Break up CIP workshops

By From page A4 | October 25, 2013

The five-year capital improvement plan for the El Dorado Irrigation District, which is updated every year, is a list of 153 projects that will cost $84.7 million between 2014 and 2018. That is $1.2 million less than the five-year capital improvement plan for 2013-2017 and $1.7 million less than the 2012-2016 plan.

The 2014 component of the capital improvement plan is estimated to be $17.3 million worth of projects. While a lot of them are studies preparatory to actual construction, later in the five-year period there remain some substantial projects.

Director Alan Day asked to break the presentation up into at least two workshops, one for water and one for sewer. We would suggest three or four workshops. It is good to get the overall picture of the next five years. And it is accepted that the more experienced directors are already familiar with quite a few of these projects, because they reappear each year when the five-year capital improvement plan is updated.

Despite that experience, we doubt all the directors are fully versed in every project. General Manager Jim Abercrombie should also keep in mind this is not just a presentation for the Board of Directors, but it is a presentation for the general public. Detailing and justifying each project for the ratepayers are vitally important.

There are 32 projects totaling $718,000 that are required of the district under terms of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license. They are all small dollar amounts compared to other elements of the CIP, but over five years they add up to $6 million. Besides detailing each project, it would be useful to get the big picture. How much is FERC requiring the district to do in total? What are the deadline expectations? How much can be stretched out?

The 30 water projects in the CIP total $5.6 million in 2014. They include water line movement for the Silva Valley interchange at $200,000, completion of  Reservoir A conversion from dangerous chlorine gas to inert hypochlorite for $425,000, and Piping the Main Ditch from Forebay to Reservoir 1, which will soak up $200,000 in 2014 and add up to $3.5 million at the end of five years. Coating the inside of water tanks will cost $1.5 million in 2014 and again in 2015, totaling $5.2 million at the end of five years. Putting a mini-hydro project in line above Tank 7 will cost $1.3 million and generate 1.85 megawatts. Installing two hydro-generators in-line would have a pay-back period of 14-15 years and bring in $4 million-$5 million in income over the 30-year life of the project. Water projects over five years total $23.3 million.

Wastewater projects, of particular interest to directors from El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park, total $3.8 million in 2014 and $16.9 million over five years. Two big projects in 2014 are $150,000 to replace more of the Mother Lode Force Main and $712,000 for a sewer lift station upgrade. Replacing or redoing lift stations are million-dollar jobs. There are five outlined in the five-year plan. One will be abandoned. The engineering staff is studying abandoning more than one by achieving a new gravity flow route for the sewage, a long-term savings.

There are 24 hydro projects, including $450,000 final payment to the contractor for the $1.4 million Flume 41 project that is now under construction. In 2014 the engineering staff hopes to replace the Camp 2 bridge for $1 million. MGE Engineering already designed a replacement. The rickety bridge no longer is safe for equipment and vehicles. Replacing it would save EID millions by providing access to two flumes, a tunnel, a ditch tender’s house and a siphon. Seven flumes are scheduled for replacement, with six of them being done in-house. Another is being studied for either a concrete flume or a tunnel replacement. The big hydro project is $500,000 for more engineering for the Forebay Dam safety project, with the $18 million construction project to raise the dam and upgrade the outlet taking place in the five-year plan.

Carlton Engineering has studied all the flume and canal sections for EID and prioritized the most critical ones. What district staff and the manager should do is bring in the big picture and place these projects in that context. When will there be an end to the big flume projects? When will there only be basic maintenance and in-house construction? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel of money love?

All EID systems are controlled by computerized telemetry, from sewer plants to flumes and the powerhouse. We don’t quibble with computer upgrades and redundancy. We don’t want the Obamacare version of EID computers and we sure don’t want the Chinese Army or the Iranians hacking into the EID system. But the fleet manager needs to take a session to talk about what vehicles need to be replaced and why.

There is no question that EID has a complex system. We think management should take heed of Director Day’s suggestion to break up portions of the Capital Improvement Program into several different sessions, so directors can more closely question the projects and get answers that aren’t necessarily in the backup material.

Mountain Democrat

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