Sugar Hollow Reservoir - Soon those leaves will be golden!
Last night was the much-anticipated Charlottesville City Council public hearing on the water supply plan. There has not been this much attention paid to any issue in local government since I came back to Charlottesville in 2001 (the Meadowcreek Parkway stirs some people up, but not as many and not as dramatically).
We watched the public comments for a couple of hours (couldn't make it to the actual Councilors' debate - I had to read just a bit of Freedom before going to sleep), and an initial surprise was that the League of Women Voters endorsed (or re-endorsed) the 2006 plan. I had thought the League studiously avoided taking positions, and their support signaled to me that the 2006 plan has even broader support than I'd thought.
Indeed, for the first hour or so the "new dam proponents" dominated the public comments.
Oliver Kuttner provided an early exception to the "Affirm the '06 Plan" speakers. Kuttner talked about "feature creep," by which I understood him to mean people's natural inclination towards new technologies -- even when they are unnecessary.
I think the the idea of "feature creep" is spot-on (I am reminded again of the new bricks on the Downtown Mall). I wonder whether Kuttner -- in the glow of his recent "Very Light Car" triumph -- may have swayed one or more Councilors who were on the fence.
Kuttner also went out of his way to thank Huja for his early support of Kuttner's development/building career, and I wondered again whether this was an attempt to sway Huja's vote. That is probably being too cynical - it was probably just a nice human gesture in the midst of a contentious debate.
Eventually, the tide of public comments turned to those who oppose the new dam, including Bob Fenwick, Dede Smith, and a woman from the Sierra Club. A fascinating subplot of the water controversy has been the split between the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy -- are there any large donors to both organizations who have had to "choose" between the two, given this debate?
One speaker brought a prop (a yellow bucket, theoretically half full of sand, as an illustration of why it's more logical/simple to dredge (empty the sand) than expand the bucket), and I wondered if this man had a background in teaching. Using the bucket, he clearly captured people's attention more than many others who simply stuck to their scripts.
Another speaker, a mathematician, criticized (heartily!) the mathematics/statistical models used by the Swartz firm (more here) in arriving at the conclusion that the area's water demand is virtually unchanged from 2004.
I did not stay awake for the actual Councilor discussion, but according to this morning's Progress and Hook (here and here), the Council voted 5-0 in favor of a compromise position that adopts dredging and -- here is the crucial point -- does not support the building of the large new Ragged Montain dam (as per the '06 plan).
And so, the story continues, because the City and County will now have to reconcile their different plans and determine how to proceed.