By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, February 25, 2011

Following up on the pivotal vote by Charlottesville City Council to endorse an earthen dam at the

Ragged Mountain Reservoir

, the board of the

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

has approved a process to secure permits which would allow dam construction to begin as early as December.

The earthen dam is the first major component to be built as part of the Charlottesville-Albemarle 50-year

community water supply plan

, which was first approved in 2006.

Thomas L. Frederick, Jr.

, the RWSA’s executive director, said at a board meeting Thursday that he will seek permit modifications that allow the new

Ragged Mountain dam

to hold a reservoir pool between 30 feet and 42 feet higher than current levels. The dam’s final height is a critical issue still to be negotiated between Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

“The permit conditions that have already been approved are approved for the full-height dam,” said Frederick. “What we are asking for basically are the conditions in the permit that support an initial 30 foot pool.”

According to Frederick, building that flexibility into the permits would accommodate the ongoing negotiations and alleviate the need for future state and federal permit changes.

Both localities have now agreed the new earthen dam should be built with a foundation that could support a water level up to 42 feet higher. However, Charlottesville City Council

voted Jan. 18

to have the first phase of the reservoir’s enlargement limited to 30 feet. The Albemarle Board of Supervisors

previously told council

that they prefer the dam to be built to its full height in a single phase, even if it is only filled to 30 feet initially.

“Ultimately, the city’s made clear where we stand on the issue of the 30 foot pool height and accommodating that in the first phase,” said

Maurice Jones

, Charlottesville’s city manager. “We’d like to hear more from the county as to where they stand on the issue.”

Jones and Albemarle County Executive

Thomas Foley

discussed how their localities would be negotiating over the next month on the dam structure’s initial height, land use agreements to build the dam and triggers that could raise it in the future, if it is not built to its full height immediately.

Frederick said

Schnabel Engineering

is on track to complete the final design of the full-height dam by the end of April.

“Before we go out to bid for construction, we need to know exactly what we’re going to build,” said Frederick. “It would be preferable to make that decision as early as next month and go ahead and incorporate the changes in what Schnabel is doing.”

The board voted unanimously to have Frederick begin seeking the permit modifications. City Councilor

David Brown

, who replaced Mayor

Dave Norris

on the RWSA board last month, was not present.

In other business, the RWSA approved wholesale water and sewer rates to advertise for a public hearing to be held May 24.

For urban water, the RWSA is proposing to charge the city $2.443 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 0.21 percent over last year. The Albemarle County Service Authority would be charged $3.39 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 2.57 percent.

However, wastewater rates will continue to increase more dramatically because of major sewer infrastructure projects. The city would be charged $3.179 per 1000 gallons of wastewater, a 10.46 percent increase. Albemarle’s proposed rate is $3.348 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 9.84 percent.

Frederick also presented his budget proposal for next year. The overall budget for fiscal year 2012 totals $23,154,000, representing a 6.28 percent increase over the current year. That includes the proposed operational budget, which is $12,222,000, representing a 4.78 percent increase.

The board also tabled a decision regarding further work on

design concepts for a major sewer pump station

in Charlottesville’s

Woolen Mills

neighborhood. Jones asked that city council first receive a presentation on the Rivanna Pump Station at its next meeting in March.


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