Officials on hand to sign the documents approving the community water supply plan

The community water supply plan received its final approvals at Tuesday’s meeting of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board of directors. Representatives from the RWSA, the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the Albemarle County Service Authority were all present to sign the official documents.

The action, following separate votes by city and county officials at earlier meetings, and a unanimous vote by the RWSA that day, concludes years of study and negotiations. Next, the RWSA will oversee construction of a new earthen dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir beginning as early as March.

“I think it is a momentous day,” said Mike Gaffney, the RWSA board’s chairman. “We have gone through a six-year period of time, between 2006 to 2012, to get to where the community water supply plan is approved, the cost-sharing agreement is approved and the property agreement is approved. We are moving forward to take care of the next 50 years’ worth of our community’s water needs.”

Mayor Satyendra Huja signed on behalf of the city and County Executive Thomas Foley signed for the county.

City Councilor Kathleen M. Galvin attended her first meeting as one of two elected council representative on the RWSA board.

“I think it represents the culmination of a long, hard series of negotiations … and it’s very good to have it done,” Galvin said. “Now we can start thinking about what other issues are on the table, so I am excited we can get on to new business.”

The ACSA’s chairman, Clarence Roberts, said he was also pleased to be able to sign his name to the official documents.

“It’s a historical day that has involved a tremendous amount of work by people in the community,” Roberts said. “I remember when the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir was built in 1966, and now we are going to provide water for the next 50 years.”

In December, the RWSA authorized its executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr., to sign a $21.5 million contract with North Carolina-based Thalle Construction to build the dam after resolution of several outstanding issues.

The RWSA is now only waiting on final approvals from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration on the design of embankment modifications along Interstate 64 where the larger Ragged Mountain reservoir will reach the highway.

Frederick said he believed all of VDOT’s questions about the embankment had been addressed and a decision is expected this month. FHWA has told the authority it expects to conclude its review of the design in February.

Assuming Thalle Construction gets a notice to proceed in early March, tree clearing is expected to be among the first activities in a borrow area, the source of the earth for the dam, and in the initial inundation zone, the area 30 feet higher than current water level.

However, at its meeting earlier this month, the City Council asked Frederick to consider the feasibility of delaying tree clearing until after July 15 to protect bird nesting habitat.

“We’ve got an indication from our contractor, that to enact this provision … they may ask for additional compensation up to $500,000,” Frederick told the board. “They may also ask for two to three months of additional time.”

City Manager Maurice Jones asked Frederick to get Thalle’s response in writing so it could be shared with the council at its Feb. 6 meeting.

Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, said he applauded the RWSA for getting the information on the costs of tree clearing to the City Council and the public.

“We believe it’s a concern, but we believe that Rivanna has gone forward in a prudent manner to [ask] what it would cost to delay it in terms of time and money,” Williamson said. “It’s the best way to make a decision and to weigh the costs and benefits.”

Frederick also said a March start on the dam’s construction was seen by the engineers as the optimal time to launch and minimize the 21-month construction period and avoid multiple winter seasons.

However, the board was also reminded that the Ragged Mountain Natural Area would be closed to the public for the entire period of the dam’s construction.

Doug March, a senior civil engineer with the RWSA, said signs would be placed on Reservoir Road at Fontaine Avenue and at trail heads at the park entrance and in the Ednam community.

“If people venture in there, we’re going to have to talk to the contractor to politely tell them to leave,” March said. “The natural area will be closed during construction.”

In other business, the RWSA board approved a request for proposals to be issued for limited dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The RWSA has set aside $3.5 million for a dredging project and will now solicit specific dredging proposals.

The cost-sharing agreement approved at the meeting says dredging should be “market driven, cost effective and opportunistic.” The city and ACSA will split the cost of the reservoir maintenance project.

The officials on hand to sign the documents approving the community water supply plan and pictured were, front row (L to R), Charlottesville Mayor Satyendra Huja, Mike Gaffney (RWSA Chairman), Clarence Roberts (ACSA Chairman), and back row, City Councilor Kathleen M. Galvin, Thomas L. Frederick, Jr. (RWSA Executive Director), Liz Palmer (ACSA Board), Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, and Albemarle County Executive Thomas Foley (who signed on behalf of Albemarle).