34 thoughts on “Dam Opponents Petition for Halt”

  1. Yesterday Rebecca Quinn, a member of Citizens for A Sustainable Water Plan, read the following statement explaining why our group has sent letters to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the State Water Control Board. The full text of these letters can be found at:


    This was Ms. Quinn’s statement to the press:

    Our request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State Water Control Board/DEQ suspend, terminate, reevaluate, modify, or revoke the permits issued to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to build a new dam and uphill pipeline is about making decisions based on new information and new studies that show the original information was wrong.

    It is about a better solution to provide abundant water for anticipated development in a matter that will not unnecessarily raise water bills and will not destroy more than two miles of streams, acres of wetlands, and thousands of mature hardwood trees at Ragged Mountain Natural Area.

    Two numbers are important, how much water will we need, and how much water do we have.

    The proposed new big dam at Ragged Mountain and the need for an uphill pipeline from South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to fill it are based entirely on faulty estimates of those two numbers.

    We have known for a long time that both of those estimates are off, and the evidence is they are off by a lot.

    The Federal and State regulators are charged not with approving whatever an applicant wants, but with protecting our streams and wetlands. Therefore, we have asked that they suspend the permit pending reevaluation of new information based on new studies that call into question the public need for the dam and pipeline. At the very least, dredging must be put back on the table as an alternative.

    Charlottesville and Albemarle homeowners and business owners shouldn’t be burdened now with higher water bills to pay for a project that we don’t need, or may not need for 40 to 50 years.

    And we shouldn’t have to lose vital streams, wetlands, and forests, that would make the entire community much poorer.

    Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan has been steadfast – dredge first, dam later.

  2. What business would proceed with a plan if the data upon which it was based had changed, the demand for the product had changed, and tens of millions of dollars could be saved by going with the alternative ?

    It is fiscally irresponsible to build the dam and uphill pipeline, through Albemarle County ( there is no route or engineered cost estimate), if there is a less costly, less environmentally damaging way to provide all the water this community needs for 40 years and beyond.

  3. Evan, this has been settled. Some people don’t want to stop fighting, however.

    You’ll note that this is a “request” that permits be revoked and settled plans altered. The Army Corp of Engineers has absolutely no obligation to do anything with this request.

    City resident and Betty Mooney can protest all they want. They will not get their way, however.

  4. No, it has not been settled. RWSA has request permit modifications from both state and federal agencies. It can not use the same permit issued for a concrete dam in 2006 for an earthen dam agreed upon in 2010. Siting and overflows are two tings that must be reconsidered since there is a difference in footprint and environmental impacts.
    @failing to see the issue, you will not only see it buy also feel in in the pocket book.

  5. It’s not about the money really, it never was. It’s about growth and how the city/nimby’s can limit the county’s.

    If it were just about money, Betty Mooney and all the others would insist that the Woolen Mills pumping station be built as proposed and save the ratepayers 9 million dollars.

    And yet they have been mostly mute on the expansion of the current pumping station.

    The best money would be to expand the plant and spend extra on making it as quiet and smell free as possible.

  6. This is not about limiting growth, but no matter how many times we say this the dam/pipeline supporters will use this argument.

    The amount of water that can be supplied by dredging our reservoir, given the new information supplied by the city study is enough for 40 years or beyond using the RWSA’s own growth projections.

    The amount of water this community is using has steadily fallen over the past decade and will continue to fall given new water efficiency.

    The growth projections in the county and city comprehensive plan and the growth at the University are all included in meeting the target for abundant water supply ( only needed if there is a drought ) by simply restoring and maintaining the water supply thru dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

    Water use is changing all over the world. To overbuilt at this point in history and commit ratepayers to massive debt without a proven demand is irresponsible. And to destroy a magnificent forest habitat to do so is criminal.

    This is just one example of changing water use, but there are many more:

    “Over 10 years, [IBM] reduced their water use by a third while they increased their chip production by a third,” he says. “So they increased the efficiency of their water productivity by about 80 percent.”


  7. If you have not experience the magnificent Ragged Mt. Natural Area please do so today and see the many nesting birds, budding trees and countless other wildlife right in your own backyard.

    And if you feel, as I do, that there is a better way to supply abundant water please contact your City Councilors. It is not to late at:


    This is your money and your land – please protect it.

    from the Ivy Creek Web-site:
    Ragged Mountain Natural Area

    The Ragged Mountain Natural Area near Charlottesville, Virginia, is a beautiful 980-acre forest of mature oak, hickory, poplar, pine, and maple trees with two lakes and more than four miles of shoreline. Seven miles of trail lead through majestic forest, along rugged terrain, and through areas rich with wildlife and offer a unique opportunity for wilderness hiking within minutes of town.


  8. God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. ~John Muir

  9. Building dams from scratch in terrain, such as the Ragged Mountains, is inherently risky business. Who will be responsible for the cost overruns ? You have already fired one engineering firm, Gannett Fleming, after spending over $2 million on a dam design. What will happen if the Schnabel design, once it is put out to bid, does the same ?

    Dredging is a far simpler more predictable process. Why isn’t your community doing that first ?

    “What began as a $14.8-million project cost the county more than $22 million. Additional engineering costs pushed the final tally closer to $25 million.

    The county’s lawsuit, filed Sept. 9, doesn’t specify how much it hopes to recoup. At today’s county commission meeting, Commissioner Michael Cox put the amount at $14 million.

    Commissioners have spent about $125,000 since 2007 investigating problems with the reservoir and have budgeted another $50,000 for legal fees.


  10. Thanks for the reply Betty, I can’t help but notice that you didn’t comment on the Woolen Mills pumping staton and how expanding it (instead of moving it across the river)will save the ratepayers money.

    I don’t know if that was an oversight on your part but without supporting the plant it makes the main claim of many (that they are working to save the ratepayers money) ring hollow.

  11. Perlogik,
    The arguments for the dredging alternative to supply an abundant future water supply are many, and cost is certainly a central reason to abandon the dam/uphill pipeline plan. But there are also significant environmental reasons to abandon it. The need for such a huge new infrastructure project can no longer be justified.

    The pump station issue is full of unanswered questions. And given what we have learned by investigating what the RWSA told us dredging would cost, I certainly hope another conscientious group of citizens comes forward to investigate what the RWSA is saying about the need for such a large new facility.

    I would ask- what is the true cost of moving the pump station, and what is the real cost of fixing the pipes, from an independent third party ( not a quote supplied by the RWSA). And certainly if the pump station were to be enlarged, to the extent the RWSA claims is necessary, it should not be done in a flood plain, directly adjacent to a city/county historic neighborhood, and at the entrance to a city park- that is a no brainer.

  12. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the good thing about the Ragged Mt. Reservoir was it hadn’t filled with silt. But if you build a huge new dam and all the roads to bring in the concrete for the new spillway, and the earth moving equipment, and you clear cut thousands of trees, wouldn’t that mean massive amounts of sediment will wash into the Reservoir ?

    Just repairing the spillway of the original dam, that Black and Veatch ( the firm the city hired) said was perfectly feasible, and far less costly, wouldn’t require near the amount of earth moving and new roads, and therefore excess sediment to clog the existing Reservoir.

    Just imagine what would happen with the rain we just had yesterday if the land looked liked this ?

    This is a picture of another Schnabel earthen dam in nearby Stafford County VA.
    Do you really want to do this to the Ragged Mt. Natural Area if there is an alternative for all the water you need at a lower cost ?


  13. I would have hoped that you would have brought more than FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to this discussion. If you have any facts that moving the pumping station won’t cost multiple millions could you share them?

    Saving $9 million for someone who has alleged to be fighting for the ratepayer would have seemed like a “no brainer” to me.

  14. @perlogik, as Betty Mooney stated: “And certainly if the pump station were to be enlarged, to the extent the RWSA claims is necessary, it should not be done in a flood plain, directly adjacent to a city/county historic neighborhood, and at the entrance to a city park- that is a no brainer.”

    You don’t build a sewage facility like that in a flood plain, 30 feet from residence. That’s not considered best engineering practices ANYWHERE in the country, which is precisely why you’re not going to find one.

    I would never support this thing going next to your house. You’d have to be a complete fool to not realize that facilities of this sort always grow. The first one went in with loads of promises as to its size and impact on the surrounding neighborhood. None of those promises were ever kept. So, once again, this is why it shouldn’t go next to residences. Any residences. Period. The BOS would never allow the city to force this into the midst of one of their neighborhoods, and you’d be the first one crying if it was being built next to your house.

  15. To follow up on Victoria’s comment: there was a time when it was thought to be good design to build highways above and through urban neighborhoods. At great expense these roads are now being moved. So too this stinky pump station. (I was in the park last night and it smelled like you-know-what.) The RWSA pump station is like a one-boat slip that grew to two, and now as a result officials are suggesting they be allowed to build a marina. Let’s be clear that this is not a NIMBY issue: the new RWSA pump station WILL be in our back yard across the river (much closer to our homes than any homes in the county). What we are saying (politely, for the moment) is NOT IN OUR FRONT YARD.

  16. Mrs. Dunham, I truly respect your desire to remove an existing pumping station or not allow it to be expanded. You have made the case for your neighborhood quite effectively in the past. From your point of view spending $9 million to move it is probably worth it. Your very real issues should be fully explored before any action is taken.

    However, no one is forcing a puming station into your neighborhood, it’s already there. It’s worth noting that many of the homes you look to protect where built around that station in the last few decades. While you may not want it to expand, it can’t be a shock that expansion is under serious consideration.

    The expansion would be built above the flood plain. From a recent report “The height of the building will need to be approximately 17 feet above the 100 year floodplain. Current (2005) FEMA flood maps indicate the 100-year floodplain is at an elevation of 332 in the vicinity of the existing pump station. Thus, the estimated height of the pump station at Concept A is approximately 349 feet. The existing grade around site A is approximately 318 feet. The building will have a height of 31 feet above the existing grade.”

    My main point is the lack of consistency with many who claim to be protectors of the ratepayer. From that point of view, saving $9 million on expanding an existing pumping station makes prudent fiscal sense. For so many of them to say otherwise seems hypocritical.

  17. Perlogik, the pumping station that is already here in the Woolen Mills is three stories underground. All we see are pipes and a/c units above ground. The new pumping station would be fully above ground, raised up above the the flood plain so that we’d have a 50′ by 90′ building 35′ high. That is huge for our neighborhood. It would dwarf the houses around it. The current underground facility DOES NOT grandfather in such a massive sewage treatment facility. (Across the river the pump station could be higher up, thus nearly completely underground.) If all that matters is what is cheapest for ratepayers, we’d never have built a sewage treatment facility in the first place.

  18. @perlogik, you must not have spent much time in the Woolen Mills! The original sewage pumping station was put in one of the oldest existing neighborhoods in Charlottesville. The houses surrounding it were all built in the 19th century. Just because additional newer houses were built nearby afterwards, that doesn’t make it a good idea. The erason nobody wants facilities like these in their neighborhoods is because, at some much later date, some jackwagon always comes along and uses the existing bad idea to as a justification to execute an even worse idea. That’s precisely what’s happening here.

    We will not accept an enormous 3-story sewage complex in our midst. As Karl pointed out above, we’ve been very cooperative up until now. We’ve put up with more than you’ll ever know. Because the RWSA stupidly put the existing sewage facility right next to existing homes, THEY now have to fix THEIR mistake. I repeat, it’s not OUR mistake. I’m sorry that doing so will cost additional funds, but such is the reality of fixing costly errors. The onus is not on us to keep taking one for the team (the team being city, county and UVA). The onus is on the RWSA to not compound their original error by throwing good money after bad.

    In supporting option D, Betty Mooney is not being fiscally irresponsible, nor is she contradicting herself in any way. She’s always been in favor of spending money *wisely*. She knows that spending the extra money to create a new facility in the correct location makes more sense in the long run… just like dredging right now does.

  19. “A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” Leon Festinger

  20. @perlogik, your argument would make some sense if they were actually expanding the pumping station. Actually they are building a complete NEW facility which does not explain why there is supposed to be a $9M difference in costs. You should be asking RWSA where is the $9M going. These are same people that lied and said that dredging would cost $223M, so why believe them now? Lie to me once and I will know that you are a liar. You seemingly are ignoring that the figures coming from RWSA need to be verified before informed decisions are made. Albemarle and its fast-food decisions – yuck.

  21. Amen,Eye. The RWSA had four options on the table a short while ago. One would have moved the pumping station further into the park and further away from the sewage treatment plant. Seemed like a bad idea (and a red herring), and suddenly it was off the table: the location was discovered to be a prehistoric Native American site. (If the RWSA is going to be sensitive long-dead people of the Rivanna, how about a little love for those of us who are still living alongside the river today?) Another option would have put the pumping station close to the sewage treatment plant, but this would have required easements and serious disruption in the backyard of a half dozen residents. This was the most expensive. Suddenly that option was off the table, too. So all that were left were two: keep the pumping station where it is or move it across the river. Call me cynical, but I think the plan all along has been to back into the option of building a megaplant at the entrance to Riverview Park, where pipes exist today. And as for the cost of moving the pumping station across the river, I’m with Cville Eye: I don’t have any reason to believe RWSAs numbers. (Does it have to go under the river? Would it be cheaper to put the pipe under a foot bridge?)

  22. @Karl Ackerman, and I agree with you. Thanks for the update. Unfortunaely, one of the leading proponents for using the current site is Ken Boyd who is known for not having much respect for the truth. He showed that amply in his machinations for the NEW (therefore, city and county owned)mega-dam. If he were really that concerned about saving $9M, he wouldn’t be staunchly in faovr of a new dam.

  23. Moving the plant across the river requires two crossings of the Rivanna, one to get the sewage to the pump, and another to take the effluent from the pump to the treatment plant. The former has to be at a level that will allow waste to flow, so yes, under the river. The latter could conceivably be higher than the river, but unless it was built into a structure that was high enough and/or strong enough to withstand the force of objects swept downstream during flooding, it would be a disaster waiting to happen.
    An option not brought up by RWSA would be a comprehensive re-engineering of select parts of the sewage system. Right now, vast amounts of waste generated within the system still go north to the site of the old treatment plant, then have to flow south along the Rivanna to the current treatment plant site. Its been many years since the old plant closed and yet RWSA continues to install and upgrade 100 year infrastructure to send waste on this circuitous route. Instead they should be acquiring easements and designing routes that would bring the maximum amount of waste possible to the plant in a more direct manner.
    This would cut down significantly on the volume that the Woolen Mills station has to deal with.
    It needs to happen eventually anyway, Tom Frederick is just passing the buck to the next (hopefully more responsible) director.

  24. Let’s get real– if the City Council were trying to force an enormous sewage pumping facility right next to homes in a county neighborhood, Boyd and the other supes would be screaming bloody murder. It would be all about their property rights and property values, and how dare the city do something this unconscionable. All we’re asking is that the facility be located where it can’t bother people. Frankly, I don’t give a damn whether it’s in the city or county– but the bloody thing doesn’t belong immediately adjacent to houses! Why is that so hard for some people to understand?

    The Albemarle supes know they can’t justify this outrage, so they keep harping on an unverified $9-million figure to scare their constituents. The supes and RWSA board have stirred the Pantops folks up into a panic, telling them how outrageous it would be for the city to try and “force” this facility on the county, where it would be a half-mile from the nearest home. However, at the same time, they’re telling us that we have no reason to fear it being 30 FEET from our homes. That’s an extraordinary display of hypocrisy, and demonstrates that there are serious credibility issues at play here.

  25. Victoria got it EXACTLY right:
    1. It’s a brand-new facility.
    2. It’s huge.
    3. It should be built where it does the least harm.
    4. That location may be across the river, or closer to the RSWA plant, or somewhere else; but it is NOT any location that is 30 feet from our neighbors’ homes.


  26. Let’s all unite and demand that Frederick resign. Don’t we have enough evidence of incompetence- the Van der Linde affair, costing us almost a million dollars in legal fees; the dam affair, costing us upward of $15 million in legal and consultant fees, and now the waste affair. And what has he fixed or maintained, and how much has he spent on repairing leaking pipes vs. plans for new construction with nothing to show for it.

    We need a new director and new elected officials that demand better management.

  27. @NancyDrew, we do not have the leadership here locally to move in the direction of the Worrell Green Machine. It will probably take some prodding from the State.

  28. There are a lot of State agencies that have to be answered to, especially the ones that are working with the TMDL issue around the polluting of the Bay. They may declare that we have too much waste getting into the system or too many other pollutants and suggest this method as an acceptable solution.

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