January 14, 2005
City of Asheville
PO Box 7148
North Carolina 28802
3. Demonstrated Needs?
Why is the City going to spend hundreds of
thousands of dollars for planning that may far exceed the actual needs on the
Watershed? Especially when all the Water Department was
really concerned about was road maintenance and removal of exotic invasive
species of plants?
Re: -Watershed Management Planning
contract: Prudent use of taxpayer
proposals will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for dubious
Dear Mayor Worley:
The Asheville Watershed is a unique treasure
for Asheville and, indeed, western North Carolina. Thus, how
that Watershed is managed is a critically important issue facing City
Council. We see a financial and possibly, an environmental
train wreck coming down the track if the City proceeds to award a planning and
management contract without modification and additional
deliberation. Allow us to explain.
We have reviewed the four proposals
submitted in response to the Request for Proposals (RFP) sent out by the Water
Resources Department in the summer. All four proposals have
tried to respond to the specifics of the RFP. Unfortunately
for City taxpayers, that document itself was imprecise and overly broad,
resulting in the four proposals being themselves imprecise and vague.
The result is a broad range of proposed
bids, from $388,000 down to what is essentially a >time and
materials= fee (albeit,
some of those fees at $140/hour). That bid variation itself
reveals imprecision in the RFP and makes comparing the proposals one of
comparing apples and oranges. Moreover these hundreds of
thousands of dollars you might approve are only for the planning. Implementation
will incur even more costs. Tragically, this plan is
rumbling down the track with the City having failed to demonstrate a
compelling need for many of the activities proposed.
We urge City Council to answer these
questions before proceeding. Not doing so will mean wasted
time, resources, opportunities, and taxpayer money.
1. Priorities straight?
Why is the City going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a
dubious Watershed Management Plan when the city water lines and infra-structure
are falling apart? Would not such huge funds be better spent
updating our water system or establishing a comprehensive flood control
2. Road Maintenance?
Why does the City not simply use the comprehensive
road maintenance plan outlined in the 1992 Watershed Plan?
That plan states that the entire Watershed road system can be mowed and
kept clear in only four weeks by two workers. Is not
the real problem found in the City having short-changed Watershed staff so much
so that not even two workers are available to keep the roads
clear? What is the compelling and precise objective of City
Council's pursual of a management plan? If it is to maintain
adequate emergency vehicle access, what would "adequate"
4. Logging plan?
We are concerned that the proposed costs of planning
alone would create real incentive for extractive timber harvesting and
ultimately increase the costs of providing clean water to Asheville’s residents.
Moreover, would not commercial logging at any level certainly
go against provisions of the Conservation Easement by harming the views from the
Blue Ridge Parkway and putting water quality at risk?
5. Where is the Public input?: Why
has the Council not appointed a Watershed Advisory Committee as was proposed
when the Plan was passed in July? That Advisory Committee
would have been very useful in preparing the RFP and in analyzing the proposals
received. In short, we recommend that you build into
any Watershed Management Plan an open and transparent process for public input
and, thereby, citizen buy-in.
are but a few of the questions arising from our review of the four proposals.
Even as we are disappointed in the RFP process and the resulting proposals, we
support the development of a Watershed Management Plan.
Planning should begin with a rational and deliberate process for
determining specific management needs and goals, and should include Asheville’s citizens in
every step of the process. We think it should cover the following
-Protection procedures to ensure high
-Road maintenance necessary for routine patrols and emergency
-Removal of exotic invasive species and best practices to avoid
-Emergency and Security procedures, including pursuit of a
no-fly zone over the reservoir
-Regeneration of American
chestnut as was proposed in the RFP
-Preparing a bench-mark inventory of
assets in the watershed including soils, plants, wildlife, and
In short, our recommendation is that you
step back from these expensive plans. We recommend the City become creative in
using protocols you already have and exploring other ways to less-expensively
develop the inventories and additional management protocols
We conclude that
if City Council proceeds with any of the current proposals, Council will be
issuing a blank check to the contractor for activities that are not clearly
defined or understood by Council. Moreover, Council could
probably accomplish the road maintenance goals and other activities by utilizing
and reassigning City staff and by extracting specific protocols from previous
planning documents. We conclude, too, that Council may gain
support of the public for a Watershed Management Plan by specifically
excluding from the Plan
-logging for wildlife habitat
-logging strips or linear clearcuts as part of the road
-logging as a means to pay for Watershed management
The people of Asheville rely on the Council to do
due-diligence in spending taxpayer and ratepayer funds. We urge Council to
recognize the financial boondoggle it may be approving if any of the RFP
submissions are chosen in their current form.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,Asheville Watershed Working
Swannanoa Valley Alliance for Beauty and
Appalachian Biodiversity Project
People Advocating Real Conservancy
Water for North Carolina
Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition
Wild Law Sustainable Forests Program
cc: City Manager, Water Resources
Department Director, Asheville City Council, the local
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