Buck Mountain Reservoir

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Buck Mountain Reservoir
Owner RWSA

The Buck Mountain Reservoir was a concept included in community water supply plans from the early 1980s to 2004. Land was purchased by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority for the reservoir in 1983. [study 1][dead link] on Buck Mountain Creek near Free Union, VA. Assessments of the James spinymussel (Pleurobema collina), a federally-listed endangered species, were made in the reservoir area in 1996 and 2004. [study 2] The identification of the James spinymussel was one factor that has led to reservoir construction at Buck Mountain being eliminated from local water supply plan alternatives. Gannett Fleming's 2004 Water Supply Alternatives Supplemental Evaluation reviewed 22 water supply options, two of which involved dams on Buck Mountain Creek.

"Based on the impacts to the James spinymussel and the high level of anticipated impacts to wetlands and linear feet of stream habitat, it is recommended that [Alternative 2 - Construction of a new dam at Buck Mountain Creek] NOT be considered for more detailed analysis."[study 3]

The second alternative involving a dam at Buck Mountain Creek was also not recommended, in part, because of the James spinymussel.

In June 2019, the RWSA announced it would develop a long-range plan for what to do with the property. This was prompted by requests from original landowners to buy back the land. [1] A surcharged levied to pay for debt service was finally dropped in the fall of 2019 by the RWSA, the Albemarle County Service Authority, Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. [2]

Ambox notice.png This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

A master plan will be shown to the RWSA Board of Directors on August 25, 2020.


During 1979-1982, community leaders discussed the need for a new reservoir to accommodate expected population growth. The goal was to secure enough land on Buck Mountain Creek, near Free Union, for a reservoir that would be built by 2015. The negotiations over the land purchase broke down in late 1982 with each locality seeking to push the bulk of the costs to the other’s residents.[ref 1]

Earlier that year, a citizens group known as the Five C’s, the Citizens Committee for City-County Cooperation, had successfully pushed for approval of the city-county revenue sharing agreement which resolved the lengthy debate over annexation. As that community challenge wound down, the Five C’s found themselves called back into action to help broker a compromise between city council and the board of supervisors on the water supply. [ref 2]

The Five C’s put a cost sharing proposal on the table that suggested shifting some of the costs to new users through connection fees. By the calculations at the time, the Five C’s figured the City of Charlottesville would pay less than half the cost for the land over the 30-year bond period. While the proposal was endorsed by city council, county leaders held out for a commitment to have Charlottesville residents contribute to watershed protection efforts in rural Albemarle. [ref 3]

It took months of negotiations before an agreement on the land purchase and sharing of watershed protection costs was reached in January 1983. While over 1,800 acres were purchased by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, no reservoir was ever built at Buck Mountain as the property was later found to be habitat for the James spinymussel, a federally-listed endangered species. This was one factor that led to Buck Mountain being eliminated from local water supply plan alternatives.[ref 4]

"RWSA proceeded with the planning and design of Buck Mountain Reservoir through the mid 1990’s and by that time had acquired all of the land necessary to build the proposed reservoir."

"In 1996, RWSA retained Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB) and O’Brien and Gere, Inc. (OBG) to prepare and submit the necessary permit application for Buck Mountain Reservoir. As part of that effort, a wide range of potentially feasible alternatives were developed, including alternatives that avoided impacts to Buck Mountain Creek and tributaries totaling more than 60,000 linear feet of stream channels including habitat for the James Spinymussel. In order to take a comprehensive look at avoidance measures, the alternatives analysis process that began in the 1970’s was re-opened. In 2000, a new alternatives analysis report was issued (VHB, 2000) that evaluated over 30 concepts. These alternatives included both structural and non-structural options including water conservation, regional cooperation, growth management and demand management, dredging of existing reservoirs, crest controls on South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, re-use, various reservoirs, and surface water withdrawals."[study 2]

Relationship to current water plans

RWSA's Buck Mountain Creek property is the location of some of environmental mitigation measures related to the 2006 Community Water Supply Plan.[study 2]

"Implementation of the Ragged Mountain Expansion project will produce unavoidable impacts to approximately 2.6 acres of wetland habitat including 1.43 acres of palustrine forested, 0.07 acres of scrub shrub and 1.08 acres of emergent communities. Similarly, a 45’ increase in the dam will inundate approximately 14,500 linear feet of narrow, shallow headwater stream channels....Of articular interest is watershed-scale preservation and enhancement within RWSA’s Buck Mountain Creek property. Consisting of more than 1,800 acres with 60,000 linear feet of tributary stream channels, this concept is considered to have the important benefit of enhancing, protecting and preserving known habitat for the James spinymussel, a federally listed endangered species."


References from water supply studies

  1. Web. South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and Watershed: Reflecting on 36 years, Anticipating 50 years, Stephen P. Bowler, available through Charlottesville Tomorrow, Spring 2003, retrieved 25 Jan 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Community Water Supply Project Permit Support Document, Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, 30 June 2006: 16, 25, 70, 71.
  3. Water Supply Alternatives Supplemental Evaluation, Gannett Fleming, July 2004.

Other references

  1. "An Artful Compromise." Editorial. The Daily Progress [Charlottesville] 1 Nov. 1982: A4. Print.
  2. Cromwell, Treva. "Shoot-Out at Buck Mt." Address to the Albemarle County Rotary Club. 1982. Speech. Cromwell typed up her prepared remarks for this address which occurred "sometime in 1982, shortly after the Buck Mt. Purchase issue had been resolved."
  3. Ketcham-Colwill, Jim. "County Stalls Reservoir Compromise." The Daily Progress [Charlottesville] 4 Nov. 1982: A1. Print.
  4. Ketcham-Colwill, Jim. "County Joins in Reservoir Puchase Pact." The Daily Progress [Charlottesville] 6 Jan. 1983: A1+. Print.
  1. Web. RWSA to study land once eyed for Buck Mountain reservoir, Allison Wrabel, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, June 27, 2019, retrieved June 28, 2019.
  2. Web. [ APPROVAL OF A “JOINT RESOLUTION” TO TERMINATE THE BUCK MOUNTAIN SURCHARGE], Bill Mawyer, Staff Report, Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, September 24, 2019, retrieved November 9, 2019.