Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Schenk's Branch Interceptor and the Meadowcreek Parkway

On Monday night we watched part of the City Council meeting during which the councilors debated whether or not to grant an easement to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to (1) renovate/enlarge and (2) reposition a portion of the Schenk's Branch Interceptor, which is an important part of Charlottesville's sewer system.
I've been hearing so much about Schenk's Branch and finally had a chance yesterday to search for the story behind the (unusual) name. According to an article by Dave McNair in a 2007 issue of The Hook (here), Cornelius Schenk (which is correctly pronounced "skank"!) was a Dutch merchant who, at the time of the Revolutionary War, owned the property through which the creek runs.

Ultimately the RWSA easement was approved by Council (3 to 2), which means the RWSA now has a 40-foot easement and will be able to clear more vegetation and enlarge (and deepen, I think) the sewer pipe.

It was interesting to watch the debate on Monday night; some of the councilors seemed to be dancing around the bigger-picture issue of the Meadowcreek Parkway, although Dave Norris did come right out and say that his opposition to the new easement stems from his opposition to the larger project.

Holly Edwards (who, with Norris, voted against the easement) asked the City staff to explain the alternative to the easement, and I was not satisfied with the response/follow-up to her question by anyone (staff, RWSA director Tom Frederick, or Edwards and Norris).

As I understand it, enlarging and repositioning the pipe is a fairly urgent matter because the current pipe periodically overflows (polluting Meadow Creek? I'm unclear on this...), and so I was unclear whether there even is any alternative. Part of the issue appeared to be that certain VDOT funding related to the project is only available for a limited time. Edwards and Norris argued for delaying a decision until the "big picture" of the interchange, Parkway and sewer system can be comprehensively considered, and none of the councilors who voted "yea" articulated clearly why the sewer line decision cannot wait.

314. I guess, then, my takeaway question is this: for David Brown, Julian Taliaferro, and Satyendra Huja, is their concern primarily (1) safety or (2) the VDOT funding?

315. Did most Dutch immigrants side with the Continentals or the Loyalists during the Revolutionary War? Did it depend on the colony?

316. What percentage of Charlottesville's budget goes towards the sewer system?

317. In an unrelated matter, state Senator Robert Hurt (who represents Danville) announced yesterday for the Republican nomination for the 5th District seat. Larry Sabato says in this morning's Progress that Hurt is the candidate-of-choice for national Republicans. How much does Hurt's candidacy hurt Ken Boyd's chances? Is the balance of power in the 5th District to the south or the north? How will Hurt and Boyd differentiate their priorities? Does one or the other of them make Perriello more nervous?

318. Speaking of Perriello, has he indicated any preferences yet on the health care legislation? I imagine that it remains a very fine balancing act for him, but is he on the record, at all, on the Finance Committee's bill?

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