River Thing

Wednesday, July 20, the City Council will interview candidates for the City’s “Planning Commission”.
I hope the Councilors will ask PC wannabees to:

Identify strategies to maximize the presence and value of the Rivanna River in the life of the City.

The city of Charlottesville has a 3.6 mile waterfront without a single path from the river’s edge to the water.
Imagine that.

A city that ignores its river cannot call itself great.

Mr. Jefferson’s River

Rivanna River
In 2005 the RWSA “discovered” that in wet weather events leaky pipes and insufficient “transmission capacity” meant that they were losing around 20-25 million gallons of sewage. Where was this liquor going? Into Mr. Jefferson’s river.
Some leaky pipe fixing was begun, 25% of the leaks are slated to be fixed by 2020.
But, that leaves a whole lot of mixed liquids and suspended solids (yeck) burping into the waters of the State of Virginia.

Tonight, Charlottesville City Council holds a public hearing on the subject of how best to deal with this environmental catastrophe.
From the beginning, RWSA has solicited input from the public, “give us your ideas. Think outside the box”. The public has responded with some good ideas which are generally dismissed.
For instance, the Public said “fix the leaky pipes”. Nope, too expensive, no one in the sewage industry tries to fix all the leaky pipes.

One of the RWSA fix options (they call them concepts) was dismissed by City Council, that concept was to locate a massive sewage pumping plant (53mgd capacity) in Riverview Park, the Community’s primary gateway to the river.
Now RWSA is advocating locating the pumping plant at the foot of Monticello Mountain, 6/10ths of a mile from Mr. Jefferson’s crib, this plan is known as option D.

Locating the pumping plant on the northwest face of Monticello Mountain would require the destruction of the riverine environment visible on the left side of the river above. All those trees have to go.

The public has suggested option E. which avoids destroying environmental resources and threatening the architectural resources of the Woolen Mills Village National Historic District. Option E doesn’t threaten anyone or anything. Option E is a bored pathway, in existing easements, to the Moore’s Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Option E will be expensive. It is cheaper to leave the burden of transmitting the sewage from 43 square miles of County, City and University land squarely on the shoulders of property owners and residents in the Woolen Mills.

What will City Council recommend? What will the RWSA Board vote for?

We long for the day when fact based decision making trumps politics and when our community is reconnected with its River. Voting for option E would bring that day closer.


AlbCo supervisor ken boyd, executive tom foley
In dealing with the State, we ought to remember that its institutions are not aboriginal though they existed before we were born: that they are not superior to the citizen: that every one of them was once the act of a single man: every law and usage was a man’s expedient to meet a particular case: that they all are imitable, all alterable; we may make as good; we may make better. Society is an illusion to the young citizen. It lies before him in rigid repose with certain names, men, and institutions rooted like oak trees to the centre, round which all arrange themselves the best they can. But the old statesman knows that society is fluid; there are no such roots and centres but any particle may suddenly become the centre of the movement, and compel the system to gyrate round it as every man of strong will like Pisistratus or Cromwell, does for a time, and every man of truth like Plato, or Paul, does forever. But politics rest on necessary foundations and cannot be treated with levity.– Politics Ralph Waldo Emerson


water supply plan 2005
For the first 45 years of my life I successfully avoided going to meetings except in a my professional capacity as a newspaper photographer. I was too busy living, raking leaves, raising children, paying bills, working… Meetings were for other people.
I imagine that meetings once upon a time were fun. A smoke filled room, a trough, a bunch of white guys cutting up the pie.
Meetings in the 21st Century have a different form. They feature a public process. Pieces of paper where the public can leave their e-mail addresses. Pieces of paper where the public can write down their thoughts. Public hearings!
I wonder where all those pieces of paper go?
Meeting above was 2/17/05, featured a facilitator and pieces of paper, water supply plan. Meeting below, CHO NDS, pieces of paper.

We were for it before we were against it

City of Charlottesville and County of Albermarle officials met January 18, 2011, to share water supply ideas. It was SRO.

County Supervisor Dennis Rooker was very persuasive.

Many City residents have contacted the elected representatives, arguing for a phased approach to water supply improvement.
I wrote the Council this past weekend.

Later in the day, January 18, City Council met and discussed the water supply.
Mayor Dave Norris and Vice Mayor Holly Edwards wished to preserve the City’s water system assets. Councilors Huja, Szakos and Brown voted to amend Council’s September 20 resolution and build a thirty foot dam.

Read more:
The Hook
Hawes Spencer and David Norris join Coy Barefoot to discuss.
Kevin Lynch and Dede Smith join Coy Barefoot.
January 21, 2011, Mr. Huja joins Coy Barefoot
January 25, 2011, Ms. Szakos joins Coy Barefoot
January 25, 2011, Mayor Dave Norris joins Coy Barefoot

Congdon Street

Cities typically have “Standards and Design Manuals” that lay out engineering specifications for roads, sidewalks, sewer and water systems.
Whenever one encounters a street or neighborhood that is inviting to pedestrians, that area was usually built before the introduction of these manuals.
For more, read: Confessions of a Recovering Engineer

green city philippic

My new neighbors across the street leave their lights on at night, illuminating my house and sleeping quarters. Will talk to them.

This morning, the glow coming through the window woke me at 0500hrs.

Since 1999 I’ve talked with the City about “light trespass”, light pollution and about funds spent to undo the night.
We are in tough fiscal times. The City Council has a budget workshop next Thursday. How is this for an idea? Turn off some of the lights!
Today, at 0545hrs there were seventeen lights illuminating the empty pools at the “Onesty Family Aquatic Facility”.
Who pays that electric bill?

How much does Charlottesville City spend on lights?

Here are the updated numbers and costs that you requested relating to street lighting in the City. Dominion Power has about 3800 street lights installed and operating in the City. This figure is approximate as we have work orders in at most times to add or take down a few. The monthly cost is $11. Replacement costs are $18/lamp, $180/globe, $37/ballast and $975 per pole. City Owned ornamental street lights have increased to 435 and are separately metered. We now have a new “dark sky” compliant standard for all new street lights installed in the City. The cost to changed an old fixture to the new “dark sky” compliant is $800. The City does not have a separate contract with Dominion for street lights. We joined with other municipalities in the Commonwealth and negotiated a common contract.–6/24/09 Public Works

In December of 2000, citizens submitted a petition:

A Petition to the Planning Commission and City Council of the City of Charlottesville

We, the undersigned residents of the City of Charlottesville, request that the Commission and Council begin a plan now for improving the future of nighttime outdoor lighting in our community.
1. The increasing opaque glow in our night sky is evidence of wasted energy.
2. Lighting that produces glare in our line-of-sight is blinding and a safety hazard.
3. Unshielded, or excessive lighting intrudes into nearby homes, yards and natural areas.
Please design a plan to discourage outdoor lighting that:
1. Shines light upward into the sky, where it serves no purpose.
2. Creates glare in our line-of-sight, or intrudes into private properties/natural areas.
3. Is excessively bright, exceeding recognized industry recommendations.
“Full cut-off” shielded lighting fixtures are now offered by all major lighting manufacturers. These fixtures efficiently distribute light downward, without glare and control the spill of light into the neighboring properties and the night sky.
Through these improvements we can improve nighttime visibility & public safety, conserve energy, be good neighbors and regain our disappearing view of the night sky.

There have de jure advances in the past ten years (a lighting ordinance was passed) but little de facto change. Why are the Park Street and Locust Avenue bridges over Route 250 illuminated sufficiently to read the Hook at night?

When will our City learn how to operate a light switch?

History Of Streetlighting in the US–Wikipedia

Organization involved with saving night International Dark-Sky Association

State Water Control Law

It seems harsh to say that political leaders don’t give a rip about the quality of our physical environment. But how else can you explain the condition of Virginia’s streams and rivers?
In 1950, the Virginia General Assembly added the Water Control Law to the State Code.

The short title of this chapter is the State Water Control Law. It is the policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the purpose of this law to:
(1) protect existing high quality state waters and restore all other state waters to such condition of quality that any such waters will permit all reasonable public uses and will support the propagation and growth of all aquatic life, including game fish, which might reasonably be expected to inhabit them;
(2) safeguard the clean waters of the Commonwealth from pollution;
(3) prevent any increase in pollution;
(4) reduce existing pollution;
(5) promote and encourage the reclamation and reuse of wastewater in a manner protective of the environment and public health; and
(6) promote water resource conservation, management and distribution, and encourage water consumption reduction in order to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the present and future citizens of the Commonwealth.

Communicate with Virginia and the EPA about the waters of Virginia with this form letter, courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The public comment period ends November 8 (EPA) and November 11 (Commonwealth of Virginia).