Final design work for a portion of a proposed raw water pipeline in Albemarle County is set to move forward.
At its meeting Tuesday, the board of directors of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority approved preparation of final design work for the portion of the raw water pipeline — which will run from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir — that will run through the Birdwood Golf Course property while the course undergoes construction.
The property is owned by the University of Virginia Foundation, and according to RWSA staff, approximately 7,700 feet of the water pipeline will cross under the course.
“We’re in coordination with their planning [for an] upgrade and a rebuild of the golf course, and we want to try to get our pipe in before they do that work,” Bill Mawyer, executive director of the RWSA, said at the meeting.
The water pipeline is part of the community water supply plan water, and the preliminary engineering, route determination and easement acquisition process began in 2017. About 140 letters have been mailed to property owners along the possible routes, according to RWSA staff.
RWSA Chief Engineer Jennifer Whitaker said permission has been granted from about 45 property owners.
“We are seeing a lot of interest from folks that we sent letters to …,” Whitaker said. “One of the questions that came up is where is the route.”
She said the route at the north end — from the Rivanna River along Woodburn Road, Rio Road West and a portion of Hydraulic Road — and the south end — from Ragged Mountain Reservoir, along the golf course to Ivy Road — are fairly straightforward.
“Where the question marks really come, and why we’re looking at multiple alternatives to find a single route through, is this middle ground,” Whitaker said.
There are a handful of different possible routes, some following roads, such as Georgetown Road, and others following property lines. The pipeline has a 3-foot diameter and will need to be buried a minimum of 4 feet.
“The jaggedness is because we are trying to follow property boundaries to minimize our impact on those individual property owners,” Whitaker said.
She said they’re also talking to the University of Virginia Foundation, which owns Birdwood, about other properties it owns along possible routes.
County Executive Jeff Richardson, who sits on the RWSA board, asked about those conversations.
“If we can knock out as much of this as we can, in terms of our linear feet, with one property owner, where it makes sense and you’ve got alternatives, it seems like that would be the best use of our time,” he said. “It disrupts a fewer number of citizens.”
Whitaker said the immediate focus is the golf course property.
“We’re going to go the path of least resistance and large tracts owned by fewer owners … the county School Board, the UVa Foundation would be attractive places for us to go, rather than in the middle of the street or in someone’s private property,” Mawyer said.
According to meeting documents, completion of the easement acquisition phase of the project is anticipated by 2021 and final design and construction of the entire project is anticipated between 2027 and 2040.
During a public comment period, Ed Guida, a county resident who said he is an engineer by training, expressed concerns about the timing of the overall project.
“From what I’ve been able to read on the public record, the question that I have is, basically, are all of the assumptions truly correct at this time? I’m not so sure,” he said.
He proposed that an independent expert look at the need for this project now, as well as in the foreseeable future.
Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin, who is on the board of the RWSA, said she is concerned about the debt service picture nationally and also about the idea of putting off capital investments.
“We know we have a plan that has been fully researched for years and discussed in the public arena for years,” she said. “I think it’s something we have to take into account, that it’s only going to get more expensive to build infrastructure.”
Albemarle Supervisor Liz Palmer, who also is on the RWSA board, said an expected completion date around 2035 was not rushing the project.
“It’s certainly not rushing into a project, and a lot can certainly happen between 2018 and 2035,” she said.