Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rivanna uncomfortable using Buck Mountain land for Ragged Mountain plan

Monticello High School, Charlottesville, Va.-- At every water forum I have attended, the issue of Buck Mountain Reservoir has come up.

Following the area's worst drought in 1977, the 5-year-old Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority acquired land in 1983 for use as water storage. A permit could not be obtained because the endangered James River Spiny Mussel was found.

In response to my qestion as to whether the agency will acquire any new land before this project is fully approved, executive director Tom Frederick said they have negotiated with property owners with contingencies such as what if the dam is never built.

If, instead of eminent domain, the Buck Mountain property owners had negotiated a contract, Rivanna could have locked in a fixed price and the owners could have staid and paid taxes and live within a permanent conservation district designated for a future reservoir.

When the reservoir actually comes, the authority would exercise its option. Frederick said the agency is negotiating with impacted property owners, such as the Stockyard in Hogwaller, for mutually beneficial options to buy.

In response to the second part of my question, Frederick said the agency will not decide what to do with Buck Mountain land leftover after the mitigation easements. I suggested the surplus land be returned to the private sector and free market so it can start paying taxes again.

The Free Enterprise Forum wanted the land to remain in a permanent conservation status. City Councilor Kevin Lynch wanted the agency to keep the land in case of severe drought.

Another citizen said rumors were rampant that the negotiations would be blanket-- one size fits all such as a regulation. Frederick reassured the audience that Rivanna recoginizes each case is unique and requires individual consideration.

In the first half of his presentation, Frederick declared that Rivanna already owns Buck Mountan land. On the third declaration, a fellow seated near me chuckled. To drive the point home, one of the PowerPoint slides quoted Ridge Schuyler of the Nature Conservancy on the fact of government ownership of affected properties. Later during the public input section, Schuyler said he is often quoted but not as often correct in his statements. That slide was omitted from the handout which was the slide show printed out.

Frederick admitted, as director, he inherited the agency's historical baggage. The benefit of hindsight is you can choose to avoid past mistakes.

In the exit survey, I gave the forum high marks on everything. And I wrote "Tom Frederick needs a raise." He has certainly earned one.

Council approves Ragged Mountain option: Water for another 50 years June 6, 2006. Includes maps of pipeline connecting Rivanna to Ragged, Rivanna presentation to City Council February 9, 2005, and other background.

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority where you can access the PowerPoint slide show and more.

The 13-page contract for Rivanna to acquire 15 acres on Franklin Street at Moore's Creek for wetland mitigation. Ragged Mountain is contained in the Moore's Creek watershed.

Proposed Buck Mountain Reservoir and outline of RWSA-owned land

Third Ragged Mountain Dam, first dam in 1885

Wetland mitigation at Franklin and Moore's Creek, stockyard at left

Monticello High School, at podium Mike Gaffney, chairman RWSA board


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