The El Dorado Irrigation District found it is cheaper to hire a hydrographer than to pay an outside consultant to perform the work. That was the conclusion of Hydroelectric Operations Manager Dan Gibson.
The district’s hydrographer retired Feb. 8. To perform the work and reports required as part of the district’s license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission it has hired a consultant since February. That contract from February through July cost $44,225 plus another $5,700 to continue through August.
To carry the load through December, Gibson requested board approval for nearly $49,000 as a change order to the contract with ECORP Consulting.
The job of the hydrography consultant is to do a monthly review, computation, analysis and reporting to state and federal agencies, the staff report stated. It also does “rating curve” maintenance and development, station analysis preparation, and station description and updating for 11 FERC-required water gauges that measure flow and reservoir storage. These all have to conform to U.S. Geological Survey standards.
The “rating curve” uses flow meter results to determine high and low water river flows at cubic feet per second.
In total there are 29 stream and reservoir gauges, with 18 of them supporting operations and water rights reporting, and 11 for FERC compliance. Ten of the 18 are used to support the district’s water rights that predate 1914 when state water law changed and subsequent water rights required approval from a state agency.
As of Friday, Aug. 23, the district had received seven applications to fill the vacant hydrographer position. All are experienced hydrographers and are expected to be up to speed with the district’s facilities within less than a month, according to Gibson. The consulting contract allows EID to cancel it once a hydrographer is hired and trained.
The monthly cost of employing its own hydrographer is $10,450. That compares to $11,700 monthly cost for ECORP, a figure that includes the expense of additional district staff needed to help the assistant hydrographer. A second consultant that had responded to the request for proposals would have cost $27,500 a month.
Director George Wheeldon said he had talked to the engineering department about doing the hydrographer’s work, but the engineers were pretty busy, especially since this was one of the departments that was shrunk in various personnel cutbacks the district has made since 2008. Wheeldon’s primary charge to Gibson was to “upgrade safety procedures” for the hydrographer who was pictured wading into fast flowing water in the winter with only a life jacket and a grab line.
“Seems to me it’s an awful lot of money just to assist with paperwork,” said Director Bill George.
“$49,000 is crazy,” political candidate Greg Prada said.
Director Alan Day asked that once the hydrographer is hired and trained, that Gibson report back to the board how much was spent in the interim on the consultant.
The consulting contract was extended unanimously.