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Thoughts on our community water plan from Mayor Dave Norris: Please Read

Saturday, September 18, 2010


A Better Path Forward on Water

City Council is on the verge of making some major decisions regarding our City-owned reservoirs and our region’s long-term water supply plan.

Many hard questions have been asked about that plan, and we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies to examine our alternatives. Let’s take a quick look at what we now know.

First, we now know that we don’t need to build a new dam at Ragged Mountain. The existing dam is in excellent shape (save for an inadequate spillway) and renovating/expanding that dam will save us millions of dollars vs. building a massive new dam.

Second, we now know that dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir would be much cheaper and will produce more storage capacity than we once thought.

Third, we now know that the original projection of water demand significantly overstated how much water we’d be using today, and very likely overstated how much water we’d be using 50 years from now. We also now know that projecting long-term demand for water is an inexact science at best. Thanks to advances in water conservation and efficiency, we do know we’re getting much smarter about the way we use water.

Given what we now know, I propose we immediately take the following steps:

1. Get moving on dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, using a market-oriented approach in which we only dredge as much fill as we can sell or use at any given time. It’s the quickest way to produce real water gains and guard against another drought; frankly, we should have been dredging the reservoir all along.

2. Repair the spillway at the Ragged Mountain Dam. While we’ve got the heavy equipment in place to do that, add 13 feet to the dam (which would increase the size of the reservoir but not so much that it encroaches on I-64) and shore up the dam’s base to accommodate additional height in the future if necessary.

Through these two steps, we are projected to meet all of our water needs for at least 40 years and save tens of millions of dollars over the current plan. This approach will also give us the ability to assess actual long-term trends in water consumption and give us the nimbleness to readily add capacity if we need it – instead of incurring a huge amount of debt now for capacity we don’t know we’ll need.

Finally, this approach will allow us to minimize devastation of the forest ecology at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. The current plan calls for up to 60,000 trees across 200 acres of biologically-rich forest – an area that’s been called one of the crown jewels of our regional forest system — to be clear-cut. Yes, there are plans in place to plant replacement trees elsewhere in the County, but as an ecologically-minded, tree-friendly community, we should do what we can to minimize destruction of our natural environment when there are better alternatives available. Especially when those alternatives also happen save our citizens a tremendous amount of money.



4 comments:

ucopa said…

Right on!! Makes (better) sense to me. Hope the rest of City Council agrees with you.

another conservative relative said…

Cool. Fiscally responsible and it ecologically conscious at the same time. Everybody wins!

Anonymous said…

yes! and we should also look at beaver creek reservoir as a resource.

Anonymous said…

Very thoughtful and shows real leadership. As someone not involved in this issue, and with no agenda, this approach seems clear, concise, commonsense and resourceful. I see no reason anyone now would vote against this pro business and pro environment proposal.

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