Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Council: Dueling dams, PUDs, dialogue on race, immigration

Charlottesville, Va. – Questions of process overshadowed the content of tonight’s City Council meeting.

In response to complaints that no one can figure out which items Council will vote on, Councilor David Brown explained the traditional policy. “If it’s on the agenda, it’s a candidate for a vote.” Only items up for a vote are placed on the agenda anyway. Peter Kleeman complained at the end of the meeting that there was no way to know which items will be acted on.

Mayor Dave Norris accepted “full blame” and understood there had been an expectation of action on the water plan—earthen or concrete 30-foot pool increase at Ragged Mountain. In recent years Council has become more casual. They agreed to postpone the vote but they should have voted to postpone the agenda item. Council is inconsistent.

The Jefferson Park Avenue Neighborhood Association also had issues with the process of notifying adjacent residents of sale of city surplus land prior to the deadline for proposals or bids. You’ve heard of the pile of other people’s money (OPM)? What about the pile of other people’s property (OPP)? Council routinely redistributes real estate.

Dueling Dams

Two engineering firms presented reports from the two perspectives: earthen vs concrete dam height increase.

Black and Veatch went first with a PowerPoint “summary of where we stand.” Engineer Greg Zamensky said it’s feasible to build onto the existing 1908 Ragged Mountain dam up to a 45-foot pool elevation increase. The actual dam increase would be about 55 feet.

Zamensky explained the process of building onto the existing dam.

(1) Install anchors drilled through the dam into the bedrock. “Don’t want the dam to become unstable.”
(2) Install grout curtain to prevent water seepage through and under the dam.
(3) Excavate the foundation for the new concrete to stand. Remove the “big pile of earth on the other side” of the dam, added previously to assuage fears the dam might not hold.
(4) Construct the dam raise.
(5) Add cap to top later for final 12-foot pool raise.

The project would require 45,000 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete. Cement and aggregate would be trucked in and mixed onsite with water from the reservoir. If the 42-foot is built but filled only to 30 feet, the spillway would be a bigger notch for overflow.

Zamensky estimated the costs with a 40% margin of error. If the project is phased: Primary Phase (30-ft) — maximum $15.3 million. Second Phase (12-ft) — only up to $2.7 Million more. To build the full concrete dam all at once — $18 million.

Chris Webster of Schnabel Engineering gave the PowerPoint presentation given to the last Rivanna Board meeting. Lead Dam Designer Randy Bass was also there and answered questions.

Webster listed the advantages of the earthen dam.

(A) Uses all onsite soils, which means several thousand fewer trucks. Only the cement would be shipped in and mixed onsite.
(B) The rock spillway would provide riprap and fish habitat structures.
(C) Smaller staging area, less stockpiling.
(D) Natural appearance.
(E) Increased opportunity for local contractors.

The full height earthen dam would cost up to $19.5 million. Building the 30-foot extension would cost 99% of the 42-foot dam. Over $3 million of that includes 70 test holes and 340 water pressure tests, which revealed most water seepage below 50 feet of water.

The earthen dam would sit atop the existing dam, but rely on mass instead of tensile strength to hold back the water. The grout curtain would be double layered and 100 feet deep. Closing off the 1908 quarry will eliminate some seepage.

Webster showed photos of one concrete and two earthen dams, which gave a good idea of what dams look like when not filled to built capacity. One hundred percent of the design for the earthen dam is scheduled to be completed for April report.

Webster said you’ll be able to walk across the dam, which blends in with the two ridges it connects. The earthen dam will need two spillways. Bass pointed out that concrete costs $100 a yard but dirt only $3 a yard.

Council discussed among themselves. Kristin Szakos said 30 feet is all she wants to go and was concerned the concrete dam might be ugly, “visually jarring.” Satyendra Huja said he’d rather have a new dam instead of the old since costs are similar. David Brown was comfortable with earthen or concrete but “firm” on the 30 feet.

In response to Szakos saying the earthen dam has less environmental impact, Dave Norris said “not even close.” His plan allows more flexibility, less clearing, less earth moving, less destruction to natural area. Huja interjected that the earthen dam looks like natural area. Norris responded, “It’s still artificial. And that's a fact, buddy.” Huja responded the only place he agrees with Norris is that Black and Veatch did a good job.

The public comment was heated before and after the 3-hour meeting. Joanna Salidis was disappointed in the Jan. 18 move. She addressed these misconceptions:

(1) Obvious more water stored means more available.
(2) 18+ million gallons per day for waterdemand in 2055 is flawed.
(3) We’re using 22% less water than 2 decades ago.
(4) Never wants to hear about DEQ. The Aug. 2 letter didn’t say 13 feet would not be approved. It says the permits would have to be reworked.
(5) Never wants to hear 2006 plan is good for rivers. Salidis closed by saying “I love the Ragged Mountain natural area…I care about my habitat.”

Downing Smith waved a headline: “County praises vote on dam.” He was disgusted and disappointed you’re not representing the city. Smith read anonymous comments from The Hook: “The gang of 3…These 3 stooges don’t care about facts…Dumber than a box of rocks…Landmark Hotel—rooms available in 50 years. Why are Huja, Brown, Szakos selling out? Terrible negotiating on city’s part. Szakos should go out and see what people are saying about you.

In Council comment Szakos pointed out how discourse has reached a new low. She had never been called “dumber than a box of rocks” before.

Bob Fenwick speculated revenue sharing as the real reason City is cooperating with the County. “What sense does that make?” “The point of a reservoir is water supply, not to float a boat.” Where is the dredging plan for Ragged Mountain. There will be a huge cost. His water bill has already gone from $20 to $70 a month. The dam won’t be filled for 20 years. “What do the homeless do?” And food banks? Do they also wait 20 years for food. Payback time for County politicians. “End-around play” $18 million. If city is well off, why not give small business owners a tax break. “We’re not sheep to be shorn”

All the comment wasn’t negative.

The 2nd speaker (whose name I missed) [ Martha Levering ]: Thanks for raising the dam by 30 feet. The cost of 30- vs 42-dam is less than $200,000 out of $19 million. You can spare future generations from tearing up ground again. Trails will be restored. “Please vote to go full height.”

Bill Ross claimed the Ragged Mountain dam is of questionable integrity. City and County are working to 30-ft pool level and option to go to 42-feet. Larger pond a distinctive ability to be available during dry periods. “Opportunity to plan for a more secure future.”

Other Matters

Longwood Park PUD (Planned Unit Development) highlighted another process matter. Tonight was the first “reading.” Council has to hear the item at a second meeting in order to vote the bill through. This two-meeting rule was devised to address concerns that legislation is rushed through.

This ordinance would swap two land parcels in exchange for two larger ones. The change is needed in the redesign of the cul-de-sac to allow two access points through the development and convey to the city two corner lots.

Councilor Holly Edwards has opposed the Longwood Drive development and therefore opposes the change. Brown made the motion. Norris seconded the motion. A minimum of two votes are required to bring a motion to a full vote.

The city is selling 409 Stadium Road, vacant corner lot at JPA, Emmett and Stadium. There were four bidders in response to RFPs with deadline of Oct. 29. One was late and rejected and another not present. John Crafaik and architect Gate Pratt want to build Charlottesville Apartments.

Rick Jones owns the adjacent lot with an old stone house condemned for 5 years until Jones bought it 2 years ago and renovated it. Jones offers the same price, $250,000 for the prime real estate, but promises not to develop the property

This is the first reading. If you want to weigh in on these matters, go to the Council meeting 1st and 3rd Mondays. Loosely speaking, Council is set up so, if you just follow Council, you’ll have some time to comment or make a case. There is a distinct process, but it's not well-known.

City Council Meeting Feb. 7, 2011. Streaming Media Archive Page.

Councilor Huja defends 30-foot dam, Jan. 22, 2011.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlottesville City Dave Norris also appears on the latest Politics Matters episode (a locally produced cable show with host Jan Paynter) in an interview about Charlottesville’s Sister Cities: http://bit.ly/polmatters

2/10/2011 1:18 PM  

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