By Brian Wheeler


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The board of the

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

voted Tuesday to have

Schnabel Engineering

continue its final design work on a new earthen dam for the

Ragged Mountain Reservoir

. The action authorized an initial pool height increase of 30 feet, but stopped short of specifying the final height of the dam itself.

While the decision allows Schnabel to complete its design work, numerous issues remain unresolved between Albemarle and Charlottesville as the localities seek to jointly implement a

50-year water plan


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Thomas L. Frederick, Jr.

, Executive Director

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

Charlottesville Mayor

Dave Norris

voted against the motion, while City Manager

Maurice Jones


Judith Mueller

, the city’s director of public works, voted in favor of the project. The work is being paid for by the

Albemarle County Service Authority


“Our City Council hasn’t decided which dam they’re comfortable with just yet,” Jones said. “They voted for a 30-foot dam.”

Jones took his direction from the majority on the City Council, which

voted 3-2 last week

to pursue a 30-foot height increase for the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Norris voted against that resolution as he continues to support a reservoir that is only 13 feet taller.

Left unresolved by the RWSA’s action Tuesday is whether the City Council will ultimately approve an earthen dam, whether the dam will be built in phases, and if so, what would trigger construction to store an additional 12 feet of water. A 42-foot height increase is called for in the 2006 community water supply plan.

The city has its own engineering firm,

Black & Veatch

, which has put forward a conceptual design for a concrete extension of the existing 1908 dam. Meanwhile, the earthen dam’s final engineering is now 60 percent completed.


Kenneth C. Boyd

, who sits on the RWSA board, was unable to attend last week’s joint meeting of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and the City Council.

“I was hoping all the things would get fleshed out and on the table about what we need to make a decision,” Boyd said. “Every bit of additional information that we receive is just reinforcing that we have made the right decision for this.”

County leaders favor a new, earthen dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir and a new pipeline from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to fill the bigger pool. City leaders prefer a smaller dam, which they say will provide adequate water and stimulate both conservation efforts and a dredging project at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

Schnabel’s representatives told the RWSA board Tuesday that the earthen dam could be phased, but that 99 percent of the cost of the full-height dam would be spent on the first 30-foot increase. Building the second phase would result in a final cost that is 108 percent of doing the project all at once, an additional $1.45 million to $1.77 million.

In addition, Schnabel said that because most of the water is at the top of the reservoir, where it is widest, the first phase would provide only 60 percent of the water storage that the full-height dam would provide.

Jones suggested the City Council sit through a presentation by Schnabel.

“I think it would make sense for us to have Schnabel come and present to council because this is new information,” Jones said. “We were working off of previous estimates that were $5 million to $8 million more than they are today.”

“I’m having trouble understanding why City Council can’t get their arms around this and go ahead and make a decision and let’s move forward,” Boyd said.

Richard Lloyd

, with Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, urged the RWSA to take its time making a decision and to evaluate the concrete dam proposed by Black & Veatch.

“There’s no hurry here,” Lloyd said. “We’ve been told that the costs are going up, ever escalating, but in fact the costs are going down.”

Liz Palmer

, a member of the ACSA board, urged the RWSA to support the full-height dam.

“Building the full-height dam does not negate dredging, it does not negate conservation,” Palmer said. “As we make decisions on how to move forward, this community should not be short-sighted. … Realizing the entire storage in the 2006 plan will give us better flexibility.”

In other business, the RWSA board unanimously agreed to seek bids for dredging by using what is known as the

Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002

. Officials said a PPEA approach, while more complex, would allow more flexibility by bidders on their approach to dredging the South Fork.

At its February meeting, the RWSA will approve specific PPEA guidelines and dredging objectives. Officials also made clear that dredging was to be undertaken as a separate permit independent of the state and federal permits needed for the water supply.

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