RMNA

Red Herrings Report
....the Myths they want you to believe

Red Herring is a statement that is misleading or that has been falsified, intended to divert attention.


Charlottesville ... we have a problem!
Red Herrings are being spawned to discourage debate about the Community Water Supply Plan. They have become so pervasive that any fair evaluation of the plan is severely compromised.

Below is a list of what we believe are Red Herrings. Our goal is to focus the public debate concerning the Community Water Plan on reliable facts and discourage those who continue to introduce more Red Herrings. This is an attempt to remove these foul fish from the public debate and clear the water.

Look for opportunities to "listen" to the original statement.

The Red Herring Report has been divided into Sections according to:

  1. ASSUMPTIONS UPON WHICH THE PLAN IS BASED,
  2. COMPONENTS of the plan and
  3. STRATEGY to garner pubic support,

JUMP TO TOPICS

Environmental Impact: Beneficial or Disastrous?


Of all the red herrings swimming in this river of debate, the myth of environmental responsibility may be the most abused. The creators of the plan have convinced well-meaning environmentalists that their project is the most sustainable of the options when in fact it destroys far more natural resources than it benefits.

The Nature Conservancy became involved in the RWSA future water plan in 2004. Brian Richter, author of "Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature," worked with RWSA to integrate TNC work with instream flow into the water plan. Ridge Schuyler of TNC became a major spokesperson for the plan. This is why it is so ironic that the plan appears to contradict the principles in TNC's "freshwater initiative" as described in this book.
In a 2007 memo from RWSA executive director, Tom Frederick cites Rivers for Life as the basis for the water plan.

RED HERRING # 1
"The Community Water Plan will "save" the Moormans River. "

THE TRUTH IS :
The Moormans River does not need saving. Only about 20% of its volume is drawn for water on average each year. This table , using RWSA data, shows the impact of current water withdrawal from the SH dam.

In Rivers for Life, Brian Richter of The Nature Conservancy embraces the Tennant Method that states that " to sustain "optimum" biological conditions, 60-100 percent of a river's average flow needs to be protected. To provide "excellent habitat;' only 30-50 percent of the flow might be needed." \

On average - in the Moormans River only one month of the year falls below the low of 60% needed to sustain optimal conditions.

RED HERRING # 2
"The plan restores natural stream flows to the Moormans River."

THE TRUTH IS :
The Moormans River is a small and "flashy" waterway, which means it vacillates widely from a very high flow in storm events to very low, in the summertime. The water plan will release water into the Moormans from the Sugar Hollow dam in times when it would naturally be dry. This plan is an ecologically disastrous practice, in stark contradiction to "Rivers for Life" in which they say, if you need to transport water from a dam.... PIPE IT.
Listen: Liz Palmer talks about plans to release water from SH.
Listen: Tom Frederick talk about his relationship to Richter and the TNC

From Richter's "Rivers for Life", pp 154-5

A TNC research team looked at water management systems where water was released from a dam to run downriver to a catchment. The Nature Conservancy scientists believed that the flow alterations associated with the dam were causing serious problems for the river's mussels and fish..... In particular, they were concerned about the autumn transitions. During a time when the river's flow would naturally have been low, prolonged, out-of-season high flows were harmful to fish spawning and mussel reproduction occurring during this time, perhaps even flushing some mussels and small fish downstream.

RED HERRING # 3
"From an environmental point of view, this is a great plan, it balances the needs of the river with the human needs."
Listen: Liz Palmer at Democratic breakfast on 2/21/09.
THE TRUTH IS :
The water plan does not benefit EITHER human or natural needs. The plan cuts off the cleanest water in our system and uses that water to "supercharge" the Moormans River at a time when it should be low flow.

Since the 1920s, the Moormans River has been identified as the cleanest water source in our community. In 2003, a letter from Virginia Department of Health warned that our drinking water will DECLINE in quality if we cut off access to the Sugar Hollow Reservoir. "Sugar Hollow represents an excellent raw water source and the Department would encourage its maximum utilization."

Nationwide, cities known for high quality drinking water, like New York City, which derives its water from the Catskills, pipe their water from the mountains, with the blessing of environmental organizations. Rivers for Life puts it this way, "All filtration does is solve a problem. Preventing the problem, through watershed protection, is faster, cheaper, and has lots of other benefits.'

RED HERRING #4
"The South Fork Rivanna River will also have required minimum flows as part of this plan."

THE TRUTH IS :
This is a classic tactic of using a fact to mislead the public. Today, RWSA releases a minimum of 8 mgd of water downstream of the SFRR dam on a voluntary but regular basis. The plan introduces a mandatory release but REDUCES THE RELEASE TO 1.3 mgd - barely a firehose into a major river. Compare this to the 10 mgd to be released into the Moormans, a river that is a fraction of the size of the Rivanna. See full DEQ permit.

RED HERRING # 5
“On average, [the new] pipeline would operate fewer than 20 days a year because the [reservoir] is there for use during times of drought,”

THE TRUTH IS :
Given the size of the new Ragged Mt reservoir and the need to process water at the RMR associated water treatement plant, THIS STATEMENT IS IMPOSSIBLE. Limiting water withdrawal from the Rivanna River to be sent to Ragged Mt. to 20 days a year cannot maintain function in the expanded water supply system.

According to the DEQ permit, the maximum volume of water that is allowed to be pumped through the new pipleine is 25 MGD - and then only if the Rivanna River is at high flow (over 40 MGD)
Twenty days at the max of 25 MGD = 500 MG.
The new reservoir, at 2.7 billion gallons, would require more than five years to fill at that rate. More importantly, the new pipeline and/or the RMR must provide the water on a daily basis that is treated at the Observatory Water Treatment Plant (OWTP). The OWTP, now permitted to treat 6-7 MGD is slated to be expanded to 10 MGD. At that expanded size, 3.6 billion gallons will be pumped each year from the Rivanna River to be treated at OWTP, requiring a minimum of 144 days pumped at the maximum permitted intake of 25 MGD.

RED HERRING #6
"Enlarging an existing reservoir results in a smaller footprint of environmental impact as compared to building a new reservoir"

THE TRUTH IS :
That may be true, but RESTORING an existing reservoir (SFRR) is much less environmentally damaging than ENLARGING an existing reservoir (RMR). Flooding the Ragged Mountain Natural Area will require clearcutting 180 acres of mature forest that has been cited as exceptional wildlife habitat. In addition the creation of 5 miles of roads will fragment much of the remaining forest, a practice that threatens the survival rate of important migratory and resident species.

RED HERRING # 7
"The current plan is the "least environmentally damaging and practicable alternative."
THE TRUTH IS :
The state requires that a water supply proposal is the "least environmentally damaging alternative." - unless it is NOT "practicable."
DREDGING the SFRR is the least environmentally damaging solution.
In order to get their permit proposal approved, RWSA had to convince DEQ that dredging the SFRR was too expensive to implement. Gannett Fleming did this by raising the estimate for dredging from 40 million in 2003 to 145 million in 2004 and again to 225 million in 2007
In June 2005, state regulators relented and said this about dredging:

"the potential costs of this project and the uncertainties in the possibilities for reducing these costs, the regulatory agencies would not require Rivanna to consider this concept further toward an application for the 9.9 MGD water supply increase.” NOTE THE WORD REQUIRE.

RED HERRING #8
"One environmental benefit is a mitigation plan that provides 200 acres of new forest, and restores 75,500 linear feet of streams near Buck Mountain Creek in the County."

THE TRUTH IS :
200 acres of saplings in far western Albemarle, along a pristine creek, is NOT equivalent mitigation for clearing 180 acres of mature forest, cited for its exceptional wildlife habitat, in a city park.
Charlottesville has the most impaired streams in the area yet no mitigation was seriously considered for those streams, where the greatest impact could have been seen.
RWSA OWNS the land on which the stream and wetland mitigation will be implemented -- paid for by city and county water rate payers.

RED HERRING #9
"The plan meets area needs in the “most practical, environmentally sound and economical way possible.”

THE TRUTH IS :
This is part of a longer resolution that Liz Palmer, an avid water plan advocate wrote for county BOS candidates to sign. Four of the six candidates signed it, claiming they had "independently reviewed the specifics of our community’s long-term Water Supply Plan."
But how can that be? The Community Water Supply Plan currently has:
NO design,
NO cost estimate and
NO path for the new pipeline.
Without a design, how can it possibly be practical? Without a cost estimate, how can it possibly be economical? Given the loss of 180 acres of mature forest and the degradation of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, how can it possibly be environmentally sound?
Listen: Liz Palmer on leaving the problem of SFRR to those in 2055.

RED HERRING #10
"The new Ragged Mountain Reservoir will decrease the likelihood of a hazardous materials spill entering our water reserves by providing improvements to intercept any spilled materials before the pool of water is affected."

THE TRUTH IS :
The new Ragged Mountain Reservoir (RMR) will greatly INCREASE the impact of hazardous spills from Interstate 64 for three important reasons.

1) Today, the RMR is a minor component of a robust 3-reservoir system. Under the new plan, RMR would become the ONLY reservoir for the urban system.

2) While the current reservoir is approximately 1200 feet from Interstate 64, the new expanded reservoir would be brought directly under I-64, and up the embankments on both sides of I-64. The embankment beneath I-64 is composed of relatively loosely placed boulders, cobbles, and finer materials. There has been little to no analysis of the impact to this material due to long-term saturation and drainage of the embankment.

3) Furthermore there are NO plans to provide any improvements to intercept spilled materials. In fact, when Rivanna's consultant studied adding such improvements in 2008, they concluded that it would be too costly, recommending the "do nothing " option.

In summary, the narrow existing shoulders, shallow existing median and steep embankments along the 1-64 corridor make constructing runoff/spill material storage or diversion alternatives a costly endeavor. The "do nothing" alternative or the local hazmat team alternative might be more reasonable if isolating the Ragged Mountain reservoir for clean up is feasible.

Demand and Conservation:
How much water will we need in 2055


There is NOTHING more FUNDAMENTAL to the Community Water Supply Plan than an accurate DEMAND ANALYSIS. How much water will our community need in the future?

The current plan was sized according to a "Demand Analysis" that forecast how much water per day our community would need in 2055 (50 years.) RWSA consultants, Gannett Fleming (GF), who have since been fired, based their study on several assumptions which have since proven wrong.
They used 30 years of data through 2001. However, starting in 2000, water use started to decline due to a number of sustainable conservation practices. It is now 25% below the projections the plan is based on.

Albemarle Water Resource Manager Greg Harper wrote an excellent analysis of demand in May 2008. Harper advocates a "soft path" to meet future needs over the "hard path" of concrete and steel.
Given the faulty assumptions which led to faulty projections along with the decade-long trend in declining water use.... A NEW DEMAND ANALYSIS IS NEEDED!

RED HERRING #11
"Our community is growing and we are using more water."

THE TRUTH IS :
According to the Census Bureau, since 2000 our area has grown 12%, yet water use has DECLINED 20% in that same time period.

Despite population growth and increased hook-ups, we are using 28% less water than the Demand Analysis for the Community Water Supply Plan projected for 2008. In fact water use has been below projections EVERY YEAR since 2000. Water use continues to decline -- a downward trend in water consumption on its way to putting 2010 in the record books for the lowest water use in recent history.
Water use peaked in 1999 and has been coming down ever since. Why? Because we have implemented permanent changes in our water usage.  Low flow showers, front loading washing machines, golf courses are off the system and car washes are mandated to use recycled water - among others. Welcome to the 21st century.

RED HERRING #11
"The University of Virginia is planning to grow and will need more water "

THE TRUTH IS :
While UVA is a major employer and influence in the Charlottesville area, it is NOT a major user of water. UVA uses about 15% of the water sold in the Urban Area and that has fallen in the last decade.
UVA has been a leader in the conservation of water, reducing its per capita use by 30% from 1999 to 2006. Since that time, it has increased its square footage by xxxxx yet is still 20% below its peak use in 1999. .

RED HERRING #12
"The state requires us to have a 50-year plan."

THE TRUTH IS :
The state requires a minimum 30-year timeframe - with the option of up to but NOT BEYOND 50 years. But the current water plan is not even the state required plan. In 2011, the state will require localities to have a regional water plan that must include a new and expanded demand analysis, something the pro-plan folks fear. As Mayor Dave Norris recognized on 2/21/09 at a water forum "We have still not submitted to the state our official 50-year water supply plan."

RED HERRING # 13
"There is no reason to question Gannett Fleming’s 2004 demand analysis"

THE TRUTH IS :
The urban area is using 28% less water than the GF Demand Analysis projected for 2010. In fact, water use has been below the demand analysis projections every year since 2000.
At a City Council meeting, Tom Frederick conceded that,

"If the assumptions hold that demand in the future will forever stay below what was projected by Gannett Fleming then the 50-year need would be smaller."
Listen
Gannett Fleming was fired in the spring of 2009 after being paid millions in consulting fees and studies. Much of that work is being redone.
Listen: Tom Frederick on reluctance to question demand despite lingering declines

RED HERRING # 14
"The recent report of a decline in water use is an anomaly."

THE TRUTH IS :
Despite population growth, water use has been declining for nearly a decade.
The decline in water use started in 2000 and continues today. It is not unusual to see a lingering conservation effect a year or two after a drought but it has now been 7 years since the drought, and declining water use continues.

RED HERRING # 15
"If we don’t store enough water we could face a public health crisis"

THE TRUTH IS :
We face a greater probability of a public health crisis WITH the plan than without it, in three important areas.

  • The Virginia Department of Health (VDOH) warned that our drinking water will DECLINE in quality if we proceed with this plan to cut off access to the Sugar Hollow Reservoir. A letter from VDOH, encourages local officials to "maximize" the use of the Moormans water and warns of our other water resources.
    "Sugar Hollow represents an excellent raw water source and the Department would encourage its maximum utilization."
    "All of these water sources have been rated as highly susceptible to contamination except Sugar Hollow/Ragged Mt which has been rated as moderate."
  • In addition, the Community Water Plan will abandon our three existing reservoirs for one large one that will flow under Interstate 64 .
    One hazardous spill and our whole supply is contaminated.
  • The plan is designed under the assumption that the SFRR will silt in. This allows five million cubic yards of sediment to build up behind an aging dam -- immediately upstream from the city of Charlottesville. It is an environmental accident waiting to happen.
    Listen: Liz Palmer on leaving the problem of SFRR to those in 2055.
And this isn't a public health hazard?

RED HERRING #16
"We have maximized our conservation efforts"

THE TRUTH IS :
The Demand Analysis upon which the Community Water Plan is sized, assumes a 5% conservation rate. We are already at 28% conservation even though Virginia has yet to change its laws to allow large scale rainharvesting.

In his 2008 paper, "Are we overestimating our future water needs?
- an updated inquiry into data and assumptions - "
AC Water Resource Manager Greg Harper outlines a decades-long progress in water conservation largely ignored by RWSA and advocates a conservation based approach to future water needs.

Fixing the leaks in distribution pipes, an ongoing project for both city and county, will reduce our useage by another 10% or more.
(Listen: Liz Palmer reports a 17-18% leak rate)
Most toilets in the area are still high flow and soon washing machine retrofits will follow, cutting residential water use nearly in half.All new development and growth will be required to utilize high efficiency appliances and technology. New business, especially the high water users, will be the pioneers of water conservation technology. The water conservation revolution has hardly begun. We need leaders with vision ... not hold-outs to the last century.

BACK TO TOPICS

Dredging the SFRR as part of the future water supply plan


Nothing has been as controversial as the idea of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir (SFRR) to regain water capacity. City Council has insisted on a legitimate dredging study to compare costs and restoration potential. The proponents of the "plan" appear to fear this study as much as re-examining our future need for water. They have attempted to stop it at many levels, including convening a task force that effectively stalled the study by one year.

RED HERRING # 16
"Dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir will cost 225 million dollars ."

THE TRUTH IS :
This is an absurb number. The Panama Canal cost less than 225 million. to dredge.
In 2003, RWSA consultants Gannett Fleming estimated the cost of dredging the SFRR at 40 million. In 2004 they raised the estimate to 145 million without doing any further field work. In 2008, they wrote a letter to RWSA raising the estimate to 225 million. but only after RWSA Director Tom Frederick state this new number publicly in November 2007..

RED HERRING #8
"One environmental benefit is a mitigation plan that provides 200 acres of new forest, and restores 75,500 linear feet of streams near Buck Mountain Creek in the County."

THE TRUTH IS :
200 acres of saplings in far western Albemarle, along a pristine creek, is NOT equivalent mitigation for clearing 180 acres of mature forest, cited for its exceptional wildlife habitat, in a city park.
Charlottesville has the most impaired streams in the area yet no mitigation was seriously considered for those streams, where the greatest impact could have been seen.
RWSA OWNS the land on which the stream and wetland mitigation will be implemented -- paid for by city and county water rate payers.

RED HERRING # 17
"The SFRR will not be abandoned as part of the plan.
"
THE TRUTH IS :
According to the current plan, the SFRR will be allowed to silt in to 20% of its original capacity (1,250 MG down to 200 MG)

In fact, in Tom Frederick's own words, "..about one-third of the new water storage proposed at Ragged Mountain is to replace storage expected to be lost at South Fork in the next 50 years."
This figure doesn't even account for the storage capacity already lost! Half the total volume of useable water at Ragged Mt will equal that lost at SFRR.
Listen: Liz Palmer on leaving the problem of SFRR to those in 2055.

RED HERRING # 18
"Dredging alone does not supply enough water for the 50 year water plan."

THE TRUTH IS :
Dredging alone CAN fulfill our 50-year needs if the decade-long decline in water use is factored into the projections. The projections used for the plan are now 25% too high. Restoring the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to 80% of its original capacity will yield enough capacity alone to satisfy a safe yield 25% below Gannett Fleming’s high estimates.

Restoring and preserving the resources WE ALREADY OWN combined with the emergency use of water sources already linked to the water treatment systems, such as Beaver Creek, Lake Albemarle, and Chris Greene as back up systems in the case of extreme drought would bring us above and beyond the even inflated safe yield numbers the current plan provides.

RED HERRING # 19
"Dredging was taken off the table because it didn’t supply the water that we needed".

THE TRUTH IS :
Dredging was taken off the table due to the astronomically high cost estimate provided by the firm who ultimately won the contract to design the new dam.

At a meeting on June 27, 2005 state regulators concurred that RWSA would be allowed to eliminate dredging as an alternative due to its high cost, Communities are required to select the “least environmentally damaging, practicable alternative” when getting a new permit for water impoundment. Of the final four alternatives, dredging is the “least environmentally damaging” alternative, but because of the high cost estimates for dredging provided by Gannett Fleming, dredging was deemed not “practicable” and RWSA was allowed to drop it from the final selection. (see #7)

RED HERRING # 20
"A study of dredging will threaten our current permit."

THE TRUTH IS :
DEQ and ACOE officials - the regulators who issued the permits - have both confirmed that new studies will NOT prompt any change in the current permit.
“We have always been willing to consider changes,” said DEQ rep Scott Kudlas at a meeting with city and county representatives.
(Read the legal opinion released by RWSA - WHICH IS NOT TRUE)

RED HERRING # 21
"State and federal regulators will not give us a permit to dredge."
THE TRUTH IS :
In an April 18, 2005 meeting with 14 state and federal regulators, Joseph Hassell of the Department of Environmental Quality said that the DEQ had never opposed a reservoir maintenance dredging. At the same meeting Michael Schwinn of the Army Corps of Engineers told the group of local officials that unless the Rivanna silt were deposited in a wetland or waterway, his agency wouldn't require a permit to dredge the Reservoir.

RED HERRING # 22
"Dredging will create unbearable smell, noise, and truck traffic."

Listen: David Slutzky talking about the evils of dredging
THE TRUTH IS
The fact is hydraulic dredging is a safe and quiet means of restoring capacity in a reservoir and is used all over the country.

RED HERRING # 23
"Dredging will stir up toxic pollutants into our drinking water."

THE TRUTH IS :
In a technical memorandum on dredging the SFRR, samples taken of the sediment in the SFRR indicated that it was approximately 50% sand and 50% clay/silt. It goes on to report that, "The chemical analyses indicate that the material sampled in this location is likely to be non-hazardous in nature and might be reused or disposed of as appropriate."

RED HERRING # 24
"Reservoir residents do not want to dredge."
THE TRUTH IS :
In public comment and surveys during the SFRR task force, overwhelmingly the residents living around the reservoir wanted to see it dredged. Why wouldn't they!

RED HERRING # (5)
"The current plan is the least environmentally damaging alternative"
THE TRUTH IS :
Dredging is the least environmentally damaging solution.

DEQ requires that a water supply proposal is the "least environmentally damaging, practicable alternative. In order to be approved for a permit, "RWSA needed to show that dredging the SFRR was not "practicable." Gannett Fleming did this by raising the estimate for dredging from 40 million in 2003 to 145 million in 2004 and again to 225 million in 2007

In June 2005, state regulators relented and said this about dredging the SFRR:

“due to the potential costs of this project and the uncertainties in the possibilities for reducing these costs, the regulatory agencies would not require Rivanna to consider this concept further toward an application for the 9.9 MGD water supply increase.”
NOTE THE WORD REQUIRE.

RED HERRING # 25
"Dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir (SFRR) has been thoroughly analyzed and is too expensive."

THE TRUTH IS :
The one analysis done for the option to dredge the SFRR was conducted by a firm specializing in dam and pipeline building - the same firm who ultimately was awarded the contract to design the new dam and was recently fired. They estimated the cost of dredging at $40 million in 2003, raised it to $145 million in 2004 and again to $225 million in 2007 -- without any further study. Today, it is accepted that those estimates are greatly exaggerated.

BACK TO TOPICS

Pipelines: Comparing the Choices


RED HERRING # 26
"Decommissioning the Sugar Hollow pipeline will save the Moormans River."

THE TRUTH IS :
According to the new plan, which removes the SH pipeline, water from the Sugar Hollow dam will be released into the Moormans River at times when it would naturally be dry, an ecologically disastrous practice, and in stark contradiction to "Rivers for Life" in which Brian Richter of TNC says, if you need to transport water from a dam.... PIPE IT.

RED HERRING # 27
"The Sugar Hollow pipeline is old and brittle and needs to be replaced."
THE TRUTH IS :
The Sugar Hollow pipeline has had some repairs but it has not been of significant expense to RWSA. The failure to maintain the right-of-way has been of bigger concern.
Listen:
Liz Palmer on our failure to maintain the pipeline.

The Sugar Hollow pipeline is made of cast iron, circa 1920, which has a lifespan of at least 100 years. Two-thirds of the water pipe in this country is cast iron and coming of age around the same time. Rehabilitative and replacement technology is already responding to this enormous demand.

RED HERRING # 28
"To get a cost comparison between replacing the SH pipeline and building the SFRR pipeline, just compare the lengths of pipe."
THE TRUTH IS :
Using length for cost estimation is an unprofessional criterion considering the differences in the design needs of the two pipes. In addition, we do not know the alignment of the SFRR to RMR pipeline therefore the length has not been determined. 
Listen: Frederick on comparing cost by length; 10/5/09

Let's compare the concepts:

  SFRR to RMR (new) SH to RMR (replaced)
size of pipe Uphill 36" pipe requiring a heavy wall thickness to withstand the high pump pressure required to pump uphill between pumping stations. Gravity fed 18" pipe with a minimal pressure rating.
Required components/ pumps & drivers SFRR to RMR will require pumps, electric motor pump drivers, and electrical switch gear. Being gravity fed, the SH pipeline needs no pumps, drivers, or switch gear.
Required components/ pump stations These pumps will also necessitate 1-2 pump stations, buildings to house the equipment and provide security and maintenance areas.  Having no pumps, SH requires no pump stations.
required personnel & equipment The SFRR to RMR will require operators, maintenance engineers, spare parts and more for the pumping stations.  As this is a gravity fed pipe, no specialized personnel are required.
energy costs

RWSA estimates energy costs
or $12,000,000

Being gravity fed with no pumps, no ongoing energy costs are required.
pretreatment of water conveyed Water conveyed from SFRR will need to be "pretreated" to remove silt. This will require a NEW pretreatment plant, chemicals, and disposal of sludge. Water from SH is clean and clear - no pre-treatment required.
acquisition of easements The route and length are unknown, but will likely require the acquisition of easements, likely through condemnation. Easements for the SH pipeline currently exist and should still be valid.
difficulty of installation The difficulty and expense for installation is unknown. Geologic, stream and wetland impacts, and historic mitigation unknown. This pipe is already installed and therefore needs only to be replaced.

RED HERRING # 29
"It will be cheaper to build a new pipeline from the SFRR than to replace the pipeline from Sugar Hollow."

THE TRUTH IS :
According to RWSA permit document, replacing the SH pipeline would cost $12.9 million (page 41), compared to the estimate of $63 million to build a new pipeline from the SFRR - an estimate that Tom Frederick recently said will likely go up.

BACK TO TOPICS

Ragged Mountain Dam: Build New or Repair


NEW DAM: The centerpiece of the current plan was a new 135 foot dam to be built at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area, which will raise the current reservoir level by 45 vertical feet, quadrupling the volume and bringing the expanded reservoir under I-64 (page 55).
In 2007 the cost of a new concrete dam was estimated to be $37 million but skyrocketed to nearly 100 million when fractured bedrock was discovered in 2008. The dam consultant/designer has since been fired.

A new firm, Schnabel Engineering is now recommending an earthen dam bringing the cost back down to $30+ million. However, a recent study by Black and Veatch estimates that building on the existing dam will be much cheaper and enable the dam to be raised in increments. RWSA and the County oppose this PHASED approach. The City supports it..

EXISTING DAM: The existing dam has been the center of much controversy as it does not meet state regulations on dam safety due to a need to enlarge the spillway. Gannett Fleming did an extensive engineering study of the existing dam in 2003, estimating a cost of 4 million dollars to repair the dam and 13 million to enlarge it by 13 feet. Recent estimates by Black and Veatch reaffirmed that repairing and/or raising the existing dam in phases is both feasible and much more economical.

RED HERRING # 29
*The existing dam can’t be repaired"

THE TRUTH IS :
RWSA documents and a new study report that the existing dam at Ragged Mountain can be repaired and its life extended beyond 100 years. In a memo to the RWSA Board dated 11/24/09, RWSA director Tom Frederick write, "It was suggested in public comment that RWSA staff is saying that the existing Lower Ragged Mountain Dam is “going to fail.” That statement was not true."

This red herring arose after RWSA found a letter written in 1913 in which a disgruntled engineer questioned the construction of the existing dam at Ragged Mountain, citing an inadequate spillway and seepage from the concrete dam. RWSA failed to report another letter written a few months earlier in which Wilson Davis writes that:

"After examining the masonry dam at the New Reservoir I can readily assure you that there is no danger of failure even if filled to the top." "The Foundation is known to be perfectly solid granite..."
In 2003 Gannett Fleming did an extensive engineering analysis of the options for repairing the existing Ragged Mountain Dam. The report included geotech analysis of the existing foundation and dam structure and provided a number of alternatives for upgrading the dam. The preferred alternative suggested in the report was to use a roller-compacted concrete buttress to replace the existing earthfill buttress. This solution would extend the life of the dam for another 100 years, at a cost of 3.5 million dollars.

RED HERRING # 30
"It will cost more to raise the existing dam than to build a new one."

THE TRUTH IS :
There is no written or engineering documentation to substantiate this claim.
This red herring arose after City Council asked about repairing the existing dam or possibly raising it (up to 13 feet) - should we find dredging to be cost effective. On October 5, 2009, Tom Frederick reported on a CONVERSATION with Schnabel Engineering, the firm that was recently hired to design a new dam, in which they estimated that the existing dam would in fact cost MORE to raise than to build a new dam. Frederick failed to mention that he was referring to raising the existing dam 45 feet - a height not being considered for that site.

Listen: Norris specifically asks about REPAIRING the dam

In addition, no engineering went into that opinion. Frederick further said that it would cost $3-500,000 to do a study for that option, even though extensive engineering studies have been done over the years.
Listen: Tom Frederick on Schnabel's reluctance to give opinion
Listen: Tom Frederick then goes on to report opinion

Since that time, a new study commissioned by City Council and conducted by Black and Veatch found that even raising the existing dam by 45 feet was estimated to cost $12 million LESS than building a new dam.

RED HERRING # 31
"Dredging would only result in a five foot lowering of the new dam at RMR."

THE TRUTH IS
:
This red herring arose during the SFRR task force from Ridge Schuyler, a lawyer by training and TNC's representative for the plan. As it turns out, this figure was calculated assuming SFRR would be allowed to refill with silt.
It was repeated and further discussed at the Feb 21, 2009 Democratic breakfast ... Listen in to the: Discussion of the fallacies of this argument at the 2/21/09 Democratic breakfast.

RED HERRING # 33
"The plan meets area needs in the “most practical, environmentally sound and economical way possible.”"
THE TRUTH IS :
This is part of a longer resolution that Liz Palmer, an avid plan advocate wrote for county BOS candidates to sign. Four of the six candidates signed it, claiming they had "independently reviewed the specifics of our community’s long-term Water Supply Plan."
But how can that be? The Community Water Supply Plan currently has:
NO design,
NO cost estimate and
NO path for the new pipeline.
Without a design, how can it possibly be practical? Without a cost estimate, how can it possibly be economical? Given the loss of 180 acres of mature forest and the degradation of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, how can it possibly be environmentally sound?

Mr. Cummings, Mr. Snow, Mr. Rooker, and Mr. Slutzky -- I think we deserve an explanation.

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Permits: Will they or won't they


This is a favorite topic for proponents of the current plan. They have tried all sorts of tactics to instill fear that the current plan will be threatened and/or any alternative will not get permitted.

We've touched on a few of these issues above.

RED HERRING # 34
"The state requires us to have a water plan that will last 50 years."
THE TRUTH IS :
The state requires a 30-year timeframe - up to but NOT BEYOND 50 years.
In 2011, the state will require localities to have a regional water plan that must include a new and expanded demand analysis, something the pro-plan folks fear.

RED HERRING # 35
"State and federal regulators will not give us a permit to dredge."
THE TRUTH IS :
In an April 18, 2005 meeting with 14 state and federal regulators, Joseph Hassell of the Department of Environmental Quality said that the DEQ had never opposed a reservoir maintenance dredging. At the same meeting Michael Schwinn of the Army Corps of Engineers told the group of local officials that unless the Rivanna silt were deposited in a wetland or waterway, his agency wouldn't require a permit to dredge the Reservoir.

RED HERRING # 36
"We must repair or replace the existing Ragged Mountain dam by 2011, or Virginia Dam Safety will shut it down."
THE TRUTH IS :
Virginia Dam Safety has been very flexible in extending the RMR conditional permit over the years. Since this threat was made, VDS extended the permit until 2013.

RED HERRING # 37
"Any new studies or changes in the plan will threaten our current permit."
THE TRUTH IS :
DEQ and ACOE officials - the regulators who issued the permits - have both confirmed that new studies will NOT prompt any change in the current permit.
This red herring was a brazen attempt by RWSA to stop the dredging study and other obstacles to their plan. On May 18, 2009, Bill Ellis an RWSA attorney who was asked for a legal opinion on this matter, told the RWSA Board that the permits would be at risk, even though it is categorically not true.
Listen: Dave Norris on what regulators told him - the permit CAN change.

RED HERRING # 38
"The current plan is the least environmentally damaging, practicable alternative."
THE TRUTH IS :
In order to a permit, DEQ requires that a water supply proposal is the "least environmentally damaging alternative." - unless it is NOT "practicable."
DREDGING the SFRR is the least environmentally damaging solution.
In order to get their permit proposal approved, RWSA had to convince DEQ that dredging the SFRR was too expensive to implement. Gannett Fleming did this by raising the estimate for dredging from 40 million in 2003 to 145 million in 2004 and again to 225 million in 2007. 
In June 2005, state regulators relented and said this about dredging:

"the potential costs of this project and the uncertainties in the possibilities for reducing these costs, the regulatory agencies would not require Rivanna to consider this concept further toward an application for the 9.9 MGD water supply increase.” NOTE THE WORD REQUIRE.

RED HERRING # 39
"A change in the permits to include dredging as part of the future water supply would be turned down."
THE TRUTH IS :
David Slutzky, "a steadfast supporter of the approved plan," claims a DEQ official informally told him this. Contrast that to what Dave Norris heard at the same meeting

“I was most interested in seeing what would trigger a new permitting process,” said Norris. “I was reassured in the meeting that the kinds of changes I have been exploring would not necessarily cause us to have to get a new permit. There is a process in place for modifying the existing permits.”
Listen: Dave Norris on what regulators told him - the permit CAN change.

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Cost: How will we pay for this?


RED HERRING # 40
"We can build the dam without raising water rates "
THE TRUTH IS :
This statement, widely quoted, assumes that a current cost share agreement negotiated for completely different projects could be "rolled over" as those debts are paid off. The problem with this scenario is that the city has not agreed to pay for the new dam as it represents growth and the city needs no new water. Furthermore, this statement only applies to the next 5 years. It does not factor in the next $100 million of infrastructure needed to fill and process the new dam.

In a May 21, 2007 memo to the RWSA Board, director Tom Frederick stated that the dam and pipeline (given a combined price tag of 89 million) could not be built simultaneously “without a very large shock to the Urban Water Rate as well as significant uncertainty in how such large bonds for an organization our size might be rated by the bond market.” At the time of that statement, the dam estimate was $37 million. Today, the price of the dam and pipeline is estimated at 143 million.

RED HERRING # 41
"The plan meets area needs in the most economical way possible.”
THE TRUTH IS :
How do they know? There is NO firm price tag on this project now except that it by any measure will surely cost more than $143 million. The ANNUAL debt service is estimated to rise from $3 million today to more than $13 million by 2021.

RED HERRING # 42
"It will be cheaper to build a new pipeline from the SFRR than to replace the pipeline from Sugar Hollow."
THE TRUTH IS :
According to RWSA permit document, replacing the SH pipeline would cost $12.9 million (page 41), compared to the estimate of $57 million to build a new pipeline from the SFRR - an estimate that Tom Frederick recently said will likely go up.
The Sugar Hollow pipeline is made of cast iron, circa 1920, which has a lifespan of at least 100 years. Two-thirds of the water pipe in this country is cast iron and coming of age around the same time. Rehabilitative and replacement technology is already responding to this enormous demand.

RED HERRING # 43
"It is our turn. We must do this for our children and grandchildren."

THE TRUTH IS :
Leaving a massive debt for a water supply grossly oversized and unneeded is not a gift to our children and grandchildren. In addition, this plan will result in an environmental nightmare for the next generations as SFRR sediment dangerously builds up behind an aging dam.
Listen: Liz Palmer on leaving the problem of SFRR to those in 2055.

RED HERRING # 44
“Restarting the water planning process would certainly lead to some portion of those costs being paid again by the community for new studies and revised permits.”

THE TRUTH IS :
Compared to what? Spending $150 million on an oversized, overpriced monstrosity that the city and county have NO way to pay off, except directly on to water bills? Mr. Wheeler, look up the definition of sustainable.

RED HERRING # 45
"Maintenance of our existing infrastructure is half the cost of the plan."

THE TRUTH IS :
The dam, new pipeline and upgrades to the water treatment plants represent 89% of the cost of the plan.
All of these are only needed to EXPAND the system. SFRR treatment plant is in good shape and sized adequately. The Observatory Treatment plant does need upgrade, but the bulk of the cost is to expand it. The SH pipeline will need repair or replacement but estimates to date have shown that to be much cheaper than to build a new pipeline from SFRR. This red herring is a deliberate ploy to get the city to pay for county growth.

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Fear Mongering


Fear is the new frontier for the folks pushing the water supply plan. Dire warnings of running out of water, drinking water from Lynchburg, and a futuristic health crisis are among the unsubstantiated claims made to scare people into supporting an unsustainable plan.

RED HERRING # 46
"We are at risk of running out of water."

THE TRUTH IS :
We do NOT have a water shortage in our area. Under the Community Water Plan, the Rivanna River will continue to supply our daily urban water needs taking less than 5% of Rivanna inflow. The $150M Community Water Supply Plan in ONLY about storing water IN CASE OF THE WORST DROUGHT ON RECORD.

The ONLY reason we have a storage issue is due to the neglect of our current facilities. By addressing the siltation of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir (SFRR) in a positive and scientific way, the community can meet both near-term and projected growth for decades to come.

RED HERRING # 47
"Remember the 2002 drought-- we were within 60 days of running completely out of public water.”

THE TRUTH IS :
In the worst drought in recorded history we STILL had 2 months of water reserves. We use less water today than we did during 2002, the year of the drought. In 2010 Central Virginia experienced a significant drought. Most of Central Virginia was under drought watch. The Cville-Albemarle Area WAS NOT! Our water storage capacity is BETTER now than it was in 2002 because we use LESS WATER per capita.

RED HERRING # 48
"If we don’t accept the demand projections, we may end up with a public health crisis on our hands."

THE TRUTH IS :
We face a greater probability of a public health crisis WITH the plan than without it, in three important areas.

  • The Virginia Department of Health (VDOH) warned that our drinking water will DECLINE in quality if we proceed with this plan to cut off access to the Sugar Hollow Reservoir. A letter from VDOH, encourages local officials to "maximize" the use of the Moormans water and warns of our other water resources.
    "Sugar Hollow represents an excellent raw water source and the Department would encourage its maximum utilization."
    "All of these water sources have been rated as highly susceptible to contamination except Sugar Hollow/Ragged Mt which has been rated as moderate."
  • In addition, the Community Water Plan will replace three existing reservoirs with one big one that will rise up to and under Interstate 64. Our resiliency will be compromised.
  • The plan is designed under the assumption that the SFRR will allowed to silt in. This allows five million cubic yards of sediment to build up behind an aging dam.. immediately upstream from the city of Charlottesville. An environmental hazard for our grandchildren?
    Listen: Liz Palmer on leaving the problem of SFRR to those in 2055.
And this isn't a public health hazard?

RED HERRING # 49
"It is this plan or the James River Pipeline.

TRUTH:
There are other, more sustainable alternatives, such as restoring the SFRR, an aggressive conservation implementation, that stay within the Rivanna River watershed and that do NOT require destroying our valued natural resources.

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