Update on Water Plan, Human Rights Commission
Charlottesville, Va. – Construction of the new dam is proceeding. Bonds to finance the project have been validated by the Virginia Supreme Court. Granular-Activated Carbon and chlorine will disinfect the water. Chloramines (bleach + ammonia) are off the table. Three bids to dredge portions of the Rivanna reservoir were narrowed down to one for $3.5 million.
Executive Director since 2004 Tom Frederick presented a quarterly report to City Council after City Manager Maurice Jones called him a few weeks ago for an update. The two Councilors, who have opposed the 2006 water plan now moving forward, asked the most questions.
Dede Smith waded into the details. But Frederick said changing the coagulant would present higher costs and require more adjustments. The point of chlorination, waste water treatment plants, are fixed. When the new 42-foot dam is built at Ragged Mountain, it will be filled in stages with triggers as laid out in the cost share agreement and property use agreement.
Dave Norris was most interested in how construction was affecting the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. Frederick didn’t know the acreage already impacted. Norris asked if it’s okay for people to come out and take pictures. Frederick said no because of safety. Norris wants someone to take photos periodically to update the public.
Both Smith and Norris questioned why two of the three dredging bids were deemed as not qualified. Frederick said they did not meet the specific requirements. Smith complained the bids only addressed a small portion the reservoir.
Frederick said he couldn’t talk about it and was "bound" by confidentiality. They talked about the different processes available for selection of a bid, such as the Virginia procurement system. Putting out a new RFP does not guarantee cheaper bids.
Frederick updated the mitigation plan. Trees have been planted along Buck Mountain Creek and some creek restoration. They’re now working on the Franklin Street site for stream buffer along Moores Creek. Frederick invited people of all ages to visit and see how a stream buffer works.
Frederick said the controversial Woolen Mills treatment plant is in the “preliminary engineering” stage. Once RWSA staff have edited the engineering report, it will be made available to Council and the public in September. In October a five-member committee will evaluate the options. Public comments can also be left at the Rivanna website.
The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority was formed 1973 to address waste water from Crozet discharged downstream into the new Rivanna reservoir since 1966. For grant money, the city and county partnered to bring waste to the Woolen Mills neighborhood for treatment and discharge back into the Rivanna. Sewage comes from as far away as Crozet and Forest Lakes to the Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is no longer big enough, hence the new controversial treatment plant nearby.
After the worst drought on record in 1977, the Rivanna agency acquired through eminent domain land for the Buck Mountain reservoir in 1983. Legend has it that the endangered James River Spiny Mussel thwarted approval of the regulators. In Feb. 2004 the agency still refused to give this land back to its legal owners. Chairman Mike Gaffney declared that the dam might not be built for a hundred years, but the agency was keeping the land as an “insurance policy” against future droughts, a clear abuse of eminent domain.
Following the drought of 2002, the community arrived at the 2006 Water Plan. It calls for more than tripling the volume of the city’s first two reservoirs built 1885 and 1908. Some Buck Mountain property is re-designated as stream buffer, which it is already. In 2007 RWSA wanted to centralize the water and abandon both the Rivanna and Sugar Hollow reservoirs, and the need for dredging. The Ragged Mountain Natural Area has existed only since the 1990s. Before that it was reservoir land purchased a century ago for future expansion.
But public outcry rose up. The water plan was delayed while the city and county argued. Finally in Jan. 2011, and for a third time in six years, after threats the city would take over the project, at least three members of Council approved the original plan.
Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.
Annexation History Drives Water Agreement, Jan 29, 2012. Includes list of links and coverage since 2002, graphic of 2006 water plan, Buck Mountain land RWSA claims to own.
22-item, 241-page Council Agenda with Background Material August 20, 2012. The 1st of 2 readings of the noise ordinance slipped through as one of 14 Consent Agenda items passed in single vote. I only watched from about 8:00 to 9:30 p.m.
Video of City Council August 20, 2012.
Human Rights Task Force
Since the commission was formed in February, how many and what kinds of complaints have there been? “Various areas,” responded committee co-chair Jesse Ellis. All the complaints have been by telephone. "We’re still working on it" and answers will arrive in a December final report, said Ellis.
The question of jurisdiction caused City Manager Maurice Jones to clarify the commission would apply only to Charlottesville’s ten square miles.
Councilor Kristin Szakos was hoping the commission would “make things less contentious…resolution-driven in a less-than-judiciary sort of way.” Szakos wrote a racist letter to the editor in the June 1, 2012 Daily Progress. She should abstain from the final vote, rather than taint the Human Rights Commission.
Councilor Szakos dismisses race violence as conspiracy theory, Jun. 3, 2012.
10-month Study for Human Rights Commission, Feb. 6, 2012.
"On February 6, 2012, at the request of the Charlottesville City Council, the Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) was formed with the sole mission to determine if there was a need for a Human Rights Commission in Charlottesville and if so, a recommendation on a model to meet the unique strengths of the City." - Council Agenda with Background Material August 20, 2012.
Video of City Council August 20, 2012.