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P.E.C. opens new fronts in war on dredging

by Hawes Spencer
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Jeff Werner, the Land-Use field officer for a group called the Piedmont Environmental Council, says that the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s $143 million water supply plan is the “least expensive” alternative, and he cites alleged ulterior motives of those who would oppose the controversial plan.

“Dredging is more expensive,” says Werner in a 33-minute discussion on the May 9 talk-show hosted by former City Councilor Rob Schilling on WINA-AM radio. During the program, Werner accuses the Hook of “misrepresenting,” of offering “misinformation,” “no analysis,” and also of being “offensive” and “inappropriate.”

The Hook has reported that a firm called Gannett Fleming won a $3.1 million dam design deal after alleging that dredging the Rivanna Reservoir could cost $145 million and later claimed it might cost as much as $225 million, a sum that exceeds a recent contract to dredge over 50 million cubic yards from the Panama Canal— a contrast which Werner branded “theater.”

Another firm, Gahagan & Bryant, has offered a ballpark dredging estimate of $25-30 million including dewatering— everything but land purchase or, alternatively, tipping fees, which the firm confirms would be under $2.50 per cubic yard. In other words, a top price of $35.5 million.

And yet Werner declares that unless dredging costs less than $16 million, it’s not economical; and, furthermore, he claims that Gahagan & Bryant (which pitched itself to the public May 5 and to City Council on May 6) “agreed” with Gannett Fleming.

Below are MP3s of the discussion. Part III includes Werner’s assertions of ulterior motives: that opposition to the plan emanates from a desire to choke off growth, a wish for “paralysis by analysis,” or from a friendship with Dede Smith (an opponent of clear-cutting 180 acres of mature forest in the Ragged Mountain Natural Area).

Since I’m Hawes Spencer, the fellow guest on this radio show and the guy jotting this little write-up, it might be unfair for me to try to characterize the dialogue, but I would encourage water wonks to hear it and draw their own conclusions about this method of defending a $143 million water plan.

  • Observer May 11th, 2008 | 9:49 pm

    This community has a treasure in Hawes Spencer. We should all be grateful!

  • Water Drinker May 12th, 2008 | 7:45 am

    Thank you Hawes for all your efforts on this topic. You have presented the facts in a clear and understandable manner. Frankly I am surprised at PEC’s stand against what seems to be the environmentally sound thing thing to do, i.e. save the existing water supply, and save tree canopy.

    It would seem that the local water monopolies like raising the cost of drinking water as much as gas companies like raising the cost of gas. Will it never end? Will we have to decide whether we can consume a gallon of water today or but a gallon of gas? Is not PEC concerned about the costs to users of the water from these impoundments?

    Thank you Hook. Thank you Hawes.

  • MusicLover May 12th, 2008 | 8:59 am

    Say goodbye to your reputation as a trusted source, PEC. I mean, come on - even ignoring the suspect $ issues, how can any organization even remotely concerned with the environment advocate building another dam and pumping water uphill when a far less invasive option exists?

  • Grateful water user May 12th, 2008 | 10:43 am

    What I find incredibly disheartening is that the PEC and others have tried to imply that the pro-dredging folks have some sort of hidden agenda. There is absolutely NO evidence of this. Since when is demanding more transparency and honesty in government ever “offensive” and “inappropriate”?

    Hawes Spencer has the cojones to look into the story and report on it. The PEC are making idiots of themselves by shooting the messenger. If I were the PEC, I’d save my ire for the people whose actions have brought so much negative attention onto the plan in question– that’s the RWSA Board and Gannett Fleming.

  • Cville Eye May 12th, 2008 | 6:57 pm

    On the Charlottesville Tomorrow’s blog at http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2008/05/waterplan_worksession.html there is an account of last Monay’s water plan meeting. Please take a read. Some highlights:”We looked at dredging and determined it wouldn’t work because it didn’t meet the first requirement of a water supply plan – to meet the need,” Schuyler [Nature Conservancy]said. “Even if you dredged out the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the bottom, in order to meet demand and stay within the watershed, you would still have to raise the Ragged Mountain Reservoir by 30 feet.” “Further, Lynch [former councilman Kevin Lynch]argued a revised demand calculation would show that the Ragged Mountain Reservoir would only need to be raised by 13 feet.” Either way, why is it recommended that we build a 112 foot dam at Ragged Mountain? The city limits its buildings to 101 feet (with special permit) or less and the country doesn’t want even tall, skinny cell phone towers that people can see, even from I-64. Why, then, is it some of the same people want to build whopping 112 foot dam clearly seen by anybody driving along I-64?
    Responding apparently to my constantly harping about running the RM reservoir under I-64 on blogs, “We’ve specifically proposed as a part of this plan working with VDOT, everywhere water leaves the surface of the pavement, we’re going to have facilities put in that can catch and capture spills, so we’re actually mitigating what has been a historic risk to this community,” Frederick said.” — Notice that we are left to infer that RWSA and VDOT have actually designed these mechanisms. If so, how much are they going to cost or have they been spelled out and their cost included in the current plan?
    And last, but not least, “Frederick also said that the adopted water supply plan does not prohibit dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir in the future. In fact, Frederick met with representatives of dredging firm Gahagan & Bryant the morning of the work session to talk about future collaborations. ” Wow, what an unexplained abrupt, 180-degree turn! And on the MORNING of the meeting. Coincidence?
    I hope everyone will take the time to listen to the audio so graciously provided by our own Mr. Spencer (Is this the start of a cult following?) if only to witness Mr. Spencer’s stellar debating skills and clarity of thought when dealing with someone (Werner) who was trying to tell him what aspects of the issue were appropriate and inappropriate to discuss. I heard the original broadcast and will be downloading the audio to my personal archives.

  • Spencer Connerat May 12th, 2008 | 8:19 pm

    Rob Schilling is a moderator of the highest calibre. Good show!

  • Jane May 13th, 2008 | 9:02 am

    Yes, PEC has continued to cast itself in a bad light with this one. Thanks to THE HOOK-WINA, we can listen to PECs’ unconvincing last stand on the subject.
    PEC’s take on this makes no sense. The “powerful ones” have been caught with their pants down.Why can’t they admit they may be incorrect?
    Many believe there may be more going on here than we truly know.

  • TheTruthInLies May 13th, 2008 | 9:10 am

    I assume the damn will not exceed $143 mln or Jeff Werner will make up the difference since he is so confident with his numbers. Hopfully when he states the damn is the “least expensive” he is not even considering the comical over estimate of $225 mln to dredge for comparison. Was that ridiculous number fabricated to make the damn look like a bargain? Seems like someone has alot of concrete they want to sell.

    Will the Rivanna now be called the Pantano?

  • joc May 13th, 2008 | 9:13 am

    It is Werner who is inappropriate here-AND NOT THE HOOK! How can he push his one-sided agenda in good conscience, and in the name of the environment? What a joke!
    The future will prove him incorrect, in the view of many.

  • Cville Eye May 13th, 2008 | 9:29 am

    I believe the $225M came from adding a 25%+ contingency fund to the original $175M figure. Overrun O’Connell has started using 25% rather than 10% to calculate this contingency because of “inflation.” I personally think it’s a sign of bad project manangement which falls in his lap but for which he refuses to take ownership. Certainly his staff and friends at Albemarle Office will go along with this because one day they may be in his shoes.

  • Jane May 13th, 2008 | 9:47 am

    The bottom line: As Werner asserts in the tape, we should not go back and re-work the original plan, He should remember, the original initiative was created, based on flawed and inaccurate information. Why does PEC believe we should move forward with a plan that was incorrectly formed,in the first place? Maybe PEC is afraid certain high profile people will be embarrassed for their poor performance.
    Actually, some deserve to be punished. They mislead the public/taxpayers. AND, PEC knows this is so.

  • Cville Eye May 13th, 2008 | 10:36 am

    I visited the P.E.C.’s website again and looked at its list of Directors: http://pecva.org/anx/index.cfm/1,130,518,0,html/PEC-Board-of-Directors . Does anybody know any of these people?
    From its homepage: “The Piedmont Environmental Council is a 35-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the Piedmont’s rural economy, natural resources, history and beauty.” It appears its emphasis is upon rural economies and preservation and not specifically urban problems that are reflected in reservoir issues. I suspect from their perspective, the issue of Moornman’s River take precedence over the issue of water rates. I guess the lesson here is that all segments of the public can not take for it granted that every non-profit has its interests at heart and should have its own watch dogs. That would make for a healthier democracy. By the way, does anybody know who currently owns the 340 acres south of I-67 that’s supposed to go towards creating an urban replacement park at Ragged Mountain under the Nature Conservancy’s management?

  • Jane May 13th, 2008 | 11:48 am

    From what I hear, PECs’ board members are in the big money group. After all, a huge part of the PEC goal is gaining dollars/fund raising, which enables them to take on certain causes. Garnering easements is a biggy too.
    PEC hangs with certain BOS members. I’m not sure most on the BOS have been effective or proactive in guarding our local environment. Look at the ugly mess on Pantops. How do the liberal members, BOS feel about the Parkway? Has PEC offered to protect land in these vulnerable places. If so, please let me know, because I haven’t heard of any positives on this note.

  • Swamy May 13th, 2008 | 12:27 pm

    Here is a new article in Today’s Cville that’s takes a fairly balanced look at this issue:


  • Cville Eye May 13th, 2008 | 12:55 pm

    Swamy, when I read “Then The Hook, a local weekly that had largely stayed away from reporting on the water supply plan, published a series of articles that depicted dredging as an alternative water supply solution that was intentionally undermined by local officials, consultants and The Nature Conservancy. Though the reporting was rife with comparisons that oversimplified the cost of long term dredging and overplayed the environmental and monetary impacts of the current plan, the coverage stirred up local concern, particularly among those who didn’t follow the water supply planning in 2005 and 2006″ I new it was hardly attempting to be balanced. When it started saying that Jeff Werner knows more because he started in this process a couple of years ago, I thought I was reading something from a tenth grader.

  • kurt May 13th, 2008 | 1:40 pm

    What you all are forgetting is that one of the primary successes of the approved plan (championed by TNC, PEC, and other conservation groups) was that it kept us from drinking polluted water piped in from the James River at massive cost. Further the approved plan by its very nature requires conservation because we are relying on our local watershed to solve our water supply problems. If TNC and PEC had not lead the charge for this plan while others like Hawes and the Hook were sleeping we would have no reason to be stewards of the Rivanna watershed for future generations. I applaud the efforts of TNC, PEC, and the other conservation groups in our community for taking a leadership role when it was needed.

  • Swamy May 13th, 2008 | 1:47 pm

    I agree with kurt. Good points.

  • Richard May 13th, 2008 | 1:49 pm

    Oh snap, that Cville article begs for a Hook response! Fight!

  • Betty Mooney May 13th, 2008 | 2:34 pm

    I agree with Kurt that we all have to thank many environmental groups for fighting to stay in the watershed. The sad truth is that we could have had a much better plan for the watershed if the Gannett Fleming estimate for the cost of dredging had not eliminated it as a possible choice for this community. And these same consultants who told us dredging was too expensive are now being paid 3.1 million to design the new dam at Ragged Mt. In 2004 they said dredging would cost $42 million then it got bumped to $145 million in 2005, and now it is 225 million. We now know that dredging the entire reservoir including dewatering is between 25-35 million and that there is land available to take the sediment. Let the necessary surveys proceed and come speak out at the May 19th PUBLIC HEARING at City Council 7:30. Don’t let this opportunity, to finally, after 40 years of neglect, take care of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and increase the water supply for this community be blocked again. Dredging the Reservoir was approved by our elected officials in 2002 and if that plan had not been stopped we would have far more water capacity today. If you believe in sustainability, fiscal responsibility and environmental stewardship then speak up for dredging as a better solution for the water supply.

    May 19th 7:30 City Chambers Council is your only chance

  • City Water Guzzler May 13th, 2008 | 3:12 pm

    From what I’ve read, $25-35 million would ONLY cover the cost of the initial dredging. This does not qualify as a long term water supply plan. This cost does not include:

    - the purchase of land on which to put the dredged material…?
    - continued maintenance dredging. sediment will not stop flowing into the SFRR….?
    - the Ragged Mtn. to SFRR pipeline (or replace the SH to SFRR pipeline)…?
    - repair of the Ragged Mtn. dam…?
    - upgrading of the O’hill treatment plant…?

    Adding all of these items together seems to push the price tag of this alternative north of $150-million, well over the 142-million adopted Plan. Why won’t someone lay out the numbers line by line for the dredging option to at least be considered.

  • Jane May 13th, 2008 | 3:45 pm

    Betty, I agree, PEC did help with the fight against tapping into the James. I certainly have no arguement with their stand here.
    The issue with our complaints, is the larger dredging piece that PEC refuses to look into now. Since the studies are flawed, PEC should be open to other solutions.

  • Sidney May 13th, 2008 | 6:13 pm

    Jane, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. From everything I’ve read and heard PEC supports (and has for years) maintaining the health of the SFRR.

  • Cville Eye May 13th, 2008 | 7:39 pm

    Has anyone questioned who first brought up piping in water from the James? Did that idea come from the same RWSA that so many people seem to have faith in? I have never believed that the James River was a serious option. It was only thrown out so that people would rally around the current plan. Has anyone seen a written evaluation as to why the original plan costing $13M would not work?
    PEC and the NC were encouraged to participate and obviously given a special ear. Mr. Spencer wasn’t. It pays to be on Gary O’Connell’s good side — you get to be in on the inner circle. Other people have to file a FOIA request in order to get near the circle. I still smell fish here (last week’s).
    It is clear that the fundamental of the RWSA needs to change. None of those people appear to be answerable to anybody. City and county staffers have too much authority over our water.

  • Austin May 13th, 2008 | 9:11 pm

    Cville Eye- Only a coward would attack the integrity of so many people and organizations behind the veil of “Cville Eye.” If you have to get your apparent anger off your chest, have the gumption to lob your accusations at people in person, and spare us the above garbage, which adds nothing to a productive discussion.

  • Grateful water user May 13th, 2008 | 11:05 pm

    Alright then Austin, what would you like everyone to know about the FOIA?

  • MusicLover May 13th, 2008 | 11:14 pm

    Follow the money.

    Follow. The. Money.

  • Cville Eye May 13th, 2008 | 11:47 pm

    Austin (Who?), name the people whose integrity I have attacked that was not attacking someone else’s and what I have said that attacks it. (Don’t worry, I know you won’t.)
    And, when people are putting their hands in my pockets and taking money out, I get angry, especially when I see richer people benefit and I don’t.
    Maybe you’ll tell what you think I’ve said that wasn’t true and thereby join in the productive conversation yourself. Please remember, tea party conversations called “concensus-building” a small inner-circle is what has gotten us where we are today.
    Were you the one that brought up the James River?

  • Rick May 14th, 2008 | 7:18 am

    OK, folks, first we need to get our facts straight. Then we can have this debate. Mr. Spencer says we are currently using 9.7 MGD, a figure he gets from Tom Fredericks. But he says we can reduce that to below 7.0 MGD because we did that during the (2002?) drought. But the truth is the current 9.7 MGD demand is occuring during another drought, with drought use restrictions in place. so it’s not really a very accurate use of our community need for water. Perhaps a more accurate figure would be the 14.1 MGD used in the top month of 2006, when drought restrictions were not in place. But that figure is rather inconvenient to Mr. Spencer’s argument that we could be using 14.0 MGD at some distant future point when our population doubles, a figure that could largely me met by dredging South Fork. If you look at the reality that we are on our way past 14.0 MGD toward, if not completely to, the 18.0 figure projected by RWSA, then the dredging solution falls on its face because it just can’t meet demand without another piece of the solution, most likely the larger dam at Ragged Mtn. Obviously, Mr. Spencer should know this. So, either he didn’t do his homework … kind of like saying the cost of dredging without the largest factor (disposal) included is a good cost figure for comparison purposes … or he’s hiding the truth. Either way, I’m tired of him pushing this ’story of a lifetime’ without telling the whole story.

  • County Farmer May 14th, 2008 | 7:25 am

    Austin, thanks for your comments concerning Ceye who ad nauseam parrots back and rehashes the obvious just in order to be able to read their on copy. I think that six posts (so far) on this one topic should be more than enough to make their point. I love the comment about seeing rich people benefit when they don’t. This freudian slip shows the inner self(id) of Ceye.

  • Jane May 14th, 2008 | 9:15 am

    Sidney, Get real! Why are we having this conversation in the first place? PEC is not without blame here. PEC is “in” and has been “in” with the powers that be. That is a problem because the “powerful” ones have already made up their minds, as to direction, before they have all the facts.
    And I’ll assure you, the county and city powers will win this one, unless the other side really turns on the heat/keeps up the pressure, or maybe hires lawyers/threatens a law suit. That is just the way politics goes around here!
    The good piece, the other side is being shamed and embarrassed, as they deserve to be. Cvilleeye is right in the ballpark too. Seems he is a bother to the “other side”. He makes perfect sense to many.

  • Cville Eye May 14th, 2008 | 9:21 am

    Country Farmer, it’s good to know that you have obviously abandoned farming and is now working in some field of psychology. Each post begins with a name. Try this, each time you see the name Cville Eye, skip over it. Go ahead, it’s easy.
    The VEC, RWSA, and other agencies use population growth projections provided by the U.S. Census and the Weldon Cooper Center at UVA. The Census Bureau issues its information according to what it has defined as a metropolitan statistical area. Our MSA includes several surrounding counties. To project that the population will double by 2050 is NOT to say that the number of users of water from RWSA will also double. There is no way that RWSA can say that 18 MGD is a hard figure.
    It’s interesting why friends of those organizations that were privileged to be included in the formation of the new plan do not acknowledge that the current design for the Meadowcreek Parkway by the public. The original plan did not include improved accessibility to the park, no-truck restricions, replacement land, and speed restrictions. Critics of the public input subsequent to the publishing of the road plan often spoke of who was backing the plan and the number hours that went into the plan, used ever-changing traffic figures, mentioned how long the issue has been discussed, and called for a curtailment of additional gathering of information. What I don’t understand is why are people still trying to say that people in opposition to the plan are saying that only doing dredging is the best solution. They either can’t read or they are deliberately attempting to mislead the public.

  • Jane May 14th, 2008 | 9:23 am

    And Austin, Who is a coward? It is a choice not to use your whole name. You made that choice also. What a joke for you to criticize another for doing the same thing you are doing.

  • TheTruthInLies May 15th, 2008 | 11:34 am

    I agree with Jane. However, I believe it is the content of what is being said more than who is saying it that matters on this venue. Does signing it George W Bush give me more validity…probably not…sorry bad example. :(

    I say this whole damn thing should be shelved until the Rivanna is dredged, then we look at what we have and what were the true cost. Maybe dredging every 50 years isn’t that bad of a thing???

  • Jeff Werner May 15th, 2008 | 7:21 pm

    You know, this is all rather funny. I don’t know any of you people–other than Betty–but you all seem confident you know me and the PEC. I hadn’t really cared what was on this blog until some people urged me to read it; maybe even respond. But what’s the point? In the web world of anonymity, I don’t know whether you all are several people, or just 2 or 3 writing under differet psuedonyms. Heck, maybe I am not even Jeff Werner; you never know. Think about it.

    I do want to thank Betty Mooney for pointing out all of our hard work to keep the water supply plan IN our own local watershed. I don’t think people yet realize how substantial that was. That “victory” is but one in numerous effort we and other organizatuons have been involved in over the years. Funny, but in the recent effort to get real Mountain Protection regs implemented, an effort to truly address the sediment going into our local streams–and reservouirs; I don’t recall the Hook taking up that banner. I could go on, but I won’t. Anyone interested in what we have been working on and is welcome to call me at 434-977-2033, or e-ail me at . I am hardly the stubborn, disinterested person I have been portrayed to be. In fact, I am quite doogedly stubborn about one thing: Integrity. Ths hearing that I am some mere pawn in a larger conspiracy over the water supply plan has given me belly laughs.

    And, if yopu want to ever come by and discuss all that we and other groups have done regarding keeping our water supply local, please come to my office any time. 410 East water Street, second floor.

    And, in what may be a disappintment to some of the conspiracy thoerists out there, I am a City resident. So my interest in this matter is hardly a distant and

    But I will offer this one challenge and some thoughts:
    Above it is stated above, and inferred in the Hook through the use of partial quotes, that the PEC “refuses” to consider the dredging of the SFRR. Yes, I have said that in the CONTEXT of the current water supply plan dredging as an option–even with the various estimates from the Hook–does not represent a less expensive alternative. However, neither I nor the PEC have EVER argued that we should not take action to maintain the SFRR. In fact, I challenge anyone to show me where I or the PEC have opposed some level of maintennace dredging of the SFFR.

  • D. R. May 16th, 2008 | 12:49 am

    Dear Mr. Werner, I have listened to the podcast and all I can say is the more you protest about the things the worse case you make for the PEC. You complain about Mr. Spencer’s numbers and say they are somehow different from “facts”- I’m not sure what that means. You say that debate is over and we need to move on but the facts seem to have changed. You were insulting and condescending. You have almost changed my mind; before listening podcast I thought this new argument was rubbish. Now I’m not so sure

    During the podcast you seem to take credit with some other enviros for thwarting the James River pipeline; no local politicians were behind the James River option for a moment. That plan was DOA. This is all about the Mormons River and the chance to take water that might be used for growth and dedicated to a river that once started could be a shining example of the power of the PEC. It no accident that the anti growth group Charlottesville Tomorrow’s board member is now the Chairman of the PEC. This is about the environment (which I applaud) but it is also about preventing growth, PEC is being disingenuous by pretending otherwise.

    You say during the podcast that just dredging alone will not work. No one is saying we should only dredge; it is a part of a plan not the sole option. You said the dam had to be replaced and were corrected by Mr. Spencer. It needs to be fixed not replaced. You ignore the fact that local water demands have actually dropped. The public conservation effort actually has made a huge difference and I can’t tell if those new numbers are being considered in the older plan. Further DEQ approval is neither a stamp of the best plan nor the best use of taxpayer dollars just that the plan presented meet state guidelines. The PEC has been representing that DEQ approval as something it is not kosher.

    You were wrong on dewatering cost estimates and the facts on dredging cost have been shown to be much lower than you claim. PEC has only have ONE firm that supports those dredging costs and not one other firm that backs that number. This seems to be a fact that needs to have more study. You pretend that Mr. Spencer attacked you personally and that is a canard. I have supported the PEC in the past, your performance has put that in jeopardy.

    I will continue to watch this debate with a more open mind; you should try it as well.

  • Cville Eye May 16th, 2008 | 9:53 am

    Now that the BoS has unanimously come out in support of the current RWSA plan, it’s obviously a done-deal. Mr. Werner and PEC have moved on and now are invovled in formulating the city’s storm water management program. The public was not invited to participate, just to comment later during a public hearing. It must be nice to be a member of the privileged.

  • water observer May 16th, 2008 | 1:10 pm

    Cville Eye says: “Has anyone questioned who first brought up piping in water from the James? …I have never believed that the James River was a serious option. It was only thrown out so that people would rally around the current plan.”

    Kevin Lynch seemed pretty concerned about it just a couple years ago.


    From the Daily Progress, Feb. 2005.

    “Others argue that a limitless supply of water from the James would only result in limitless development for a region already struggling to control growth.

    “This pipeline,” Charlottesville City Councilor Kevin Lynch warns, “would be a massive subsidy to the development community.”

    Lynch, however, argues that the proposal has found favor among RWSA officials. He notes that the plan was presented with a $100 million price tag last July, but that the RWSA revised the estimate in January to only $49 million.”

    “With all due respect for staff,” he said, “you can tell where they are trying to direct the conversation.”

  • County Farmer May 16th, 2008 | 1:14 pm

    I hope the voters of Albemarle/Charlottesville(and Virginia) are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! This of course must include those who have repeatedly voted in supervisors like Thomas, Rooker, Slutzky and Mallek(as well as other state tax and spend democrates) whom under the ruse of conservation continue to vote to tax and spend. These four supervisors are creating a hostile environment for landowners of Albemarle county. I personally have seen my real estate taxes increase 50% since 2005. Though the BOS does not assess property for tax purposes they certainly set the tax rate based on their spending habits. The local budget has been increasing at a rate that has essentially been tied to the increases in real estate tax assessment(15% roughly) and revenues which for the past 5 years has been overly inflated and not sustainable. However, instead of planning ahead and saving for inevitable lean years(now), these tax and spend supervisors have declared war on the small landowners exemplified by their decisions to make it more difficult if not impossible to develop property and more difficult to keep it in a tax deferred state(land use). All very nonprudent(to quote Mr. Crutchfield) decisions. These same BOS members have no problem approving the huge developments like Biscuit Run that create the most infrastructure problems for the city and county and do so without demanding guaranteed proffers.

    Now these same brilliant BOS members want to have a revalidation process for landowners in order to keep their farm land in a tax deferred status. Sally Thomas says some landowners cut grass and sell it for feed in order to qualify(I wonder if that is how she qualifies for tax deferral on her property). This type of irresponsible statement makes one wonder if she is clueless with regard to the time and effort and cost of equipment for making hay not to mention the fact that there has been a hay shortage in this country and Albemarle has been fortunate in that regard. If the production of hay in the near future(next BOS vote) will not allow farm land to be considered as farm use property then I and others will be forced to place cows on the property which are probably the single most damaging decision one can make for streams and water quality(lots of e-coli). Another nonprudent decision. Why don’t they vote to tax defer farm land for not having cattle on it to ruin the streams and water quality? That would be prudent. Mr. Rooker says he will raise the bar a little bit. The “bar” he refers to is reduction in landowner rights and his telling you what you can and cannot do with your property(new proposal that you cannot develop it for 4-10 years). Mr. Rooker also states there is land in the deferral program that the owners are looking to flip. I would like him to be more specific. Do the owners live on the property and consider it home? Mr. Slutzky want’s to force landowners to put their land in a conservation easement or else higher taxes. Another example of using their position and taxation to force you to do their will.

    This leads into the discussion that Virginia should have a statewide MANDATORY homestead exemption law in place and even better a cap on future increases in real estate taxes for primary homeowners.

    Until you the voters are willing to force a state wide referendum on these issues and vote out the legislators that only listen to the business paid lobbyists then you only have yourselves to blame.

  • Cville Eye May 16th, 2008 | 3:14 pm

    water observer, very informative link — thinks loads. As of February 2005, evidently Gannett Fleming had brought forth four options, including the James which was actually looked at little closer than superficially. I guess the orginal $13.1M proposal had been discarded by then.
    Here is a very telling statement made in 2005:”But the clock is ticking. Without additional water storage, demand is expected to surpass supply by 2008.” Rush, rush, rush.
    Another:”State dam safety officials said that applying for an extension is an option. Frederick has said the RWSA will not, and that a decision needs to be made.” Again, 2005. Rush, rush, rush. He’s also saying that the state will not allow another extension. Can Mr. Frederick be believed?
    And another “By the end of the last major drought, officials said they had reached a turning point, that a long-term plan was in hand and that decisions could finally be made.
    That was more than two years ago.” I guess something mysteriously caused them to change their minds from the $13.1M plan they had agreed upon in 2004.

  • Kevin Lynch May 16th, 2008 | 8:01 pm

    There is no question that the environmental community (including myself) got played when Ragged Mountain was chosen as the preferred alternative. There are even a few well meaning folks like Jeff who still believe that this was an idea put forward by environmentalists. This email from Mike Gaffney, shortly after the RMR solution was put forward, ought to dispel that idea.

    All of us environmentalist types were so busy congratulating ourselves about the Ragged Mountain solution and how we had saved the community from an expensive growth subsidy (the James River pipeline), that we forgot to ask ourselves how we nearly got sold down the river in the first place.

    The reason that Ragged Mountain looked like such a good solution in 2005 is that Gannett Fleming told us over and over again that dredging was prohibitively expensive. If you still believe that dredging would cost $223 million dollars, then yes, enlarging Ragged Mountain and pumping 25 million gallons per day, nine and half miles and 300 feet uphill still looks somewhat reasonable. But now we know that these outrageous claims of dredging costs simply do not hold water. When we can restore the South Fork to its original condition for 24 million dollars or less, suddenly that 142 million dollars of shiny new pumps and pipes and concrete doesn’t look like such a bargain.

    This community used to believe in something called sustainability, which is why dredging was part of our original 2002 water supply plan (which we have been paying for by the way, even though nothing has been done in six years). When we originally hired Gannett Fleming in 2003, part of their job description was to do the engineering for dredging. Three months later, they told the Rivanna board it would be too expensive (back then, too expensive meant 42 million dollars). Next they told the board that raising the South Fork reservoir with a four foot bladder (also part of their original job description) was unlikely to get permitted. So what should we do? Two years and millions of dollars in consulting fees later and the answer is … surprise! Dams and pipelines! How convenient!

    Some of us were not convinced that dams and pipelines were the answer, and I give Jeff credit for being one of those folks. Sally Thomas and Dennis Rooker also deserve a lot of credit for not swallowing the company line (and more recently others on Council and BOS have raised similar questions). Why not dredge we asked? It solves most of our water supply problem and other communities are doing it much cheaper. When we asked, Gannett Flemming came up with more hand waving, increased the dredging estimate again (and again), and then sent us a bill for their troubles.

    What Gannett Fleming never told the public, or the Rivanna board for that matter (at least not according to the records we FOIA’ed) was that while they were blowing smoke up our collective asses about the prohibitive costs of dredging, two dredging firms with operations in Virginia had come forward with proposals for doing the job at a fraction of the cost. Dock Doctors and Blue Ridge Sand both deserve credit for trying to creatively solve the problem. But their proposals never saw the light of day. If it were not for the reporting of the Hook we never would have known about them. While Hawes may not be a “water expert”, he has done a whole lot more actual work to solve the dredging question than any number of people who got paid with our water bills to supposedly solve the problem, and we should thank him for this.

    When we saw the proposals of Dock Doctors and Blue Ridge Sand in the FOIA’ed documents of Rivanna, we were naturally outraged. How did this happen we asked? Why hasn’t Gannett Flemming been fired for this? What other cost numbers in our water plan might also be misstated by an order of magnitude? For some reason, instead of answers from the Rivanna board, all we got was talking points. “Well, those proposals are old now …. The price of diesel has gone up … the land they were going to buy for storage is no longer for sale … the airport might not need a new runway after all … too late, you missed your chance for questions … full steam ahead with the Emperor’s New Water Plan!”

    Now we have a new proposal from a local consortium of firms with plenty of expertise, capital, a good site for dewatering and long term storage capacity if necessary. And these arent the only folks looking at how to solve the problem. I believe that with a competitive bidding process and better information on the sediment composition, we can get the initial cost of dredging below 20 million dollars. If we build forbays to capture the incoming sand, gravel and clay where it can be easily removed, the value of the material could pay for future maintenance for the next 50 years. Dredging the material costs around 7 dollars a yard. Sand for concrete sells for 30-40 dollars a yard. Gravel for asphalt is around 15-20 dollars a yard. The airport is planning to spend 12 dollars a yard for fill. Do the math.

    By dredging the South Fork Reservoir and keeping it properly maintained we can add 5.5mgd of capacity to our system. That’s more than half of the 50 year water need, even if you believe Gannett Fleming’s inflated water demand estimates which overstate future population, understate conservation in a drought and ignore the fact that for the past ten years our water demand has actually been dropping as we have become more efficient in our use of water. If you take these factors into account, dredging can easily provide two thirds of our 50 year need – maybe more.

    So why isnt the latest proposal by DDR great news? Why arent public officials talking about which parts of our expensive 142 million dollar water supply system are now no longer necessary? About how we can reduce our environmental footprint at a very reasonable cost? Maybe even lower the water rate? Why indeed?

    The answer my friends is that even when they don’t realize it, bureaucracies love to grow. Government bureaucracies especially! Bigger pipes, bigger dams, pumps and bigger water bills make for bigger paychecks and bigger departments. Bigger desks! Bigger toys! Bigger pension plans. The board of Rivanna is four bureaucrats and a developer. That’s a recipe for a cash burnin’ clear cuttin’ dam buildin’ high water pumping machine! Toss Gannett Fleming and a 30 million dollar cash reserve (thanks ratepayers!) into the mix and now the embiggening machine is running on all cylinders and belching smoke. And the best part is (depending on your perspective of course) none of them are accountable to the public!

    Fortunately, the Rivanna board IS accountable to the elected officials (at least in theory – in practice this doesn’t seem to always happen). And the elected officials are accountable to the public. Which is you.

    If you are tired of seeing your water bill being used to finance a New Deal program for bureaucrats and consultants, please come to Monday’s City Council meeting and go to the next Board of Supervisors meeting. Tell them that they’ve been stalling long enough! Its time to move forward on dredging now – starting with a sediment survey right now and followed by a request for bids to restore the reservoir to its original storage as soon as the survey is done. They can call it maintenance or restoration or whatever else they want to call it as long as they call it done! Otherwise prepare to pay dearly for the next 15 years while Rivanna’s board builds their pipe dreams at your expense.

  • willing to listen May 16th, 2008 | 8:48 pm

    Interesting points. I’m still wondering about all of the other parts of the 142 million plan that have been portrayed as “required maintenance” costs, such as repairing pipelines (no need for a new one?), upgrading water treatment plants etc. It would be really helpful if you could lay out an alternative scenario with item by item costs. Without that, it’s really hard to compare the two plans.

    Also a roughly 4mgb gap is a pretty big one to make up through conservation. Where would that come from? For such a critical part of a community’s well-being, is it worth taking a chance? What if we end up with too much water (the plan lasts for 60 years, instead of 50)…is that such a bad thing? Thanks for all of your time and effort on this important issue.

  • C'villeVoter May 17th, 2008 | 5:15 pm

    Since when does the Nature Conservancy fund its projects by taxing needy residents who can afford it the least? The $143 million dollar water plan is not just about water, it’s about restoring flow to the Moormans River, which would be a good thing. But the huge cost of this project will be paid for by water rate increases in Charlottesville and the urban ring in the county. Most county residents (including those who will benefit most directly from the increased flow to the Moormans) will not pay a dime. This is especially problematic when we can meet virtually all of our long-term water needs by dredging the South Fork reservoir for $120 million less than the Nature Conservancy’s plan. Wake up, everybody, just because this plan has “Nature Conservancy” stamped on it does not mean it is in the best interests of the community, especially the part of the community who will actually pay for it.




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