Well the engineering proposal’s are in and I have 4 days to read through about 300 pages of what can at times be some pretty technical stuff. For the record I am not an engineer. I have never studied law, and do not know how to implement a utility from the ground up in accordance with state law. So that meant the first 20 pages took me 2 hours as I taught myself about GIS (think Google Earth but with demographic data) mapping, ERU (Estimated Runoff unit?) measurement and allocation, IDDE plans (Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination) and a dozen other things that I had no concept of until yesterday.
However, in the next 4 days I will be forming an opinion on which engineering firms can best meet those challenges as we are choosing the top 3 this coming Tuesday. Then we will be interviewing those 3 firms to make the final recommendation to the board. Crazy.
The end goal of this huge project will be that we will allow ourselves to backcast our development for the next 10 years, and install a Storm Water Utility to hopefully install a fee-bate system to encourage the promotion of stormwater best management practices (BMP).
Backcasting? Think of it as the reverse of forecasting. Instead of saying “in 10 years we will have x acre feet of runoff” we instead plan for “in 10 years we want to have no more runoff than now-what do we need to implement now to achieve that”. The difference is subtle, but backcasting gives the planners the power to set goals instead of letting sprawl gain inertia that becomes uncontrollable.
FeeBate? I love feebates. Basically you tax the behavior you wish to control (excess runoff) and use that money to fund initiatives that promote the behaviors you desire (BMP’s). Think of it as taxing the Hummers to pay for hybrid rebates. You legislatively modify behavior in a budget neutral fashion. Sweet!
BMP’s? These are legion, and include various practices to promote infiltration and water holding to both limit runoff and control pollution. Bioswales are a great example. Instead of draining large impervious surfaces like a commercial parking lot into a stormsewer, you direct the water into a bioswale which increases percolation to recharge aquifers and contains plants that trap and neutralize non point source pollution. Basically they are rain gardens on a much larger scale. The crudest example of a BMP would be a detention basin that hold runoff to meter out the runoff-we are thinking much broader than that.
The most encouraging aspect of all of this is that we have almost a dozen large, well funded engineering firms with great track records vying for this project-and we are only a village of 2000 with a small ($ qtr million) budget. Again, the technology and infrastructure are there-we need only the political will to do it. The Utility will be self funding, and the entire project was funded by a state grant-this entire process will be virtually cost neutral to our community, and in the long run will save literally millions in avoided infrastructure improvements as we no longer need to build massive conduits to handle excessive unplanned runoff.
Be the Change!