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Financial Assistance Programs: Water Quality

A Community's Guide to the Utah Water Quality Project Assistance Program

  1. Introduction
  2. Getting Started
  3. Planning Your Project
  4. Designing Your Project
  1. Receiving Your Loan or Grant
  2. Building Your Project
  3. Conclusion
  4. Appendices

Chapter 4: Designing Your Project

Now that you have decided what you want to build, you need to prepare the construction documents so contractors can submit bids to construct the improvements. Ideally, work should start on these documents after DWQ has issued a final Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI) and approved your plan. However, most communities start preparing the construction documents sooner. Starting sooner won't create any problems as long as you and DWQ have come to an agreement on the content of your project.

The construction documents consist of three parts:

  1. Detailed plans that provide a detailed picture of exactly what you want to build and where you want to build it.
  2. Specifications that describe and explain what you want to build.
  3. Contract documents that describe the process you will use to seek bids and all the legally binding requirements on the construction contractor(s).

Preparing the Detail Plans, Specifications, and Contract Documents

Preparation of complete and accurate construction documents is extremely important. Contractors will bid on and build exactly what they think the contract documents say. Any ambiguities and/or errors in the construction documents may lead to confusion and result in delays, disputes and cost overruns. Therefore, it is important to hire a competent engineering firm to prepare documents that thoroughly and accurately describe everything that you expect the contractor to do.

WQPAP Issues That Affect Detail Plans and Specifications

The WQPAP program has some requirements that you may not normally include as part of a wastewater facility design. When you are ready to start the actual design of your project, you should be aware of the following:

  • If the estimated construction cost in the planning documents (this does not include engineering fees, easements, etc.) is $10 million or higher, you must perform a Value Engineering (VE) study. This is nothing more than getting a "second opinion" from a different engineering firm when the design is about 25 percent done. Experience has shown that VE studies results in design changes that can save significant amounts of money, make construction easier, and improve operation. The purpose of the VE study is to get a fresh view of the design. Any recommendations should not be considered a criticism of the design engineer. If your project is less than $10 million, a VE study is not required for a WQPAP loan, but it may still be a good idea.
  • Since this is an environmental program, DWQ will want to make sure that the construction documents include appropriate environmental standards. These standards ensure that the construction of the project does not result in significant or avoidable destruction of the environment. There are also some social standards that must be included, such as making sure the contractor makes an effort to subcontract some of the work to companies owned by minorities and women, and pays the workers the prevailing wages for your area. Please see Appendix B for a complete list of environmental standards and social policy authorities. DWQ can provide samples of language for you to include in the contract documents.

Plan Review and Permit To Install

A review of your plans by Utah DWQ and issuance of a Construction Permit is necessary whether or not you are getting a WQPAP loan or grant. If you are getting WQPAP assistance, you must submit the detail plans to us for review. We will review the documents for the following:

  • conformance with technical standards to make sure the project will be constructed according to accepted engineering standards which, in Utah, are referred to as Part 3 Regulations;
  • consistency with your approved planning effort and Value Engineering study, if applicable, to make sure the project that you planned is the project you will build;
  • inclusion of appropriate environmental standards;
  • conformance with social standards required by the WQPAP; and
  • conformance with Utah procurement requirements. This is simply an advisory activity; issuance of a construction permit does not mean that DWQ is making any formal determination on the legality of your procurement process.

Once the review is complete and everything is as it should be, Utah DWQ will issue a construction permit for your project.

Concurrent Activities

As you proceed through the project design process, there are other tasks you should be completing. It is important to do these things during the design phase rather than waiting until the design is complete. All of these items have to be completed before you receive a WQPAP loan:

You should identify and start acquiring any land and/or easements you will need to construct the project. This can be a time-consuming process. The sooner you start, the less likely you will have project delays or extra costs. Procedures for easement and land acquisition are discussed in Receiving Your Loan (see next chapter).

You should confirm your sources of construction financing. This is especially important if you have more than one source. If a funding source (especially a grant) falls through, it could have serious effects on the project's cost to your users. These funding sources may have different time schedules than the WQPAP so it is important to know each source's deadlines to ensure that funding from all sources is obtained before you need it. Additional funding sources are listed in Appendix E.

You should draft a proportional User Charge System (UCS) and Sewer Use Ordinance (SUO). The UCS describes how to charge users of the project so you can generate enough money to operate and maintain the project after construction is done. The SUO gives you control over how your sewer system can be used. See Receiving Your Loan for more details.

You should draft service agreements with any other community whose treatment works you may be sharing. In other words, if your sewer system connects to someone else's treatment plant, or your treatment plant treats sewage from outside your jurisdiction, you must have a contract with them to provide service and to establish how that service is paid. This is discussed in more detail in Receiving Your Loan.

You should decide what your dedicated source of repayment will be for your WQPAP loan as well as for any other funding source used. It is very important to determine how your community will be paying its share of the costs as early as possible to avoid unpleasant public surprises at the last minute. You must dedicate a specific source(s) of revenue, such as user fees or assessments, to repay the WQPAP loan, as well as any other loans you may obtain.

You should talk with your engineer about developing a draft Operation and Maintenance program, along with the plans and specifications. It is very important for you to be sure that you know how to operate and maintain the facility once it is built. Before we approve the loan, we will develop a plan with you and your wastewater treatment plant operator to operate your new facilities. This is discussed in more detail in Receiving Your Loan.

While it may seem otherwise, the design phase of a project is not very complicated. Some tasks are highly technical and will require the assistance of a competent engineering firm. Other tasks deal with the administrative and programmatic necessities of designing and building your project. The resources and expertise of the Utah DWQ are available to assist you with any of the design phase work outlined above.

Moving Ahead

While the planning and design stages may seem to take a long time, from here on out the process will start moving very quickly. Now that you have approved construction documents, it's time to find someone to build the project. Now is also the time to finalize all of the financing. The next chapter discusses receiving your loan in more detail.

Designing Your Project Checklist

Things that should be done by the end of Designing Your Project:

  • Hired an engineering firm to help design your project.
  • Performed a VE review of your project (for projects with estimated costs more than $10 million).
  • Identified any specific land and/or easements you will need.
  • Identified a dedicated source of repayment for any financing you receive.
  • Drafted a proportional User Charge System.
  • Drafted any necessary service agreements.
  • Completed and submitted your detail plans and specifications, and paid your application and plan review fee.
  • Received your Permit to Install.
  • Received the final engineer's estimate for the project.