The Debate over Dredging: a Timeline
- On June 5, 2006, City Council approves the "Community Water Supply Plan" despite that fact that no final decision
has been made on the mitigation plan, no contract has been agreed upon regarding the use of the City property, and the price and financing are unknown.
- September 13, 2007: An RWSA public meeting was held to disclose the cost of the "preferred alternative" to be 143 million dollars.
- Fall 2007: The group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan organizes. A group of city citizens concerned about the large financial cost and environmental damage to city resources, call for the preservation of the city's largest water reserve, the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. They claim that there has been insufficient information and debate concerning the plan. Their goal is to bring factual information to the public.
- November 19, 2007: After much public pressure, City Council holds its first public hearing on the water supply plan. RWSA executive director, Tom Frederick announces a rise in the dredging estimate of more than 80 million to 225 million. However, he is not able to come up with documentation until March 3, 2008. In a memo to City Council, Tom Frederick notes that,
"..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,.."
- February 28, 2008: The Hook comes out with the first of almost 50 articles exposing the inconsistencies and misinformation surrounding the approved water supply plan, kickstarting a public outcry against the plan.
- March 3, 2008: Gannett Fleming releases a report updating the dredging estimate to $223 million, despite the fact that "No new investigations
This new estimate was first announced by Tom Frederick in November 19, 2007 during a public meeting.
- March 11, 2008: Emails between RWSA Board members discourage a study of dredging as it will "open a can of worms." Tom Frederick confirms that a maintenance dredging study will cost as much as a full blown study.
- April 28, 2008: Piedmont Chapter of the Sierra Club changes position on water supply plan. Asks for reconsideration
We believe that prudence now dictates reconsideration of dredging of the Rivanna Reservoir as a key element in a longterm water supply plan. In our view, maintaining the current capacity and functionality of
the Rivanna Reservoir is highly desirable, as is the preservation of the thousands of trees
that would be lost in the current Ragged Mountain plan.
- April 28, 2008: Local businessman Bill Crutchfield writes a letter to the Hook supporting dredging of the SFRR.
- May 16, 2008: County Water Resources Manager Greg Harper writes a letter/report outlining the problems with the Demand Analysis, offering a lower future demand estimate and a strategy for moving forward with a greater emphais on water conservation and watershed protection.
- May 17, 2008: RRBC minutes: RRBC Board member, Dr. D’Odorico asked Mr. Schuyler if the Commission is a public entity. Mr. Schuyler said yes. Dr. D’Odorico asked if the Commission then is subject to the rules of state government. Mr. Shuyler said yes.
RRBC subject to laws of FOIA (4 members on SFRR task force)
- June 3 and 11, 2008: Resolutions by City Council and Albemarle Board of Supervisors in support of a study of dredging.
"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that in addition to the specific elements of the community water supply plan approved by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, the City Council and the Board of Supervisors, the Board of Supervisors hereby requests the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to undertake a study of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir ....."
- June 23, 2008: RWSA votes to conduct a dredging study.
"Mr. Tucker moved that the Board of Directors vote to proceed with moving forward with implementing the study of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir as recommended by Mr. Frederick at today’s meeting, seconded by Mr. O’Connell. The motion was approved by a 5-0 vote. Vote by RWSA in support of a study of dredging." (page 12)
- June 30, 2008: A special meeting of the "four chairs" is quickly called to form a task force to study dredging of the SFRR. The RFP, voted on by RWSA the week before will not
be issued as agreed by a telephone "vote" of the RWSA Board. Violation of Freedom of Information laws?
- July 8, 2008: Email from Sally Thomas to BOS, announcing her appointment to the task force as a representative of the League of Women Voters.
- July 9, 2008: Sally Thomas appointed as chair before other task force members are identified. Email from Mike Gaffney to RWSA Board: ""Now that Sally has a place at the table, she will be the chair of the task force. Before I left for Guatemala, I checked with Dave, Ken and Don as well as Sally that we would announce this once she was appointed."
- July 19-22, 2008: Task force members still being identified as seen in emails.
- July 21, 2008: Sierra Club sends a letter to support "reconsideration of dredging as a key mechanism for providing water storage capacity."
- July 22, 2008: Email from Tom Frederick reveals that "Following the June 30 meeting, I polled members of the RWSA Board and each of them agreed to respect the wishes of the four board chairmen."
(to rescind vote to send out RFP for dredge study)
Violation of Freedom of Information laws?
- July 27, 2008: City partners with EPA's WaterSense conservation program designed to " delay the need to create more supplies, saving communities money and resources."
- August 1, 2008: Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) write letter in support of a study of dredging
"In light of new information concerning the cost and feasibility of restoring the water capacity of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir through dredging, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) urges that a study of the feasibility and costs of dredging the reservoir be completed before any steps are taken to implement the existing long term water supply plan. '
- August 12, 2008: Task force meets for the first time with a radically different outline of work than was discussed in the June 30 meeting. Discussion of the restoring the reservoir as a water storage impoundment is "off the table" Members of the task force, representing 11 organizations, are heavily weighted to those supporting the water supply plan. In addition there are four members of the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC), a public body, which violates Freedom of Information laws (see ruling 5/8/09)
Ridge Schuyler, representative to The Nature Conservancy and member of the RRBC stated that he would like...looking at the sources of sediment and the strategies for not only capturing the sediment that enters the reservoir but also how to stop the sediment from entering the reservoir.
More than two members of a legal body (RRBC) doing the same public business as their legal body without notice is a violation of Freedom of Information laws.
- August RRBC meeting: In agenda item, "Discuss the role of the TAC and RRBC in future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and water conservation," Mr. Martin gave a summary of their first task force meeting. Ridge Shuyler, also a member of the Task Force, added that one of the things alot of the members mentioned at the meeting was the need to stop excessive sedimentation and that is vey much related to the work of the commission and TAC. Ms. Thomas, also a member of the Task Force, mentioned that the Task Force is supposed to prepare a report by the end of the year and will soon be taking a field trip." More than two members of a legal body doing public business without notice is a violation of Freedom of Information laws.
- September 8, 2009: The SFRR Task force recognizes that it has the obligations of the Freedom of Information laws as follows:
"...they learned they would all be held to Virginia’s open government laws. Those laws determine how they advertise their meetings, prohibit gatherings of three or more members to discuss public business (without advertising that in advance as a public meeting) and require that their e-mail related to the work of the task force be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests."
- September 22, 2008: In a special news conference, RWSA announces that the price of the new Ragged Mountain dam alone has tripled in price. A stop work order is ordered until a review of the new estimate is done by another consultant.
- September 26, 2008: Five city neighborhood associations cite fiscal considerations in their support of a study of dredging.
"It is hereby resolved that the City Council of Charlottesville, in order to insure that City taxpayers and water/sewer-rate payers are not subject to unnecessary water and sewer rate increases, tax increases, and to protect the integrity of the City-owned Ragged Mountain Natural Area, will prohibit any excavation, de-forestation, or road construction activities related to the proposed Ragged Mountain Dam; unless studies clearly demonstrate that construction of a new dam and pipeline is less expensive and less environmentally destructive than dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir as part of the Fifty Year Community Water Supply Plan."
- October 2008:
315 members of the public responded to the public survey distributed by the task force. In response to the question, “What are your expectations or desires for the future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir?”
Of the 251 responses: 85% wanted SFRR preserved, maintained, restored, or enlarged; 70% of those used the word dredge.
The SFRR task force largely ignored this survey, as reflected in one of the later versions of the final report,
The questionnaire was not a scientific or statistically valid survey, as noted in a statement contained at the top of the questionnaire. Accordingly, though the Task Force benefited from different perspectives, suggestions, and opinions expressed in the survey, it could not use the questionnaire to draw conclusions regarding public attitudes and expectations representative of the entire community.
- October 23, 2008: In an RRBC meeting,
John Martin reminded the group that 4 members of the task Force were in attendance at today's meeting (named them). Given that the Commission meeting was not noticed as a Task Force meeting, Mr. Martin stated that Task Force business should not be discussed.
Recognizes Freedom of Information laws here but not in task force meeting.
- October 27, 2008: The majority opinion of those who came to the public hearing held by the task force supported a study of dredging.
- Hundreds of members of the public signed a petition calling for a study of dredging that was delivered to City Council.
- November 3, 2008: Resolution by City Council in support of a study of dredging in addition to technical reviews of the dam and pipeline.
Of significance they added that ...
"Council in adopting this Scope of Work on November 3, 2008 requested that construction work on the dam will not proceed until the other studies are complete."
- November 13, 2008: Letter in support of a study of dredging from the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District.
"These Board members and members from other jurisdictions recommend that the feasibility of dredging the SFRR be re-considered, and if found feasible, that the restored capacity of the reservoir be factored into the long term water supply plan."
- November 25, 2008: "Four Boards" meet to discuss City Council's resolution to conduct more studies before approving any more dam work. They agree to further studies including a study on the cost and feasibility of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, if the task force recommends dredging as a means of maintaining the reservoir.
- January 12, 2009: In RRBC minutes, task force member John Martin reported that the SFRR task force draft report specifically mentions the work of the RRBC and the collaboration that the RRBC is fostering and urges further support for the RRBC.
Violation of Freedom of Information laws?
- January 13, 2009: Task force meeting canceled when task force chair Sally Thomas sends out a "new report" written by John Martin that so disturbs the task force that the scheduled meeting is canceled. This is the report John Martin referred to at the Jan 12 RRBC meeting above.
- January 26, 2009: Task
force finalizes a report with changes. The vote is 9-2 in favor of the recommendations which include:
- January 2009: Sierra Club asks that their statement be included in the to SFRR Stewardship Task Force Report. The request is voted down.
The Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club recommends a study of the costs and feasibility of dredging the Rivanna Reservoir to restore its original water storage capacity be conducted. Possibly excessive estimates of the cost of dredging provided during development of the current water plan may have led to the mistaken rejection of dredging of the Rivanna Reservoir as the primary means of providing long term water supply.
- February 16, 2009: Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan submit a minority report to the SFRR Stewardship Task Force Report.
- February 23, 2009: RWSA meeting, "As stated last month, we remain “on hold” with respect to a dredging feasibility study and pipeline review study pending further direction... "
- March 3, 2009: City Council and Board of Supervisors approve reopening the Request for Proposals for a dredging study.
- May 8, 2009: The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council rules that the members of the RRBC who participated in the task force violated FOIA laws. Confirms violation of Freedom of Information Laws
- May 18, 2009: RWSA unanimously votes to seek proposals from qualified dredging consultants. In a compromise demanded by the County, the City will bear most of the cost.
- June 25, 2009: RWSA fires dam consultant Gannett Fleming.
- August 6 , 2009: RWSA chooses a new firm to conduct a dredging study of the SFRR .
- October 28 , 2009: RWSA approves contract with HDR to study dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.