Council Chooses Dam Over Dredging

Last night City Council voted 3-2 in favor of increasing the height of the reservoir by thirty feet, Hawes Spencer writes in The Hook, rather than dredge the reservoir. (Dave Norris and Holly Edwards were the dissenting voters.) Now that the question is apparently settled, they’ve got to figure out if it’s an earthen or a concrete dam and figuring out how much each municipality is going to pay for it.

If you’re confused in recalling Council voting 5-0 in favor of dredging in September, and wondering what’s going on now, join the club. What was that vote last September? How is this one different? Will there be any more? This is like the Meadowcreek Parkway—every time a final vote is held, there’s another final vote.

23 Responses to “Council Chooses Dam Over Dredging”


  • Waldo, If you just read the article at the Hook and the comments following it, you’ll understand exactly what happened.

    Same old, same old –the county got their way by once again out smarting the city . But this is the biggest loss ever to City residents, and I predict they will pay and pay and pay –no matter how many times the county says they wouldn’t

    –And how can you replace the Ragged Mt Natural Area, which the city owns, and 60,000 trees which will be destroyed and all the nesting habitat therein.

    What dummies –when dredging was so cheap and simple !

  • Waldo, If you just read the article at the Hook and the comments following it , you will understand exactly what happened.

    Same old, same old, –the County got their way by once again out smarting the City.
    But this is the biggest loss ever to City residents, who I predict will pay and pay –no matter how many times the county says they wouldn’t

    –And how can you replace the Ragged Mt. Natural Area, which the city owns, and the 60,000 trees that will be killed and all their nesting habitiat destroyed.

    What fools- when dredging was so cheap and simple !

  • Waldo, If you just read the article at the Hook and the comments following it , you will understand exactly what happened.

    Same old, same old, –the county got their way by once again out smarting the city.
    But this is the biggest loss ever to City residents I predict they will pay and pay –no matter how many times the county says they wouldn’t

    –And how can you replace the Ragged Mt. Natural Area, which the city owns, and the 60,000 trees which will be killed and all their nesting habitiat destroyed.

    And dredging was so cheap and simple – just ask Oliver Kuttner !

  • Looks like a Betty Mooney triple post above-LOL!

    Why does everyone keep saying trees are being destroyed, I’ve read that many more trees will be planted to replace them. Trees are a renewable resource. They aren’t being paved over and we get a larger lake. Heck it looks like the county is even paying the difference so city rate payers aren’t paying for county growth.

    I try to conserve water all I can but the amount I pay for water is such a small bill that if it doubled would cause me no hardship at all-(Hey I not asking for them to double it, just trying to relate the water to electric, phone or my tax bill).

    The anti dam forces seem like they are on some sort of holy crusade. Their intensity is something I can’t quite fathom. They way they are going after the Councilors on the Hook is quite something.

  • Waldo, My computer malfunctioned and the posts didn’t show up and then they all showed up, so feel free to take 2 away.I don’t want to monopolize the space. Thanks for trying to figure this out. It is confusing to many.

  • I’ll admit to having been only a casual observer of this process. Am I correct in believing that a driving force behind opposing the dam is as a potential limit on future growth? It seems that one consistent argument (mostly read in comments on Hook articles) is that the dam will provide too much water. I’d also agree with county mountie that water is very very cheap in this area and a significant raise would make a very large impact in bills.

    For the record, I think I understand the cost arguments and ease of implementation arguments that would seem to favor dredging, however, what I want to know is if most folks opposing the dam also oppose significant population growth in the area?

  • Nalle,

    Perhaps I can respond. I am a member of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan. You can click my name to read our web-page.

    We have always supported the population numbers in the county plan and believe the community needs abundant water. We also have calculated that the plan the City unanimously supported in Sept., to dredge the Reservoir and raise the Ragged Mt. dam by 13 ft provided all the water we could possibly need for 40 years, and probably much more, with triggers to expand the supply by raising the dam if needed. Even enough should UVA dramatically expand.

    This would be a far more prudent approach to make sure you have all the water you need for the state mandated 30 -50 years of water supply, and the flexibility not to spend money or do more environmental damage than was necessary .

    The impetus to conserve would also be supported by not over storing water that was supported to be needed, by the last 10 year trend of falling water use .

    There are members in our group that belong to many other groups, but we do not mix those agendas with our own. Our sole objective is to find the least costly, least environmentally water plan to provide an abundant safe supply of water for the predicted growth already in the 2006 plan.

    Actually the previous city approved plan, would have allowed for a greater water supply, if needed in the future than the present plan on the table. So we certainly disagree that our desire to dredge first is a way to control growth.

    Thank you for asking that question.

    This is from our web-site where you can find a historical perspective with documents to support all our research

    How much water do we need?

    RWSA PLAN:
    The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) commissioned a “Demand Analysis” in 2004 to project how much water the community will need in the year 2055. That study looked at data only through 2001 and disregarded the pending impact of the 1992 Energy Policy Act that mandated low-volume, high-efficiency plumbing fixtures. The 2004 study estimated a demand of 19.8 mgd, up from 11.2 mgd in 2001. Factoring in a mere 5% conservation goal, they adjusted the demand projection to 18.7 mgd by 2055.

    ALTERNATIVE PLAN:
    In the last decade water use in the Charlottewville-Albemarle area has decreased dramatically, despite a 12% rise in population. This is largely due to the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 that set mandatory conservation standards for high efficiency toilets, showerheads and faucets manufactured after 1994. It is anticipated that there will be a 50% reduction in the water used by these three fixtures alone. The water savings will likely be much greater though as other fixtures such as washing machines are replaced with high efficiency models and even greater innovations in HE fixtures come on line.

    This is playing out locally, as we observe that the urban community is using 26% less water than the Demand Analysis projected. Factoring in actual water use data since 2001 – and, without considering future advances in conservation, we conservatively estimate our urban community will need no more than 14.5 mgd by 2055.

  • Some wonder why those, who thought the City had crafted a better water plan, based on new updated information for the community, than the county, are upset with the sudden change.
    This is what I posted at the Hook Blog:

    Yes, I think the 3 Councilors made a mistake in their duty to represent city residents. But what I find most egregious is the way they did it.

    This was on the agenda as a report. We anticipated further discussion about the Black and Veatch approach to building on the dam at Ragged Mt. , but not a totally new plan without any public discussion. 30 feet and why 30 feet, other than I read Mr. Frederick recommended it as the minimum to meet stream flows in the permit.

    The information upon which the permit is based is no longer valid. No business person would base a plan on this information, who had to look out for the financial well being of their business. The councilors had agreed on a far better plan: both financially and environmentally, but now 3 of them have caved into the county demands to not compromise. Who does that benefit ?

    When Mr. Frederick said dredging cost over $200 million dollars I started looking into this issue myself, and I wish Huja, Brown, and Szakos had been more skeptical as well.

    Mayor Norris sits on the RWSA board and has far more knowledge of the facts on this issue, and up to date information, than any of those who overthrew the previous unanimous consensus, they had reached. They would have been well advised, in the interest of their citizens, to listen to him. Now they have weakened their negotiating position with the county.

  • So Betty are you actually saying that Mayor Norris is the only well informed member of council and the only reason the others didn’t vote his way is because they have study as much as the Mayor? That you and the Mayor hold the real answers and everyone else just doesn’t understand?

    Are the Supervisor equally informed as those City Councilors who don’t agree with you?

  • I would ask anyone interested in this issue to go to our web-site to judge for yourself, who is presenting the facts, and who is representing the ratepayers.

    http://www.cvillewater.info/

  • I will take your non answer as a yes- that you believe that people who don’t support you or the Mayor aren’t as smart as you are. It says so much why people hate this issue and just want to move on.

  • Ms. Mooney provides a simple premise for her advocacy: decisions should be made based on the lowest cost option — environmentally, lifestyle-wise and fiscally.

    Your reasoning seems more suspect – instinctive:

    1. Anyone against the dam is on a “holy crusade”, with “an intensity” that dam enthusiasts “can’t fathom”.

    2. You are willing/able to pay double the water bill. So?

    3. You read a claim by a dam supporter that “many more” trees will replace those trees felled at Ragged Mountain.

    4. People support the dam because they are concerned that those who oppose the dam don’t believe they are as smart.

    5. Move on.

    6. And your final reason: if the county claims it will pay for development infrastructure on city property, that claim becomes a no-lose proposition for city residents.

    If these reasons are your answer, why would you disparage as a “non-answer” a cost/benefit analysis?

    Some residents (not all) may be skeptical that the alleged net gain in trees is, in reality, the replacement of each 75 year old hardwood at Ragged Mountain with the purchase several .50 cents seedlings on behalf of a property owner of an already-protected Nature Conservancy easement. Few details were given with the dam supporter.

    Certain residents may value Ragged Mountain’s hardwood forest more than the county’s plans for surplus water. After all, perceptions of costs/benefits are often related to those things valued most.

  • CR- I don’t believe that’s why she wants dredging at all after reading about ASAP on the Hook site this morning- they even put Waldo on ASAP’s Board of Directors on the website but Waldo says he’s not (color me confused on that one)

    1. Not everyone but small group that seems to dominate every bit of the dredging push- I see no evidence of a real groundswell for them.

    2. I didn’t say I wanted to pay more just that this isn’t a large and economically ruinous bill like health insurance, property taxes, etc. In rank order it’s the lowest bill I pay.

    3. I heard about on an from an RWSA meeting. How do you know they will be .50 seedlings? Have you look at the tree mitigation plan- it could be phased in and take over a decade to be completed. That would be a great point for the city and county to debate.

    So how exactly do you find which is more environmental important -trees vs. a more water? Aren’t both good things- doesn’t a long term tree plan make sense. Trees are still a renewable resource.

    The county, UVa and now the City Council have made a cost benefit analysis and decide a new/improved dam is the way to go. I have read much of cvillewater.info and found much of it as supposition and conjecture. I fact, it still says “Thanks City Council!” on their website-not something I heard them say lately

  • I don’t believe that’s why she wants dredging at all after reading about ASAP on the Hook site this morning- they even put Waldo on ASAP’s Board of Directors on the website but Waldo says he’s not (color me confused on that one)

    “They”? Who did what now?

    I was asked to join the ASAP board a few years ago, presumably a result of being a founding member of STAMP (Sensible Transportation Alternatives to the Meadowcreek Parkway) back in the mid-nineties, and the fact that I’d made a presentation to the board a couple of years before that, but mostly because my mother was already on the board and I had a couple of friends on the board. I quit some time ago, probably about a year now, out of ideological differences.

    But here’s what I find baffling. The conspiracy that I think you’ve whipped up here is that some shadowy group of dredging supporters wielded their great power to put me on the board of an organization to fight building a dam. Except that a) I joined the board way before there was any idea that dredging was an option, b) I’m no longer on the board and haven’t been for a long while, c) I really don’t know how to feel about the dredging/dam debate and don’t have any particular position on it, d) ASAP doesn’t wield any influence in this debate or, really, much at all.

    Basically, I’m afraid you’ve mistaken me for somebody with power and an opinion.

  • Waldo, I do hope that you will form an opinion of the dredging/dam debate, it has enormous cost and environmental implications for our community.

    Also as a journalist, I would hope the use of misinformation to push the dam plan, instead of facts, as we’ve seen with the dredging estimate, and claims that the Ragged Mountain dam is more expensive to repair than building a new dam, would concern you.

    I also wonder if you find the drop in water use and the need for a state mandated demand update (that RWSA must file in 2011), but is refusing to complete, is compelling. Please read the Hook article that contains many pertinent documents about this issue.

    We believe that once the data for the state is complied it will show that we don’t need a mega dam. I attend all the RWSA meetings and see them stalling the state plan data, and hoping to build the dam first.

    That data must include:
    as reported in the Hook:

    • decade-by-decade estimates of water needs
    • a list of 300,000 gallon-a-month users
    • bona fide population estimates, and
    • evidence of a conservation plan
    http://www.readthehook.com/stories/2008/05/29/NEWS-CitizensFindNoWaterPlan-B.aspx

  • @county mountie, there you go talking about people again. Grow up.
    When SFRR silts in, where do you think the water will come from, Norfolk? i lot of information has come to the light since 2006, enough info that three of the five Councilors who voted for the 2006 plan have said repeatedly that they would not have voted for the plan. Dave Norris and Holly Edwards have spent a great deal of time studying the various scenarios as part of their membershp on RWSA. It is clear that Brown does not know the particulars. He choose a path several years ago and is still pushing that route. Unfortunately he is not looking out for the interests of the city residents: protecting multi-million dollar assets. Szakos is still confused about the numbers and Huja has said repeatedly he would like the dredging to proceed. Personaly, I don’t unerstand the opposition to dredging – it is done not only all over this country, but all over the world.

  • Cville Eye you berate me for talking about people- in my last post I mention no individual. Yet most of your post is an attack of all those city councilors who don’t agree with you? What about the tree mitigation I talked about?

    Waldo I don’t think it’s a conspiracy but a confederation of very determined people who are actually a minority of ratepayers (a great many of whom are members of the same group you use to be in) and believe in stopping growth. This small group has got a mayor backing their every play- that’s not power? I think your listing of these stories is power. I read you blog because I think it effects opinions and people do talk about it.

  • Waldo I don’t think it’s a conspiracy but a confederation of very determined people who are actually a minority of ratepayers (a great many of whom are members of the same group you use to be in) and believe in stopping growth. This small group has got a mayor backing their every play- that’s not power?

    I didn’t claim otherwise. What I wrote was: The conspiracy that I think you’ve whipped up here is that some shadowy group of dredging supporters wielded their great power to put me on the board of an organization to fight building a dam.

    I don’t appreciate being dragged into conspiracy theories.

  • countie mountie,

    I have never been a member of any of the groups you mention. I started Citizens for A Sustainable Water Plan with Dede Smith, and she has never been a member of the group you reference. We have never discussed the water plan in terms of growth. We have always accepted the population numbers in the 2006 water plan. I really don’t know what you are talking about. Our concerns are for the ratepayers, the environment, and issues of good government, i.e., using factual data to make decisions for the public good.

    We have hundreds of supporters who have e-mailed council to support our position, and have come to speak at public hearings. I can never understand why you and others do not see the broad support there is for dredging the reservoir for the water supply plan, and not building a mega dam at Ragged Mountain, which will destroy tens of thousands of trees.

    I would ask those citizens to keep e-mailing council and asking them not to build this mega dam and to first dredge the reservoir for our water supply. This is the simplest, cheapest, and quickest way to provide decades of affordable water. And after we submit the necessary data to the state, using updated water demand numbers, we can re-evaluate the need for a larger dam in the future.

    council@charlottesville.org

  • Betty I never said you are a member of ASAP, if you weren’t influence by those people who are members of ASAP that surprises me but OK. You have members of ASAP quoted on your site so it’s somewhat hard to separate them from you and Ms. Smith. If you any major differences with ASAP and their members I would love to hear them.

    I just heard that less than 20% of all ratepayers are city residents that’s kind of stunning after listening you try and claim otherwise. Did I get it wrong haven’t you said you implied that you were fighting for half the ratepayers? UVa and city business and their leaders seem behind the county plan. I think you done a marvelous job of dominating the debate and pretending to represent a large group of ratepayers. The more I look at it the more I think you’re just a determined scrappy minority. Anyway, the majority elected representatives of the 20% of ratepayers don’t agree with you either.

    You seem to really want to delay the process now that you might have been defeated. I have read your side and it hasn’t compelled me to change my mind. It’s probably the rants about how you feel you have been sold out by those who oppose you(nothing wrong with a good rant) but at least it no longer say “Thank you City Council”

  • The facts are; that over 50% of the water rates are paid by city ratepayers, this includes UVA, which is a City ratepayer. We are not just advocating for city ratepayers, we are advocating for city and county ratepayers, who will needlessly pay higher rates for stored water, that wouldn’t be needed for decades, if at all.

    Many of the most vocal opponents to dredging the Reservoir do not pay water rates.

  • Wait a minute Betty over 80% of the ratepayers representatives have stated a clear preference for the earthen dam- 60% of the representatives of the city individual ratepayer favor that plan as well. You can’t claim UVa after they clearly stated a preference for the county plan. UVa has spoken for themselves

    You keep saying “many” can you say “a majority of” to any of those ratepayer groups? I could say that many people voted for George Bush in the city of Charlottesville but it would be wrong to pretend that number was significant enough to say Charlottesville preferred Bush

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