28 April 2008

Bring on the Vertical Farm!

Earth Week just finished and one of the campaigns launched during it was the "Growing Food & Community" initiative, which takes off where "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" ends by creating an active network of localvores to promote our foodshed's resources, awareness and involvement. Some of the people involved in that campaign are looking at urban gardening options.

Now this is an urban garden... It's got to be one of the coolest things I've seen recently.

25 March 2008

Water Supply In Cville

Everyone is bleating about the cost of the SFRR-to-Ragged Mountain pipeline. Has anyone else noticed that in order to keep the current system working, we would still have to replace the failing pipeline from Sugar Hollow, or am I the only citizen out here that remembers that plank from the original "State of the Water Supply" reports in the planning process? Regardless of which method you choose there's a pipeline cost involved. So what are the comparative costs of the two pipelines?

The other costs in the system--repair & upgrade to two water treatment plants--would have happen no matter which method you choose as well. These are basic infrastructure costs that have to be done. You have to figure them into both plans, otherwise you are not comparing apples to apples.

All of this seems to me to be very misleading. Dredging isn't a silver bullet, if dredging costs $56 million yet has to be done over and over again. $56 million next year, $56 million 5 years from now, $56 million 5 years after that--not very cost effective. And let's face it, that suggested airport runway only needs to be built once.

For the South Fork to be viable as a long-term water supply plan, you have to figure in the costs of addressing the reasons for its excessive sedimentation. What are those? Does that happen because there's too much farmland and impervious surfacing around the waters flowing to it or are there other causes? If a study were done, it might be found that we cannot sufficiently impede the sediment continually filling up South Fork. Or it might be found that it's possible to do, but the cost of addressing the causes of sedimentation far exceed what we would be willing to pay as a community. Still, this is a plank that needs to be address when comparing possible plans for long-term water supply.

In which case, a Ragged Mountain upgrade would be vastly less expensive over both the near and long term, since that dam does not have a sedimentation issue, due to the limited open-water feeders to that reservoir.

Oh, and the reservoir running under 64? Isn't that a red herring argument? We already have a very long bridge on Earlysville Road which runs over the South Fork reservoir. We're already taking that risk with our water supply--we chose to take it many years ago.

I also want to see a comparison of the environmental cost of losing the trees around Ragged Mountain versus the environmental gains from releasing flows that would bring two streams back to their natural state. Every time someone puts in a new subdivision in Albemarle County, we lose that many trees--it's a cost we're familiar with. But what are the benefits of having natural flows, particularly in the Moorman's (which now runs, I think, at a mere 67%)? Does our natural habitat's biological diversity rest in the headwaters? If so, then restoring the Moorman's could have a greater impact in preserving our overall environment than saving the trees further south at Moore's Creek would. And what is the environmental cost of finding the acreage to dewater all that silt, time and time again? I know we covered this when we were going through the water supply planning process (for years), but those arguments have gotten lost in this kerfluffle. Someone please tell me the environmental gains from the Ragged Mountain plan again?

I'd like the Citizen's Water Supply group to address some of these, since they have chosen to take on the position "New dam = bad." If they want to sell me on their solution, they have to do more than give me a negative bill of goods on the solution that we all thought was so brilliant last year. I'm tired of negative campaigning.

Oh, and the arguments can't be based upon curbing growth. I already accept that growth will slow in the coming years. However, for 3 years running we've had water restrictions in place. It's not the 2002 drought I measure against. I measure against the number of months each year in which we have water restrictions based on lack of rainfall. Those months are increasing. We DO have a growing water supply problem and it's current--it has nothing to do with projected growth in my mind. Perhaps we should make those restrictions permanent--I think there's a strong argument for that. But can anyone prove to me with numbers that permanent water restrictions will address basic water supply over the next 50 years if, every year, we are taking more out of the system than is replaced by rainfall? And can anyone prove to me that there's the will on the part of our residents to permanently change their water use habits to meet those numbers?

29 February 2008

Dredging Included

Vis-a-vis the dredging issue and the credibility of the company that did the estimate, someone should set the record straight. Gannett Fleming does dredge, and they state as much on their website: http://www.gannettfleming.com/envmanagement/nepa.aspx

Anyone who went farther than the first 2 pages, or bothered to type "dredging" into their search engine, would have found that page.

Since the cvillewater.info group has made much of the fact that they didn't see dredging operations listed among the company's areas of expertise, I thought it would be a service to correct that.

And just to make sure the point carries, I did a Google search "Gannett Fleming dredging" to see if I could find verification from other sites that they've been connected with dredging:

IDSWater, which appears to be an industry supersite, lists them at http://www.idswater.com/water/us/gannett_fleming/ozone_technology/9089_0/directory_listing.html

Western Dredging Association's member directory lists a dredging expert from Gannett Fleming at http://www.westerndredging.org/member_directory.php?letter=s

They were involved in the North Park Lake dredging project in/near Pittsburgh, PA, and there's a report on that project online at

I don't know about the general populace, but I personally have a really hard time believing the unsupported suppositions of 6 disaffected Charlottesvillians over these and 800 other sites on Google that specifically associate Gannett Fleming with dredging operations. At this point in time, I see no reason to believe their estimate was incorrect.

26 February 2008

They just don't get the Western mindset...

China View has an opinion on why Sunday night's Oscars show was the least-watched ever. You can read it at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-02/26/content_7673967.htm.

Somehow, though, in all those implied criticisms of American taste and snobbery, they didn't notice the fact that the WGA writer's strike, which lasted slightly over 3 months and ended only 12 days before, had continually threatened the Oscars telecast. We watched the Golden Globes go down in flames as both writers and A-list actors picketed during the run-up. We watched as show after favorite show went dark, their previously entertaining hours doomed to rerun hell or filled with half-baked B-list pilots that had been previously rejected by the studios for primetime line-up.

Many of us turned off our TVs long before the Oscars. Funny thing about drying out from a drug like that--you find other, sometimes better, addictions to take its place.

21 February 2008

Water Supply--The Combined Form

The Progress, Cville, Hook, Cville Tomorrow, and Cvillenews.com have all covered the water supply debate. To buy wholly into the Cville Water Supply group's position throws out years of discussion and planning. I don't think that's wise. Furthermore, I am beginning to resent the "We should do this, not that" presentation of the arguments. For once, can we get beyond the "my way or highway" mentality surrounding this issue? The only two people I have consistently seen demonstrate an openness to amend plans backed up by practical knowledg of workable solutions are Ridge Schuyler and Tom Frederick. They've been getting short shrift from the media these days, and have certainly taken a pounding in the recent "debates," but they still remain open. For this, they deserve a lot more respect and better treatment than what they've gotten.

I cannot speak for all of us who support the Ragged Mountain Dam/South Fork pipeline option, but I can say that I see the dredging of the SFRR as a separate issue. And I support both.

Dredging the SFRR is, in my opinion, a short-term solution. The problem with the South Fork is sedimentation--specifically a high rate of sedimentation than an expert (and I am not one, but I talk with them frequently) would deem normal. That is true throughout our watershed, by the way. There is too much erosion, too much sediment in our watershed overall (my guess is that it's due to overdevelopment and poor stormwater management practices/systems), and it is silting in SFRR. Until we can get a handle on how to slow and eventually stop that process, the monies we spend dredging the South Fork now will need to be followed up with more monies to dredge it again. How soon, I do not know. But, again, I would guess that, without more monies spent on drastic, remedial buffer repair and streambank restoration, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot.

This I do know: Vegetation takes time to root, that means it will be a while before it can do its job of filtering sedmiment from a stormwater event before it hits an open watercourse like a stream or river. Whether we decide to do restoration work on the open courses that feed the SFRR or not, we will still have a sedimentation problem for years. To me, therefore, dredging the SFRR as a water-supply solution it does not sound like a great option for the near haul. For a 50-year plan, yes, but for a 10-year or 20-year plan, not so much.

As Kevin Lynch has so frequently pointed out, this is the kind of infrastructure project that has to be done in phases. What sense does it make to spend most of your front-end money working on a project that does not have a front-end return?

For that reason, I support raising the Ragged Mountain Dam and building the pipeline from SFRR. But what I would like to see is a combination of these goals. This could be produced by raising the RM dam 20-22 feet (not the full height) and building the pipeline in the first phase. As Tom Frederick has pointed out several times, to apparently deaf ears, this would also satisfy DEQ permits already received.

While that is going on, get a second estimate on dredging and let the Rivanna Basin Commission do its job by reporting back on what it would take to alleviate the sediment issues around the South Fork. Dredging the South Fork once makes sense, because the job might pay for itself given that the airport needs the dirt. Dredging it multiple times if the causes of sedimentation aren't addressed doesn't.

Then, if it seems that the sedimentation issues can be addressed, look into the costs of that project and incorporate them into the second phase of the water-supply project. If it can't be addressed, then look into raising Ragged Mountain the rest of the way.

This is a more nuanced position than I'm hearing out there from the cvillewater.info group. It's not a sexy option, it's a practical option. It allows RWSA to get on with its business of actually proving to the state we're going to do something about water supply while still keeping the dredging door open provided further information proves the project long-term viable.

15 February 2008

Missing Mitch

I tried to make it to Mitch Van Yahres's memorial service, which started 1 hour, 15 minutes ago. But even arriving at 1:54 pm with a line of only 5 cars in front of me and 15 behind, I could tell it was a no-starter. In the farthest lots, black-suited men with walkie-talkies were parking SUVs in the landscaped islands and bushes. After 10minutes of circling 3-4 lots, I didn't know what to do with myself, so I went back to work.

I wanted to go because I miss Mitch. I didn't know him well, but I enjoyed his company and his viewpoint every time I met him, usually through Dems functions. He seemed to me to be a fierce believer in the power of the common person to effect a positive change. I'd go further and say he absolutely expected it--of all of us--but I'm afraid of overstepping. After all, I'm a cynic who doesn't believe most people will get off their tukuses until forced to do so. It is difficult to believe that a man could live in this modern world to age 81 and still maintain such ideals and such ethics. But it wasn't difficult to believe in him--he had a double helping both.

Never mattered if I agreed with him on something (living wage) or not (the erstwhile Rivanna Parkway), I was always ridiculously pleased to see him, talk with him, take in his opinon. Judging by the faces of others around me, everyone else in the Democratic party had a similar reaction.

10 January 2008

Who Is Mike Gravel?

Just when I thought I knew who I was voting for...

91% Mike Gravel
89% John Edwards
88% Dennis Kucinich
86% Chris Dodd
86% Barack Obama
86% Bill Richardson
84% Hillary Clinton
79% Joe Biden
37% Rudy Giuliani
33% John McCain
25% Ron Paul
25% Mike Huckabee
21% Mitt Romney
21% Tom Tancredo
15% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

I also matched Gravel 91% on a blind poll put up at VAJoe.com -- the cool thing about this one is you have simple choices, no prioritization, no slant to the questions, and no clue how it will come out 'til it's done. http://www.vajoe.com/candidate_calculator.html

Anyone I agree with 91% of the time hasn't a hope in Hades of actually winning at the federal level.

09 January 2008

Video Ungeek

I'm not computer illiterate, but I'm not a 22-year-old gaming fanatic either. This is why I was surprised when the video card in my 18-month-old system unexpectedly died with no warning last week.

My idea of built-in obsolescence is that the technology in question is doomed to deteriorate or become outdated within 5-7 years, not less than 2.

I looked all over the internet for consumer or customer reviews on the WinFast nVidia card I had in the machine, and all the initial, first-page reviews I found were glowing. Of course, when you read glowing reviews you wonder if it was something that you did which caused your machine to die on you. It took several sites and pages within them to find posts by people with the same expectations and difficulties that I had.

Apparently, when it comes to video card drivers, I shouldn't have been shocked. 2-3 years is a really good life-span for a card in the video gaming world and, even if your card could last longer, you will have upgraded it by then anyway.

This seems insane to me. We wouldn't buy or keep a car that required a new carburetor or radiator every 2-3 years. We wouldn't invest in any home improvement that was likely to break down after 18 months. Why do we accept this for computers?

06 January 2008

I {heart} Huckabee

... but I ain't voting for him.

As most people who know or read me are aware, I'm only "conservative" when it comes to things like green space, energy, and other environmental issues. Which means I'm even more progressive than Teddy Roosevelt. Which is why I was appalled to find Mike Huckabee doing so well in the polls.

After watching Stephanopolous this morning, I am no longer surprised that Huckabee won in Iowa. He's a personable guy, and more intellectually honest than many politicians at the federal level. It was refreshing to hear him calling George out on his lack of ability to recognize a nuanced stance--not once but twice. I like nuanced stances. It means the man has thought through several possible scenarios, has considered more than a bottom-line approach, integrates information well in his analysis of a situation. These are all good indications.

Nope, can't vote for him; he's too ideologically opposite from me. But it sure was nice to listen to a Republican candidate without wanting to throw something at the TV for a change.