The Community Water Supply Plan.  A plan of political duplicity, dishonest government, Authority incompetence and special interest pressure.

Bob Fenwick,

Schnabel Earthen Dam in Stafford County 1

Schnabel Earthen Dam in Stafford County 2

Rivanna Reservoir before and after tropical rain

Walk across the reservoir?  Click here.

Walk back across the reservoir.  Click here.

North and South Forks of the Moormans River into Sugar Hollow.  Click here.

To dramatize the amount of sediment in the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir I said I would walk across the reservoir.  As far as I know walking on water had only been done once before.  Just before I set out a rainstorm blew in.  Coincidence?  I think not!  Plus it would have been nice if I could have found snow shoes to help.  But I made the point.  Click below.

Muck Walker

Dredging or Damming?

For the best time line and detailed explanation of the dredging/damming discussion go to

It's not the potable water side of the water plan equation that presents a present health hazard to our community.  It is the waste water side.  For the sewer overflow video CLICK HERE.

For the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality warning letter to C'ville CLICK HERE.

Bob Fenwick

REMEMBER THAT EVERY TIME YOU HEAR OF 'THE NEW DAM' IT SHOULD ACTUALLY BE TERMED 'THE NEW DAM AND NEW PIPELINE' BECAUSE THE DAM IS AN EMPTY HOLE WITHOUT THE PIPELINE.  And the pipeline from the Rivanna Reservoir uphill to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir is what RWSA consistently refuses to price in their estimates.

Supporters of a new dam have characterized the existing pipeline from Sugar Hollow to Ragged Mountain as 'crumbling'.  Almost all of the pipeline is underground with very few above ground pieces.  Click the next links for a look at this 'crumbling' pipeline which is cast iron, the same metal that is found in the Eiffel Tower. 

Sugar Hollow Pipeline

Sugar Hollow Dam, Reservoir, Bladder, Pipeline and Trout

Ragged Mountain Reservoir Background Information Part 1

Ragged Mountain Reservoir Background Information Part 2

What's the big deal about replacing the Sugar Hollow pipeline?


Kevin Lynch of the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply Plan has produced a Power Point presentation of the important parts of the '50 year Water Plan'.  It is required reading to understand what is being discussed.  Click here. 

I served in the US Army Corps of Engineers for 7 years and have been a Virginia Class A licensed General Contractor for over 34 years and have some familiarity with topography, soils, dams, pipelines, dredging, heavy equipment, etc.

I FAVOR THE DREDGING OPTION AND THIS SITE WILL LAY OUT MY REASONS.  My position is not one more dollar for dam consultants' studies, not one more dollar for dam design until maintenance dredging has begun and has been in place for at least six years.  We are in the worst recession in a generation.  We can't afford to spend tax money or water rate money like it's monopoly money.  Even if the Ragged Mountain dam and new pipeline from the Rivanna Reservoir uphill to Ragged Mountain were built we STILL would have to dredge the Rivanna Reservoir, either that or abandon it.


Please visit,,,,

Rivanna was given $3.5 million to fix the spillway in 2003, seven years ago. But they did not do it because they decided they wanted a bigger dam instead. This would be like giving someone money to fix the defective brakes on their car and they continue to drive the same unsafe car for seven years because they want to use the money as a down payment on a new car. Then they complain about it and demand more money because their car is unsafe.  The link below is a short video of the spillway.  This was taken just after a substantial rain that prompted a flash flood warning in the area.  As you will see there is very little going over the spillway.  This spillway should have been fixed and a raceway constructed down to the point where it joins the original stream bed.  A comment was made recently by a pro dammer that "a beaver could block that spillway in a day."  It would have to be an awfully big beaver with a whole lot of friends since that spillway has survived literally dozens of hurricanes, tropical storms, ice blockages and earthquakes.  And cleaning the spillway is a normal maintenance job for Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.

Click here for video of spillway, Lower Ragged Mtn. Dam

There is also a website dedicated to opponents of a dam in Newport News, Virginia, the King William Reservoir.  The dam was to go across the Mattaponi River.  This project was recently scrapped because of FALLING WATER DEMAND, but not until the citizens of Newport News were taxed or committed to $52 million dollars, money wasted because the City Manager and Water Works chief ignored common sense.  Will we have to play the same game before the chairman and the members of the Board of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) wake up to common sense?  

One of the facts the pro damming faction is trying very hard to ignore is the consumption of water in our community.  It has been going down.  Click here for Rivanna water demand graphs.  One of their comments has been all the low hanging fruit has been picked meaning all the easy things have been done to conserve water.  Since they seem to have a lack of imagination let me suggest one way we will lower our water usage in the not too distant future.  If they mock this idea let them come up with one of their own.  Please click here for medium hanging fruit.  'Low hanging fruit' has never been just a one time occurrence.

Click on the link below for a demonstration of basic dredging.  Why the hesitancy to consider this?

Dredging: A Credible Option

The Charlottesville / Albemarle community is currently discussing (and voting on) the best way to insure an adequate supply of water for the plannable future, not only for our personal uses but also to insure the business community can thrive.  This is what is called the 50 year water plan.  Despite the fact that this conversation has been going on for several years we are at the point of committing millions of present dollars and potentially over several hundred million future dollars in higher fees and hookup fees deciding, as a community, how to go about this.  At this point the planning is centered on one path, building a bigger dam in the Ragged Mountain park.  There is another, and to my way of thinking, better alternative - dredging the Rivanna Reservoir to increase its capacity to somewhere near what it was when it was built some 50 years ago.  So what's the difference between the two plans?

First let me say I am an engineer and a builder.  An engineer can build anything, anywhere, any time.  He or she will find a way to solve any problem, devising solutions where none have existed before.  Engineers took men to the moon and brought them back, several times.  Engineers cleaned up Love Canal and engineers are rebuilding The World Trade Center.  The question is not "Can it be done?".  The questions are 'at what cost?' in dollars and environmental impact and 'is this the smartest, most efficient expenditure of public money, tax money?' 

It appears that the starting point for this discussion was 'we need another dam, where is the best place to build it?'  Certain parameters were in place.  One was to locate the new dam and watershed within Albemarle County so our community could control it.  Another was to locate the dam outside the urban ring to minimize impacting developed property but not so far outside the urban ring that transporting the water to the population center would be prohibitively expensive.  Ragged Mountain was already the site of two smaller, older dams and it was public park land so no private property would have to be taken.  It would simply have to be voted on to take it.  The land wouldn't cost a dime.

Once the location was pretty much established the engineering studies began to determine the feasibility of building the dam at Ragged Mountain.  These studies were to include cost studies of how much the citizens would be obligated to pay, now and in the future.  A few glitches inconveniently popped up with a dam at Ragged Mountain.  First, Ragged Mountain basin is drained by a small creek.  To dam a creek as a water source for a major university and a small city is would never fill the area behind the dam.  So the scope of the dam plan was originally to pump the water from Sugar Hollow fed by Moormans River (or Moormans Creek), into the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.  But apparently no one has ever talked with any of the old timers around who have seen Moormans River virtually dry up in times of drought, as we had several years ago.  This is why some of the older residents refer to Moormans River as Moormans Creek.  One of the primary purposes of a reservoir is to have a stable water supply during times of drought.  In 2002 our area experienced a moderate drought.  At its worst we had 136 days of water left - even if it hadn't rained one drop during those 136 days!  A second, newer reservoir would not have helped then and it wouldn't help in the future.  Why? According to the pro dammers the second, newer reservoir (at Ragged Mountain) would have to be filled up AND MAINTAINED AT FULL CAPACITY by pumping water approximately 9 miles UPHILL from Rivanna Reservoir, which in a drought would itself be at a lower level, into it!  This is what the proposed pipeline (minimum $68 million) is all about.

Now they are talking about filling the new reservoir, the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, with water from the Rivanna Reservoir.  One would assume that if drought conditions existed at the Rivanna Reservoir they would also exist at Ragged Mountain so how would our community be any better off?  The primary source of our community water supply would still be the Rivanna Reservoir.  What you would end up with is one river, the Rivanna,  filling up two reservoirs, the Rivanna Reservoir and the Ragged Mountain Reservoir at a time when the Rivanna is running low already.

A major gap in the pro damming faction's plans, and a major expense for one surprising reason, is how the water will get from the Rivanna Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.  This expense has never been quantified.....the pipeline and all the construction that goes with it, the pumping stations since the water will not only have to get from one location to the other but will have to be pumped UPHILL, buying the rights of way for the path of the pipeline, and so on.  All these costs are normal costs that can be, but to date never have been IN THEIR TOTALITY, estimated.  The surprising cost and a major one that nobody has ever mentioned is the litigation cost involved as the proponents try to push their pipeline through neighborhoods.  This is a major problem because affected residents and land owners will not stand idly by while a flawed plan is forced upon them.  We are far beyond the days when public officials can roll over citizens when a smarter, cheaper solution is available.  They will push back and the plan will not withstand judicial scrutiny.  This translates into millions of dollars for legal fees wasted unnecessarily for not only the residents and land owners but also for the Charlottesville and Albemarle County (the taxpayers) governments, and, of course, years of delay while the Rivanna Reservoir continues to sit and accumulate more and more silt at an accelerated rate (the more the hydrilla grows and the reservoir turns into a marshland, the quicker the silt accumulates, like a vacuum filter clogs up with the vegetation acting like a filter).     

Another inconvenient glitch, apparently a big surprise, was the discovery of fractured rock in the vicinity of the proposed dam.  I asked the question 'where was the fractured rock found' during a public comment period several months ago to try and nail down whether the fractured rock was found at the location of the base of the dam where the dam foundation would be locked into the bedrock or whether it was found further away.  The board was silent as if they didn't know.  I believe I know the answer and it makes no difference whether core samples were taken by drilling down into the rock or whether engineers simply viewed the terrain and reported on what they saw with their own eyes.

Since this is a work in progress what follows next is a clip I shot several years ago when Hurricane Ernesto dumped a considerable amount of rain into the Rivanna River watershed.  My point in showing this clip is to illustrate how relatively clear the water coming over the dam is.  With such a great deal of water dropped in such a short period of time the erosion should have been (and in years past would have been) considerable but in the last twenty or so years we have come a long way in controlling silt and chemical runoff from farms and construction activity and setting in place special protections for watershed areas.  The bottom line is with these protections in place the usable life for reservoirs has been greatly increased, lessening the cost to taxpayers.  What this means in plain English is the rate of siltation has slowed.  Click on link below.

Hurricane Ernesto

So where do we as a community go from here?  Is there no alternative to building a new dam or increasing the height of one of the older ones at Ragged Mountain?  And where is the money going to come from, especially now in the depths of a brutal national recession?  And why should Charlottesville pay for any new water capacity?  Our population is decreasing and 25% of our citizens live below the poverty line!  We (Charlottesville) don't need any more water.  Why should the citizens who already live below the poverty line pay to provide water to the county?  The decision is being driven by special interests.  There is huge money in the dam project.  But there is also huge money in another alternative and that's what the following videos will show.  Dredge here, dredge now.



Please click below for the results of a new consultant's study.

I just discovered this is 24 minutes long and YouTube limits video to 10 minutes or less.  I will break it into 4 pieces this afternoon.  Please return to this.  You won't believe it!

Green Gold Part 1

Green Gold Part 2

Green Gold Part 3

Green Gold Part 4

If you don't have time to watch the 4 parts, part 3 has the meat of the piece and part 4 has the cost of the consultant's study!

The question was raised as to shrinkage of the muck as it dries out.  This question was prompted by the volume calculations I roughed out in Part 3.  The volume of the muck and the dried product is about the same even though more than half the weight of the muck is water weight and this is lost when it is dried out, excuse me, when it is dewatered.  This is because the muck is very dense since it contains clay besides a great deal of organic matter and the composted matter that remains is much less dense.  If this product were mixed with sphagnum peat moss, agricultural vermiculite, partially composted leaves or feed lot dirt as many soil additive products are, the volume of the dried product compared to the original muck would actually be greater.

This product, separate from the sand and gravel that would be dredged, is not suitable for certified construction fill.  It has too much biomass in it.  It has washed into the reservoir mainly from the sides, not the entrance.  If it is used to fill ravines or such on property contiguous to the reservoir it would simply wash back into the reservoir and would do so rather quickly.  It could not be used for extending an airport runway.  Runway preparation requires a Professional Engineer's certification that the soil is clean and compacted properly.  Many of us have seen the signs, 'CLEAN FILL WANTED' on construction sites or housing development sites.  It is the same thing.  It would be appropriate as a topsoil enricher for development sites or farms or as a garden additive as you will see in the following video.

Will anything grow in this dried out muck?


Lower Ragged Mountain Dam
Charlottesville Reservoir is impounded by Lower Ragged Mountain Dam on Moore's Creek in Albemarle County, Virginia and is used for drinking water purposes. Construction was completed in 1908. At normal levels it has a surface area of 54 acres. It is owned by Rivanna Water And Sewer Authority.

Lower Ragged Mountain Dam, also known as Charlottesville Reservoir is a gravity dam. Its height is 67 feet with a length of 400 feet. Its capacity is 1479 acre feet. Normal storage is 1311 acre feet. It drains an area of 1.83 square miles.