The Alexandria City Council, after a long and sometimes heated battle with the schoool system, last week approved a scaled-down version of a controversial high school rowing facility on the Potomac River waterfront.

"After rowing against the tide, the boathouse has finally come to rest upon the shore, and we hope it will stay above water," said School Board Chairman Lou Cook. "I thought we'd never land it."

The two-story facility will serve as home base for the T.C. Williams High School crew team and will be used for storage of the team's shells, or racing boats, and as an exercise and training center for the 200 students on the team.

The facility will be constructed on the waterfront at the east end of Madison Street. Construction is scheduled to begin by July 1, according to Robert Harper, the school system's special projects administrator.

"This was really a team effort that paid off," Harper said. "I think it's great," said Superintendent Robert Peebles, who called the facility a "long-term investment that will serve a lot of kids and their families well."

The crew team's current home in the Torpedo Factory complex is scheduled to be demolished to make way for a restaurant that will be built as part of the conversion of Torpedo Factory Building 10 to retail and office use. Construction in the area is already causing some crew practices to be held at the Occoquan Reservoir.

The City Council allocated $972,000 in May for the construction of a new crew facility. It rejected the design for the facility submitted by the School Board in December, saying its projected $1.7 million cost was too high.

Councilman Donald Casey was particularly vehement in his opposition to allocating an additional $775,000 to the project.

Most of the expense was because of soft soil at the Madison Street site, which necessitated the driving of expensive 85-foot pilings to support the structure. Cook took to calling the proposed site "the marshmallow."

After rejecting the original design, the council directed its staff to work with the schools' staff to reach a compromise on the boathouse.

A committee consisting of Harper, Dayton Cook and Clifford Rusch of the city and Greg Lukemyer and Jan Nierzad of the architectural firm that designed the building met to consider changes to reduce the price of the structure.

They proposed several design changes, reducing the price of the boathouse to $1.3 million.

The committee reduced the cost of the building by $150,000 by changing the foundation of the building and by reducing the structure's overall weight in order to change the size and materials of the pilings used to support it.

Rather than using 85-foot concrete piles, the city will use 60-foot wooden ones.

Transportation and Environmental Services head Cook said the wooden piles, which "grab" better than the concrete ones, will adequately support the structure.

Almost $140,000 in additional savings has been realized by decreasing the length of the building, deleting a porch and decreasing the amount of sliding glass to be used at the rear of the building, decreasing the quality of the windows, and deleting a proposed coaches' office, the painting of the shell storage area, flagpoles and a display case.

Casey praised the committee, calling its work on the revised boathouse design "probably one of the best pieces of work I've seen since I've been on council."

Rowers are expected to begin using the facility by the summer of 1986.