By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors wants to meet jointly with Charlottesville’s City Council in advance of any further decisions on the

community’s 50-year water supply plan

.

At their meeting Wednesday, the supervisors agreed to invite the council to a joint meeting next week at a time and place to be determined.

Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

made the suggestion during a quarterly report from the directors of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority and the Albemarle County Service Authority. He said he had watched the council deliberate on the water supply plan on television Monday evening.

“I saw at end there was some discussion about the willingness or unwillingness of this board to meet with City Council,” Boyd said. “Our position in my mind is clear: We are certainly willing to sit down with City Council and talk about this issue.

What we were opposed to

was some sort of mediation by [the Department of Environmental Quality].”





On Monday

, council received an update from the engineering firm it hired to evaluate the cost and feasibility of expanding the existing

Lower Ragged Mountain Dam

as an alternative to building a new earthen dam favored by Albemarle County officials. The city favors a smaller dam combined with dredging the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

.

Councilors said they would decide on whether to proceed with the plan recommended by

Black & Veatch

as soon as outstanding questions were addressed by the DEQ. Councilors said they hoped to be able to vote at their meeting Jan. 18.

City officials were unavailable to comment on the county’s invitation late Wednesday.






Thomas L. Frederick, Executive Director,

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority



Thomas L. Frederick

, the RWSA’s executive director, said he thought it was great the supervisors were willing to sit down with city officials. In his written report, Frederick noted that the disagreement between the city and county was threatening the community’s ability to meet state deadlines to address dam safety issues at Ragged Mountain.

“[E]very day we lose by not deciding will further reduce the likelihood of success,” Frederick wrote. “[T]here is agreement on most of the items in City Council’s September 20 resolution, but key differences remain in these areas: what type of dam to build and how high to build it; how high to initially raise the normal water level at Ragged Mountain; and how to address dredging the South Fork Reservoir.”


John Martin

, a county resident and

former member

of the ACSA board of directors, said after the discussion that he didn’t believe the county would be “an appeaser.”

“If the city wants something different, it would be appropriate for the city to ask for a compromise,” Martin said. “But the city would need to come forward and make an offer.”

Martin said one of his key concerns with a phased dam preferred by the city, or even the phased filling of a full height dam, was that the county would have to return to the city to get permission for more water storage in future years.

“There needs to be an automatic trigger that allows the county to move forward,” Martin said. “Also, if the city said it would relinquish ownership of all its reservoirs and hand them over to the RWSA … that would be a compromise.”

Supervisor

Dennis S. Rooker

said that the costs of the earthen dam could be lower than expected if put out to bid immediately and that the city’s new approach could take up to two years to be approved by regulators.

“The approach that seems to be favored by the mayor, although it’s advertised as lower cost approach, is not,” Rooker said. “The cost of a 13-foot [reservoir increase] … plus dredging is much more expensive than the cost of building the higher dam to begin with. … The lowest estimate I have seen is $35 million for a one-time dredge.”






Review Charlottesville Tomorrow’s


Water Supply Decision Matrix


, an evaluation of many of the key criteria local leaders will be reviewing as they finalize a decision on the 50-year water supply plan.


The water plan first approved in 2006 has a total estimated cost of $142.6 million, including $40.77 million as the total budget for the earthen dam. About $3 million has already been spent on engineering studies and preliminary design work. Some of those expenditures were for earlier concrete design concepts recommended by consultant

Gannett Fleming

that have since been discarded.

Frederick said in an interview that the earthen dam’s cost moving forward is between $28.5 million and $36.6 million, and that even those figures were going to be revised later in January with new information from

Schnabel Engineering

, which the ACSA is paying to complete the final design.

The City Council was told Monday that the first phase of a concrete dam extension could be built for between $10.9 million and $15.5 million to raise the reservoir by 13 feet, but with a base that could support up to 45 feet. Including other cost factors if the dam is built to its full height, the total cost of the phased concrete dam would be $24.6 million to $29.2 million, based on the preliminary design concept.

In other business at Wednesday’s meeting, county supervisors reappointed Mike Gaffney as the citizen representative on the RWSA board of directors. This is Gaffney’s fifth two-year term; he currently serves as chairman. The position is a joint appointment and the City Council unanimously endorsed Gaffney’s appointment in December.

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