City Council Meeting Highlights Water Supply Planning and Western Bypass

By. Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

Agenda items of popular interest such as a water supply plan update, and a report on the proposed US 29 Bypass drew a crowd to Monday night’s (718) Charlottesville City Council meeting.

During public comment, Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson urged Council to comply with the 2006 adopted water supply plan. Williamson was joined by several other citizens who expressed appreciation for the vast increase in storage capacity and cost effectiveness of building a larger dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Others spoke in favor of a dredging alternative, claiming that the amount of water gained by dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir would be sufficient to meet community needs for several decades.

No Council action was taken at the meeting in regards to either the Water Supply Plan or the US 29 Bypass. Rather, staff gave reports on the progress of several projects.

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) Executive Director, Tom Frederick, updated Councilors on the progress of RWSA’s request for permit modification for construction of the new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) requested clarification on aspects of the project and designated the permit modification as a major modification, meaning it will require a public comment process. However, Mr. Frederick assured Council that both the designation of the modification as major and the letter requesting clarification were routine.

Frederick also reported the status of the RFP for dredging South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. HDR, a consultant for RWSA, completed a feasibility study, which suggested that dredging upper portions of South Fork Rivanna Reservoir could be completed at a relatively low cost. Currently, the RWSA Board of Directors is considering a PPEA (Private Public Education Act) method of securing a contractor. The benefit of a PPEA process is that it provides more flexibility to contractors. HDR has organized certain steps to facilitate a successful PPEA process.

The Board of Directors adopted HDR’s recommended first step, called “Market Sounding”, in which dredging contractors are interviewed on the proposed project’s merits. Recommendations from these contractors are expected in August, and will determine whether to continue with a PPEA method, or switch to a more traditional contracting process. If the PPEA process is selected, HDR will narrow the boundaries of contracts and develop a proposal evaluation plan, which will establish technical criteria for selecting a contractor.

AECOM, a consultant for RWSA, reported to Council on the water demand analysis for human needs as a component of the Regional Water Supply Plan. AECOM’s representative outlined the progress towards developing Water Demand Forecasts for a fifty year planning time frame, and explained to Council the various factors considered when forecasting. Preliminary forecasts have examined historical water use in the context of economic and climate conditions. AECOM also has considered population and employment forecasts, current and future water conservation efforts, and baseline water demands (which assume that current trends will continue into the future) in developing forecasts for future water demand. The Final Water Demand Forecast is scheduled to be complete by September, and the Water Supply Plan as a whole must be submitted by November to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia State Water Control Board.

Council received updates on the next steps in the process of considering construction of a US 29 Bypass. In its last meeting, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) decided to request funding for several local projects in a letter to the Secretary of Transportation. The MPO requested full funding for the completion of Hillsdale Drive Extended, full funding for lane improvements to the US 29/ 250 Bypass interchange, a conceptual design for Berkmar Extension, funding for the Northtown trail, funding for Belmont Bridge for FY2014 (rather than FY2016), and additional transit to Hollymead Town Center and the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport. Funding for these projects is a determining factor in whether the Policy Board will support the US 29 Bypass.

The next MPO meeting (scheduled for 7/27) will be the first opportunity for the Policy Board to vote on whether to add construction of the US 29 Bypass to the Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) and the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

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Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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