Citizen Group Opposes Reservoir Plan

Jeremy Borden wrote about objections folks are raising to the planned reservoir enlargement last week, and the organization that’s opposing it. Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan are against the $142M plan to embiggen the Ragged Mountain Reservoir by 180 acres and fill it with a pipeline from the Rivanna Reservoir. Their proposal is to, instead, dredge the South Fork of the Rivanna Reservoir. But dredging was considered and rejected as an option by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, who didn’t like its unpredictable cost ($127M-$145M) and questionable results.

All of this is a result of the nasty 2002 drought, which everybody would like to avoid. An undercurrent of the reservoir discussions is growth — population growth puts significantly more pressure on our limited water resources, and some folks figure that we if we just don’t expand the reservoir, that’ll prevent the population from expanding much more. On the other side there are people whose livelihoods depend on uninterrupted growth, who want to see the reservoirs expanded to make it possible for new construction to continue. I don’t mean to say that many people fall into these camps, only that this is an unspoken part of this debate that color the views of some opinion makers.

26 thoughts on “Citizen Group Opposes Reservoir Plan”

  1. when you build a reservoir you are committing to long term maintenance… ie DREDGING

    They have been talking about dredging as an option for over 6 years – before the drought even. This isn’t a surprise, or a wacky science idea, it’s the natural life cycle of blocking water for domestic use.

    They need to get over the hand wringing and do it already.

  2. If we are going to keep Charlottesville looking anything at all like it looks right now (though it is rapidly changing on a weekly/monthly basis), then we need to consider methods for limiting growth. Regulating the size of the reservoir seems like a natural way to do this, so long as we are able to live within our means, water-wise. With unlimited growth, is C-ville going to be a place we all want to live? Let’s preserve what we have; we’re as big as we need to be.

  3. The Ragged Mtn Resevoir needs to be dredged regardless and I really hope that it doesn’t get caught in the pro-development v. anti-growth cross-hairs.

    Growth is an important, indepedent issue in my mind to this project – yes, I know water, roads etc are taxed by growth but the RMR is a major part of our public infrastructure that should have had funds earmarked eons ago for its upkeep. Silt buidl-up isn’t a surprise..

  4. A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man. – Lisa Simpson

    And now the fauxcabulary Simpson word had made it into string theory. Oh wait, no, I just found it here.. Apparently, probably independently they think, someone else made the word up before. Love it.

    But water, yes, water good. We need more of it. Find another way to limit growth please. I don’t want to be thirsty, or worse, have no way to flush my toilet.

    Ad for growth, yes, I’m here now, you can all stop following me. We’re full.

  5. The Department of Environmental Quality has approved the RWSA’s draft permit of the Community Water Supply Plan, which includes the new dam at Ragged Mountain, upgrades to water treatment plants, as well as the new pipeline between the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. I just posted our story on the aproval at Charlottesville Tomorrow.

    Also, Waldo, I think you meant to say the opponents of the plan would prefer dredging of South Fork, as opposed to dredging of Ragged Mountain.

  6. I recommend that folks read the minutes from the public hearing on RWSA’s web site from April 2006. This is a telling document and demonstrates the strong support that both local residents, the business community and environmental groups have for the water supply plan.

    Another interesting fact sheet from RWSA on dredging online:

  7. One of the “unknowns” in this debate that could have a considerable impact is whether the sediments have toxic levels of metals and such. If not, then they can be sold at a rather high value as topsoil. That could dramatically offset the cost of the dredging. One thing is clear though… we can no longer consider water an unlimited resource, nor one without significant cost.

    One of the things that peeves me about the growth debate is that rarely does anyone define what kind of growth they really mean. Does that mean economic growth, population growth, number of homes, etc. It seems rather clear to me that we can have economic growth even with limited population growth. There’s also a significant issue of the quality of growth. Arguably, the county can sustainably support more people if we don’t sprawl all over it with McMansions.

  8. “If we are going to keep Charlottesville looking anything at all like it looks right now (though it is rapidly changing on a weekly/monthly basis), then we need to consider methods for limiting growth. Regulating the size of the reservoir seems like a natural way to do this…”

    It’s an *idiotic* way to do it. Same with trying to keep all the roads choked with traffic. Control growth by controlling growth – in this instance, by capping water hookup permits – not by trying to make the quality of life here so miserable that no one would want to move here.

    It isn’t the water that causes people to move here, it’s people moving here who make the water run short. If you want to alleviate the problem, treat the cause, not the symptom.

    “so long as we are able to live within our means, water-wise”

    The trouble with that is, living within our means in normal years means severe water restrictions in dry years. Water supply isn’t that stable or predictable

  9. Brian Wheeler gave a clear outline of the issues on Coy Barefoot’s radio show and fortunately there’s a podcast at . It’s discussed during the last ten minutes and as well worth listening to. It is my understanding that the estimates for dredging were not prepared by a dredging company who would know, but by a dam-building company that doesn’t employ dredging. Kevin Lynch and Kendra Hamilton questioned the decision not to dredge just before they left office and I hope the current Council will have the wisdom to demand another look by some entity that specializes in reservoir reclamation. I know it will help build somebody’s resume to oversee a $140M project, but we need to be very careful before pursuing that route. We can not just continue to build new reservoirs whenever the current one gets filled up with silt. It seems that a lot of other localities like Decatur, IL have chosen dredging and the price tags are comparatively small. Skim through dredging reservoirs&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us. As Kevin Lynch says, the technology has changed a great deal.

  10. “Many reservoirs in the country are aging and dredging has been the most common means to maintain continuing function of varied reservoirs.” This statement is according to Tiao J. Chang, Professor, Civil Engineering Department, Ohio University, Athens, OH as a preface to a studey at dredging reservoirs&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=us. How is it that so many localities can afford dredging and we can’t?

  11. Cville Eye I totally agree with you about dredging. I listened to the Brian Wheeler interview and where I disagree with him and wonder what you think is when he says that the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has a plan to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and will not let it silt up. If they have a plan I can’t find it anywhere on their web-site and if they plan to dredge why not as part of the water supply? Why spent $142 million on a new dam and pipeline when we’re going to dredge anyway ? And I’ll bet once they get a cost estimate from a dredging company they’ll find it’s a whole lot cheaper and less damaging to all the trees and wildlife at Ragged Mountain to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir than to build a monstrous 112′ dam that I’ve heard will run under Interstate 64–how safe is that?

  12. Cville Eye it just occurred to me that RWSA’s newly announce plan to dredge the SFRR is probably a ploy to stop questions about why the dredging option for the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir shouldn’t get a new look as part of the water supply. Have you heard the airport is looking for $44million of fill and they’re 3 miles from the reservoir. Could save rate-payers alot of money, don’t you think.

  13. I like “embiggen” It reminds me of Garrett Hardin’s question of why our language has the word “shortage” , but no word “longage”. As in a discussion of water shortage..but no discussion of population longage. The reason for this discrepancy is not mysterious, of course..As one of your commenters observes about the content-free ambiguity of the benefits of “growth”.

    A key question in respecto to the water supply plan is whether citizens, should have confidence in those who prepared it.even if they are not informed particularly of the costs and benefits of the plan favored by RWSA All the talk of citizen participation as a basis for de-legitimating any serious evalation of the so-called plan is mostly baloney. The RWSA is a dysfunctional unit from the standpoint of political transparency and political accountability.
    Public meetings choreographed by facilitators with marching orders as to what shall be discussed and for how long do not substitute for an effective representation on the RWSA Board by city and county elected officials. There is no water crisis and there is no state mandate to build this dam. No one has presented to the public a comparative cost analysis for water supply and associated infrastructure costs. Dredging should be studied, but so should several other aspects of the proposed project which is not yet a plan.


  14. For those who don’t know, Rich used to chair the RWSA, he’s the founder of the UVa Institute for Environmental Negotiation, and he represents C’ville on the Soil and Water Conservation board.

  15. I voted for Mr. Collins for some position he ran for in November because he has shown through the years that he puts good government before party and old boys clubs. He demands sufficient opportunities for the public to understand and weigh-in on far-reaching issues and he asks significant questions above the level of “Who’s asking?” I guess that’s some of the reasons why he lost. If he keeps running, I’ll keep voting.

  16. Trees, I went back and listened again because the discussion of the dredging plan slipped by me. What I heard is Mr. Wheeler’s expressing his opinion that the RWSA would not allow the South Fork to die and therefore they most likely would look at dredging again, in addition to the current plan. It seemed to be his opinion and he took the side (which is rare in his comments) that they should. Several members of the official citizen’scommittee looking at this seem to have dug their heels in against another look that I don’t trust that they will. This big project is much more glamourous.
    Yes, I had heard probably as early as 2006 that the airport wanted a great deal of this silt to extend its runway to allow larger jets in. Then I heard that the current consultants said a road would have to built to keep the trucks going between the reservoir and the airport from clogging 29N. I believe it was Mr. Lynch who suggested building a temporary sluice-type structure [A riffled trench system that earthen material is forced through by the force of running water and gravity to separate unconsolidated materials from ore] as they have with mines that would carry the silt in water from the reservoir to the airport and I guess return the water. It doesn’t seem impossible. Bottom line the RWSA should answer why so many localities, large and small, can employ dreding but Chalbemarle’s solution must be so elaborate. As for the issue of growth, I have noticed that since the sewer lines have appeared in Crozet, they are projected to grow to 24,000. Maybe there’s a connection between available utilities and growth. Since it looks as if the State is going to limit impact fees to $5,000/house, it will be the current RWSA customers who will be paying to install the infrastructure for the new arriavals twenty to fifty years from now.

  17. There seems to be rumors out there that RWSA plans to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, outside of the water supply plan.

    If this is true .. why did Mr. Frederick tell City Council on November 19, 2007 that a third of the new water created by raising the Ragged Mountain Reservoir 45 feet is to compensate for the volume of water expected to be LOST to siltation at SFRR over the next 50 years. That would be 700 MG. 700 MG happens to be what the consultants predicted would be lost if we do NOTHING to save the SFRR. See both references at

    And if RWSA plans to save the SFRR by dredging, why does RWSA’s proposed 5-year capital projects budget spend 35 million dollars to build the full height of the dam and spend NOTHING on dredging.

    If dredging was too expensive to be part of the water supply plan to begin with, where does RWSA think it’s going to get the money to dredge outside the water supply plan?

    This community needs to wake up to the fact that, under the current water supply plan, the SFRR is going to die. It will silt in and wreak havoc on the Rivanna River downstream as mega-loads of sediment surge over the dam with every storm.

  18. I would like to thank Waldo for giving residents the chance to comment on local issues, and I would like to thank all the citizens who have visited our web-site at and offered support and ideas.
    I am a member of a new group Citizens for A Sustainable Water Plan composed of 2 former Rivanna Water and Sewer Board Directors, 3 former City Councilors, 1 former mayor, and 1 former vice-mayor, 1 former City Planning Commissioner, 2 former City School Board Chairmen, the former Educational Director of the Ivy Creek foundation, and a Professor of Environmental Negotiation. Our main concerns are the cost, sustainability, and process that brought the RWSA 50 year water supply proposal to its current form. To see a detailed analysis of the process look at the web-site and click on Timeline.
    We hope that all citizens will urge the City Council and Board of Supervisors to conduct a transparent analysis of the real monthly rate increases of water and sewer bills of any RWSA proposals for the water supply and sewer up-grades and will hold public hearings before passing these increases on to consumers. The cost to rate-payers of the RWSA proposal is still a complete unknown, but the environmental costs will be devastating.
    The current RWSA proposal is to build a New 112 foot dam that will run under Interstate 64 and will necessitate the killing of 54,000 trees and the destruction of 180 acres of a pristine wildlife area owned by the City, the Ragged Mt. Natural Area, plus the building of new roads and the widening of picturesque Reservoir Rd. The RWSA proposal will also allow the loss of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir due to siltation ( as shown in their permit document) and the elimination of the Sugar Hollow Reservoir as part of the water supply ( the Sugar Hollow pipeline is to be cut-off)
    The widely supported option of restoring the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir was eliminated due to feasibility and cost.
    The only cost estimate available is a controversial study done by a company specializing in dam building. We hope all concerned citizens will encourage the City and County officials to insist on obtaining objective cost data by an experienced dredging company.

    Please visit our Web-Site and contact your local officials

  19. A member of the group Citizens for A Sustainable Water Plan reminded me that my statement in the previous post “cost for ratepayers remain unknown” is not entirely true. We have estimated that monthly bills for the RWSA water supply proposal of 142million could mean a $70 or higher per month increase in rate payer bills. If anyone knows more exactly we would appreciate their analysis. It is very important that public hearings be held before these rate increases are passed on to consumers, because they’re sure to be a huge jolt for many a pocketbook.
    I also failed to mention that 2 of our members are on the Thomas Jefferson Soil, Water and Conservation Board

  20. There will be a water forum this Thursday Feb. 21 at 7:30 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church on Rugby Rd. with supporters of the RWSA proposal and the Citizens for A Sustainable Water Plan.

  21. Well, in the 70’s the SFRR was silting up, and a study was done. Still studying, still talking and still building. Ragged Mt is better than the James, and as for dredging, where ya going to put it? Wet soil, muck and rotten vegation doesn’t make a firm foundation for anything… eacept more studying!

  22. Sara, they can put it where everybody else is putting it all over the country. Are you suggesting that every time siltation becomes a problem you build higher dams? Maybe they’re still studying because they didn’t conduct a proper one in the first place. Sitting around table spouting opinions does not constitute a study. For example, where is the expert ananlysis on the cost of dredging here in Charlottesville? Joe Mooney spoke about this issue last night at Council’s meeting. I’m sure you were listening, so you should answer his question.

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