Conceptual Projects that Come From the Watershed Studies
The projects shown in the watershed study reports are concepts. To construct a project, it must move from the concept stage to the design stage. The design stage cannot begin until a project is programmed into the City’s 5-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
Programming a project is a complex process and involves many factors. Factors include:
- What is the estimated project cost and is it possible to program it into the Stormwater Utility CIP given other needs and demands of the Utility?
- Are other projects happening in the same area? For example, is the street being reconstructed where an opportunity exists to partner with other agencies or utilities that may be otherwise impacted?
- Is there alternate funding available, such as grants?
The 5-year CIP is updated every year. For example, in 2020, the CIP for 2021-2026 is developed. In 2021, the CIP for 2022-2027 is updated. Because new information comes up every year, the order the projects are programmed can and will change.
The City has 22 watersheds. Currently, Engineering has the solutions for the first five watersheds. As more watershed studies are completed, more projects will be identified. Newly identified projects may take priority over previously programmed projects. Projects that have started design and permitting or have sunk costs will be taken into consideration so efforts are not wasted. However construction may be delayed if other priorities arise.
It is expected that it will take decades to implement the projects shown in the watershed study reports. It is also expected that the projects will not be implemented exactly as proposed in the watershed study report since the studies are to be considered a high level feasibility report. There are two main reasons for this:
- Watershed models will be updated as the watershed develops or redevelops and stormwater projects are constructed and
- Additional, more detailed, information is obtained during the design phase. This more detailed information typically modifies project concepts. Additional information collected during design typically includes topographic survey, geotechnical information, full utility information, wetland delineations, tree surveys, changing regulatory requirements, etc.
When being programmed for design each project will have its own separate public meetings and input process as it goes through design and permitting which may alter original concepts.
Each fiscal year Engineering evaluates projects to include in the capital budget. As part of that evaluation, staff considers such things as:
- Flood reduction abilities
- Racial Equity and Social Justice
- Ability to improve emergency service access
- Cost/available funding sources, including external funding such as grants
- Water quality benefits
- Co-benefits to other City infrastructure such as streets and utilities
- Timing of the specific project (some projects require downstream solution built first else they will not work or may even be detrimental to the goal of flood reduction)
- Project support
- Tree loss, wetlands and other environmental aspects
- Local, state and federal regulations (Landmarks, DNR, FEMA, etc.)
Implementation of Flood Projects
Drainage systems are often interconnected and complex. Altering one area of the system may inadvertently change another area. A solution isn’t viable if it simply moves a flooding problem to another area where it would cause others to be negatively impacted. Holistic solutions for the major flooding issues identified in each study will be proposed and will then be prioritized for potential future implementation depending on funding availability and the yearly capital budgeting process. Some solutions that have been identified are very expensive or have other challenges that may need to be addressed prior to or as part of implementation. These challenges include need for alternate funding sources, land requirements, permitting complexities, other regulatory issues, and public involvement and /or support.
As the watershed studies are completed, there will be many more projects identified that will need to be prioritized. Once all the watershed studies are completed, the number of projects identified will exceed the ability of the Stormwater Utility to fund. Once prioritized it could take decades before the projects are constructed. Some project solutions identified in the reports may never be constructed for a variety of reasons, or additional alternatives may be developed instead.
The studies should be considered a feasibility level of report that identifies potential solutions that are viable but more refinement and design would be required prior to any implementation. The studies can also be used to determine if no viable solution exists that fully meets our flood reduction goals. This allows property owners and policy makers can make decisions based on that information.