RMNA
Red Herring Report
What You Can Do

True Costs of the 50-year Water Supply Plan


MGD = million gallons per day

The $143,000,000 50-year water supply plan calls for the following:

  1. Clearcut 180 acres of parkland .
    135 acres at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area, including most of the trail system, will be flooded. An additional 45 acres will be cleared for roads, the dam, and other infrastructure associated with the expanded reservoir. See map of expanded reservoir (pg 17 of the permit application doc on RWSA website)

    • Flood 135 acres of mature forest that has been cited for its exceptional wildlife habitat by a Smithsonian study and Albemarle County Biodiversity Committee
      In the summer of 2002, Dr. Matthew Etterson of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center conducted a research project on the effects of forest fragmentation on nesting success of Wood Thrush at several sites in the Piedmont, including Fernbrook, Humpback Rocks, Betsy Bell, Fortune's Cove, Natural Chimneys, Paul State Forest and Ragged Mountain Natural Area. He found that among all these sites, Ragged Mountain Natural Area proved to be not only the most productive, with a total of 64 nests, but also the site of greatest nesting success. Etterson attributed that success to the maturity of the forest and the protective topography of the land.
      In the 2006 Albemarle County Biodiversity Report, the Ragged Mountains and Reservoir were cited as significant for unusual habitat that support species scarce in our area such as River Otter, Prothontary Warbler, and Wood Frog.
    • Build five miles of roads at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area
      Roads will be required for clear cutting of timber, dam construction, and reinforcement of the I-64 embankment. In addition, two miles of the now rural Reservoir Road will need to be widened and improved for the heavy equipment needed to build the dam.

  2. Give up two of three local reservoirs
    The 50-year water supply proposal plans for the loss of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir (SFRR) to siltation. With more than a billion gallons of water storage, the SFRR will lose 80% of its capacity within the time frame of the plan. Fully 30% of the rise proposed at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir (RMR) is to compensate for the loss of the SFRR.

    The Sugar Hollow Reservoir (SHR) which holds 360 million gallons of water, will be cut off as a direct source of water to the water supply. Together these water storage facilities hold nearly 1.5 billion gallons of water today.

  3. Give up 4 million gallons per day of clean mountain water
    By eliminating the pipeline that links the Sugar Hollow Reservoir directly to the water system, the cleanest water in the area will no longer be available to the citizens of the city and county. Instead, the Rivanna River, an impaired waterway, will be used to supply all the water to the community.

  4. The loss of a major recreational resource in the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir
    Fishermen, boaters, rowers, and wildlife observers will lose the lake-like quality of the SFRR as it returns to a riverine system due to neglect. Parts of the reservoir are already impassable by boat and the lower reaches of Ivy Creek have reverted to a narrow passage. Authorities rejected plans to maintain the reservoir for water storage through dredging, despite a strong and vocal public sentiment that it was a “valued community resource.”

  5. Brings the only remaining reservoir directly under I-64 and up the embankment to within 40 yards of the highway.
    The new plan consolidates three reservoirs into one large reservoir posing significant public safety concerns. The area's only reservoir will rise to within 40 yards of flooding Interstate 64 exposing the local water supply to accidental or intentional hazardous spills.

    Another public safety issue is clearly stated in the 2005 technical memorandum to RWSA for raising the RMR dam. It states, "Another potential adverse impact to the I-64 embankment relates to the stability of the engineered highway embankment slopes both on the northern and southern sides. According to Special Report 247 “Landslides – Investigation and Mitigation” by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), water-level change adjacent to a slope is one of the most common causes for landslides or slope instability." (pp 8-9 in the technical memorandum) At the time of the memo, there was no available records of the materials used to construct the embankments for I-64. In addition, approximately 2,650 feet of permanent access road will be constructed to access the area in order to stabilize it. See map of expanded reservoir (pg 17 of the permit application doc on RWSA website)

  6. Decreased flow in the Rivanna River along city and county parks
    The current plan will double (or more) daily water intake from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir (SFRR) -- even as the reservoir is allowed to silt in. In addition, the water needed to fill and refill the expanded Ragged Mountain Reservoir (RMR) - two billion gallons - will be drawn from the same intake source.

    The DEQ permit to build the dam lowers the minimum release from the SFRR from the current level of 8 mgd to 1.3 mgd. Furthermore, while today, more than 8 mgd goes over the dam 97% of the year, that will be allowed to fall to 50% (pg 65 permit support doc)

    But how will we even know? There is no flow gauge on the South Fork. Downstream of the intake pipe and dam, the Rivanna River passes by three city/county parks: Darden Towe, Pen Park, and Riverview Park.

What do citizens get for this sacrifice?

  1. The community will have water of lower quality.
  2. Today, RWSA draws water from both the Moormans/Sugar Hollow system and the Rivanna River/Reservoir. The Moormans originates in the mountains and is clear and free of sediment and excess nutrients. The Rivanna water on the other hand, requires more extensive treatment including sediment and nutrient removal and higher chlorination. This plan will pull nearly all the water that the city and county needs out of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir even as it silts in. Many feel there is too little being done to protect the Rivanna River from sediment and pollutant overload.

  3. Water bills will skyrocket
    The community is already facing the immediate need for water infrastructure upgrades involving sewer line and stormwater management, for which residents will have to pay a large utility fee. Adding the cost of expansion of the water supply will likely send water and sewer rates soaring. Even as plans for the project go forward, no one can or will tell residents what proportion they must pay and how it will affect their monthly bills. Water rates could easily double and more.

  4. Debt will soar, as revenue falls
    On September 13, 2007, RWSA presented a grim picture of future debt for the approved Community Water Plan. At the same time, demand for water is falling. When demand falls, rates must rise to cover normal operating costs not to mention new debt service.

What You Can Do