Kurt Walters

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, January 20, 2012

Just two days after an identical set of agreements was

passed by a sharply divided Charlottesville City Council

, the

Albemarle County Service Authority’s

board of directors unanimously approved the cost-sharing and property use agreement for the

community water supply plan

on Thursday.

The action will send the plan, which approves a full-height earthen dam at the

Ragged Mountain Reservoir

and a future pipeline to the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

, to the

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

for implementation.


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A cost allocation agreement specifies how the city and county split the costs for these projects.

“It’s one more big step,” said board member

Liz Palmer

. “Well, City Council [passing the plan] was the big step. This was a no-brainer.”

Construction of the dam is tentatively set to begin in early March, according to

Gary O’Connell

, the executive director of the ACSA. The county will pay for 85 percent of the dam construction costs and also contribute 80 percent of the money for the new pipeline, with the city providing the rest of the funds for each project.

The plan eliminates a previous concept of building the all new earthen dam in phases. While the larger dam can raise the reservoir’s water level by up to 42 feet, a property use agreement sets the initial increase at 30 feet, with conditions specifying when a future increase might occur at the request of either locality.

Several public speakers at the meeting raised a concern that clear cutting of trees around the

Ragged Mountain Reservoir

might negatively impact the breeding season for nesting birds and other wildlife.

“If we allow the clear cutting to take place during breeding season, we are not living up to [our] responsibility,” said county resident Dan Bieker. “These animals are only exercising their inherent right to exist.”

Board members said they shared the speakers’ concern for wildlife and would have preferred to have been able to start the clear cutting and construction during the winter to avoid the breeding season. O’Connell said that the ACSA would push the contractors to follow best practices.

“They’ll be watched very closely, probably more so than any other project that’s ever happened in this community,” said O’Connell, laughing at his observation.

At the same meeting, O’Connell reported that the ACSA would owe significantly more money to the RWSA for wastewater treatment due to capital projects such as the new sewer pump station to replace the one in Charlottesville’s Woolen Mills neighborhood.

County ratepayers might see a double-digit percentage increase in their sewer rates next year to account for these costs, O’Connell said. He repeatedly stated, though, that water rates would not increase.

O’Connell added that the wastewater projects in question were all driven by state and federal mandates and the board is investigating using its reserve funds to ease the rate hike for residents.

“Is there a potential to use some reserves? Yes, there is,” O’Connell said.

Board members did say that many of the wastewater treatment projects were long overdue.

“The wastewater projects … for the most part are to correct a problem that we have had for years, which is that we’ve been dumping sewage into the Rivanna River and its tributaries,” Palmer said. “It’s about time we fixed that.”

The ACSA board of directors also held elections for its leadership positions on Thursday, re-electing

Clarence Roberts

as chairman, Liz Palmer as vice-chair and Gary O’Connell as secretary-treasurer.

The board welcomed its newest member,

Holly Hueston

, who was appointed by newly elected Supervisor

Christopher J. Dumler

of the Scottsville District.

Hueston is the director of finance and administration at the Southern Environmental Law Center and said she was excited to begin her service on the board.

“I think it’s an honor; I love to be involved,” she said.


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