Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Better Path Forward on Water

City Council is on the verge of making some major decisions regarding our City-owned reservoirs and our region’s long-term water supply plan.

Many hard questions have been asked about that plan, and we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies to examine our alternatives. Let’s take a quick look at what we now know.

First, we now know that we don’t need to build a new dam at Ragged Mountain. The existing dam is in excellent shape (save for an inadequate spillway) and renovating/expanding that dam will save us millions of dollars vs. building a massive new dam.

Second, we now know that dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir would be much cheaper and will produce more storage capacity than we once thought.

Third, we now know that the original projection of water demand significantly overstated how much water we’d be using today, and very likely overstated how much water we’d be using 50 years from now. We also now know that projecting long-term demand for water is an inexact science at best. Thanks to advances in water conservation and efficiency, we do know we’re getting much smarter about the way we use water.

Given what we now know, I propose we immediately take the following steps:

1. Get moving on dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, using a market-oriented approach in which we only dredge as much fill as we can sell or use at any given time. It’s the quickest way to produce real water gains and guard against another drought; frankly, we should have been dredging the reservoir all along.

2. Repair the spillway at the Ragged Mountain Dam. While we’ve got the heavy equipment in place to do that, add 13 feet to the dam (which would increase the size of the reservoir but not so much that it encroaches on I-64) and shore up the dam’s base to accommodate additional height in the future if necessary.

Through these two steps, we are projected to meet all of our water needs for at least 40 years and save tens of millions of dollars over the current plan. This approach will also give us the ability to assess actual long-term trends in water consumption and give us the nimbleness to readily add capacity if we need it – instead of incurring a huge amount of debt now for capacity we don’t know we’ll need.

Finally, this approach will allow us to minimize devastation of the forest ecology at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. The current plan calls for up to 60,000 trees across 200 acres of biologically-rich forest – an area that’s been called one of the crown jewels of our regional forest system -- to be clear-cut. Yes, there are plans in place to plant replacement trees elsewhere in the County, but as an ecologically-minded, tree-friendly community, we should do what we can to minimize destruction of our natural environment when there are better alternatives available. Especially when those alternatives also happen save our citizens a tremendous amount of money.


ucopa said...

Right on!! Makes (better) sense to me. Hope the rest of City Council agrees with you.

another conservative relative said...

Cool. Fiscally responsible and it ecologically conscious at the same time. Everybody wins!

Anonymous said...

yes! and we should also look at beaver creek reservoir as a resource.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful and shows real leadership. As someone not involved in this issue, and with no agenda, this approach seems clear, concise, commonsense and resourceful. I see no reason anyone now would vote against this pro business and pro environment proposal.

richard statman said...

on point and on the mark.
thank you for taking the time
and posting your views and
proposal on this issue.

energymatt said...

Yes, this is a balanced approach that is realistic response using a variety of methods to insure demand , First of all it acknowledges that incentives for reduction work. (rebates) and our response to the 2002 water restrictions (who wants to eat off paper plates in their fave resturants? This is a lot like the NEGA WATT revolution that provided incentives for reduction of electrical use and avoid costly and damaging construction of new plants. Ironically Ralph Nader is in town talking about that revolution, (its actually Amoury Louvins inspired) Lets show the area we can have a NEGA-WATERACRE revolution, LETS DREDGE< MEASURE< MAKE PRUDENT DAM improvements, and preserve our beauticious forrests and lower our debt load... Tell Mike GAFFNEY to go build some luxury homes and leave water supply to wiser, more prudent decision makers.

Anonymous said...

Excellent recommendation from you Dave!
We have lived on the Rivanna Reservoir for 35 years,view and appreciate its beauty daily, use it regularly for recreation, enjoy the UVA Crew teams and other rowers, and are happy to donate some of our land for depositing dredge material. This is both a cost effective and sustainable choice, and whole-heartedly support it.
Robert and Bobbi Grant Llewellyn

Anonymous said...

It really is refreshing to find a politician who appreciates truth and does his homework.

This whole water debate has been a roadshow of Washington politics - lies upon lies with lots of people patting themselves on the back and issuing press releases (sometimes disguised as journalism). Makes it hard not to laugh when the old "world class city" line is trotted out.

I haven't always agreed with you, Mr. Mayor, but you have won me over on this one. Without your intelligence, perseverance, and attention to detail the proposed water plan probably would have sailed through by now- and we ALL would have paid the price.

I sure hope you can prevail, but at least 2 members of council seem to have their fingers in their ears and their hands over their eyes.

Good luck. Your efforts have won my vote in the future.

Anonymous said...

Ive rarely seen a politician make so much practical sense.

Anonymous said...

Norris' statement here is the obvious, best, and only solution. And it's been obvious all along.

There should also be an investigation into why there was so much effort to was put into promoting the other massively expensive, complicated, and unnecessary option. Why was so much effort made to deceive about how dredging would be much cheaper and better?

Follow the money.

Anonymous said...

There is no real evidence that we "need" the expanded reservoir. Furthermore, the County says it will pay for its own growth, but there is no reason to believe them. I live in the County, in Crozet, were we were promised a new library. But now the County says it doesn't have the money now, and doesn't know if it ever will. The point is that the County has already reneged on projects it has said it will support. Charlottesville could well be left holding the bag. Think of the hotel project on the Mall and ask if you want a dam project like that.

Katurah said...

Well said Dave, two clear concise steps, both with good value for the dollars spent. This shows common sense and a practical application of the necessary improvements. Maintaining what we already have in place and providing expansion of a resource to provide for the future. The question remains, what is the most practical way to supply water to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir? Does vacating the line from Sugar Hollow and installing a new line from the South Fork make the most sense and good use of our dollars?

Donald said...

Thanks Dave. The original project's goals have always seemed grandiose and,one must suspect, tailored to meet the future needs of developers rather than of residents. The sustained dredging proposal and the dam repairs strike me as the things that we should do even if they will not be seen by some as career making professional accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

How long will it take and is it likely we can get DEQ, DCR and EPA approval of Dredging and Ragged Mountain Dam repair/increase.

What is cost to repair Sugar Hollow pipe line to keep filling Ragged Mountain and will DEQ allow/approve the continued impact on Morman River.