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Financial Assistance Programs: Water Quality
A Community's Guide to the Utah Water Quality Project Assistance Program
Chapter 3: Planning Your Project
Effective project planning should help you define your current situation, select the best solution, identify specific steps to implement your solution, explain the project to your community as well as help secure WQPAP financing. Keep in mind that the future success of your project depends on the thoroughness of the work you do during this step.
Determine Your Existing Situation
A clear idea of the existing situation and problem will help you decide which alternatives should be considered. You need to determine factors such as service area, population projections, and flow projections. What type of facilities exist now? What condition are they in?
Why Are You Doing This?
Before you can identify alternatives, it helps to clearly identify the purpose for starting this project. What precisely is the existing situation? Is there an environmental problem you need to solve, or are you anticipating the future needs of your community? To help you identify your existing situation and direct you toward appropriate alternatives you should consider things such as the condition of your existing sewers and wastewater treatment plant and whether they are meeting current Utah water quality requirements, population and growth of your community and potential effects on the environment resulting from future development which your project may permit such as the loss of natural habitat or effects on nearby stream corridors.
Sanitary Sewage Flows
An important factor to consider is how much sanitary sewage there is now and how much there will be in the future. The type of sewer and treatment plant improvements you should consider depends on how much sanitary sewage there is to collect, transport through sewers to the wastewater treatment plant, and treat. If the purpose of your project is to construct sewers, sewage flow can be estimated and your proposed facilities designed based on these estimates.
However, if you have an existing sewer system, it is important to determine the actual sewage flows and predict how much sewage flow you will have in the future.
NPDES Permit Limits
Are you thinking about expanding your wastewater treatment plant or building a new wastewater treatment plant? If so, a revised or new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit will be necessary. This permit sets the level of treatment your wastewater treatment plant must accomplish to meet the water quality standards established for the stream receiving the discharge. Determining the permit limits can sometimes be a lengthy process, in some cases requiring the Utah DWQ to conduct extensive sampling of the receiving stream. As soon as you know the size of your new facilities, submit a request for new limits. We can do this for you, or you can contact the Utah DWQ office in writing.
Analyze Your Alternatives
Once the existing situation is clearly identified, there will probably be several solutions available. Which solution is the best one? An alternatives analysis will compare the different solutions and help you select the best alternative.
Your engineer should do a present worth analysis to compare the total costs over the next 20 years of different alternatives. In order to determine these total costs, the analysis will combine initial construction cost and 20-year operation, maintenance, and replacement costs to calculate a total cost for each alternative. This allows you to determine the least costly alternative for your project.
You may think the "best" alternative is the least expensive one. However, non monetary factors also play a role in your decision. Non monetary factors include short-term effects to environmental features and long-term effects (such as new development) due to the project; reliability questions; and concerns about ease of operation. You should also consider ways to lessen the short- and long-term effects of each alternative. These ways can include erosion control during construction to controls on development served by the project. The non monetary pros and cons of each alternative should be weighed along with the present worth costs of each to determine the best overall solution for your current situation.
Now that you've selected a solution, you should be able to get a good idea of what the total project costs will be. You will want to prepare an implementation plan as a component of the planning document. At this time you will need to obtain funding commitments from the WQPAP and other financing sources to try to lower the cost to the user and make the project implementable. It's never too early to start asking yourself whether you have enough financing lined up and how much the project will cost the average user.
Additional Funding Sources
We can provide information and contacts for several other funding sources. The major sources of grant money available are the public bond market, the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board, Community Development Block Grants, and the Rural Economic and Community Development Services (formerly Farmers' Home Administration). These funding sources may have different time schedules than the WQPAP, so it is important to know each source's deadlines to assure that all possible sources of funding are evaluated before you need them. The DWQ staff will assist you in coordinating arrangements with the funding agencies at your request.
It is important to get the public involved and informed early. Early participation can improve community acceptance, even when user charges increase. A successful public participation program may include information meetings, public hearings, news releases, or flyers. The point is to share all available information concerning the project. Also, an explanation of what the problem is and how much it will cost to fix can minimize confusion and controversy. We can help you evaluate what level of public participation may be appropriate for your project.
When you submit your planning information to us, we will review the potential environmental effects your proposal may have, both in the short term and the long run. For most projects, this is a relatively quick process. It could be longer for projects with potential areas of concern (such as the existence of wetlands, archaeological or historical sites, or endangered species).
Next, DWQ will prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) or, under certain circumstances, a Categorical Exclusion, for the project which summarizes the environmental, technical and cost information developed during the planning process. The EA documents the significance of your projects's effect on the environment and describes any actions necessary to reduce the effects your project may have on the environment. These actions will be incorporated into the detailed plans and specifications of your project. The EA will be sent to a sampling of the public affected by the project. After a 30-day comment period, which may be waived in the case of a Categorical Exclusion, we will make a final decision as to whether the project has the potential for causing significant environmental effects. If there are no significant environmental effects identified, we will issue a final Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI) and an official approval for your planning effort.
Finally, you have a well-defined plan of action. While this may not be the most expensive step of this process, it is definitely the most important. As mentioned before, the future success of what you construct in your community depends on the job you've done through this step. The next step is for you to put the project you are planning to build on paper in the form of detail plans and specifications. The next chapter discusses designing your project in more detail.
Planning Your Project Checklist
Things that should be done by the end of Planning Your Project:
- Hired an engineering firm to assist you with project planning.
- Determined design flows.
- If necessary, applied for a new or revised NPDES Permit.
- Evaluated alternatives and selected one to implement.
- Prepared a preliminary estimate of total project cost and cost per user.
- Identified and contacted potential sources of funding for the project.
- Adequately involved the public.
- An Environmental Assessment issued by DWQ for public review.
- FNSI issued and subsequent approval of your planning effort by the Utah DWQ.