information and sound judgment based on professionals in that field.”

Members of

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

took issue with the methodology used by Swartz.


Group member Dede Smith said his report was as flawed as the

Gannett Fleming analysis

because it did not factor in recent water conservation trends.

“No longer can we assume those trend-lines of water use apply,” Smith said. “We will see even more dramatic reductions in our water supply.”

Swartz said the trend line represents both upward and downward pressures on demand. On one hand, water conservation efforts will reduce demand on a per capita basis. On the other, population increases will be a significant driver.

“Planners in the city tell me they’re expecting an influx of baby boomers who will be seeking less land to mow, and more communal type of living,” Swartz said.

On the same day of the meeting, city officials announced that the business research firm Kiplinger had named the Charlottesville area as the No. 1 place in the country to retire.

The other study reviewed by the RWSA on Tuesday was one conducted to determine what improvements would need to be made to strengthen the Interstate 64 embankment and to protect the reservoir from hazardous materials if a tractor-trailer crashed near it.






I-64 Embankment on the south side (Source: Volkert)


Engineers with the firm Volkert analyzed traffic and concluded the likelihood of such an event is one incident every 110 years. Even so, Volkert recommended that a floating boom be placed downstream of the embankment. They have also suggested the boom could be installed as part of a 350-foot floating footbridge so pedestrians could continue to walk the entire perimeter of the reservoir. Strengthening the embankment and installing the boom would cost around $2.2 million. There is no cost estimate for how much the pedestrian bridge would cost.




Download presentation given by Volkert on I-64 embankment

The RWSA board agreed to hold a meeting of the four boards only if the council decides it wants to modify the plan. RWSA board secretary Mary Knowles was directed to go ahead and schedule that meeting.

The final item remaining is the cost estimate for repairing and/or building on top of the existing Lower Ragged Mountain Dam. That study, by Black & Veatch, was requested by the City Council.

One city resident defended the plan.

“I’m afraid we’ve been led into a tangle of distracting arguments,” said James Nix.

He pointed out that the dredging plan would also require eventual replacement of the Sugar Hollow pipeline, upgrades to water treatment plants as well as continued costs associated with storing dredged material.

Also at the meeting, the RWSA approved an extension of permission to the University of Virginia rowing teams to continue using the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir for practice and meets. As part of the condition, UVa is required to research electric-powered boats as a way to reduce the risk of contamination by gas-powered engines. They’ve spent $40,000 to date, according to coach Kevin Sauer.


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