Wyoming Water Development Commission revises operating criteria and rules
In mid-2016, the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC) began reviewing their rules and operating criteria, a process which culminated in passage of a package of rules on Oct. 19.
The operating criteria govern how WWDC will distribute its funds, defining priorities, rules and requirements for eligibility.
“WWDC has approved the rule revisions package, so now, it has to go through the final approval process in the Governor’s Office and the Management Council of the Wyoming Legislature,” said Harry LaBonde, Wyoming Water Development director.
Among the changes to operating criteria for WWDC, timelines have been amended for submissions of new projects.
“A new project is defined as any project that has not been in our system before or that has not been reviewed previously,” LaBonde said. “It could be a master plan, a feasibility study or any other new project.”
New projects were formerly required to be submitted by Aug. 15. However, under the new operating criteria, all Level I and Level II applications must be submitted by March 1.
“We’re backing our application deadline up by five months, which allows WWDC to make an initial cut on those applications,” LaBonde explained. “After an initial cut, then we can move forward with these projects.”
Once the initial cut is made professional engineers will be selected to carry out the projects.
“That process involves advertisements and statements of interest, and a short list of the five highest-qualified firms will be compiled,” he said. “The top five firms will receive a Request for Proposal, and based on the proposals a selection committee will narrow that group to three engineers.”
The top three engineering firms are interviewed, and a final firm is selected.
“Also, as part of the proposal, the consultants will provide a cost proposal,” LaBonde said. “So, by the time we have prepared for our November meeting, we will have identified a consultant, developed a scope of services and accepted a cost proposal.”
LaBonde added, “WWDC will consider the project and consultant using the established cost proposal, which will become the basis for the appropriation request to the Legislature.”
Previously, staff at WWDC developed budgets for projects, and prospective consultants had knowledge of the budget. It was perceived by some Commissioners and Legislators that consultants developed cost proposals, which matched the staff budgets.
“We’ve shifted our cost proposal to allow consultants to be selected before the process,” LaBonde said, noting the proposal could help save money as consultants prepare competitive budgets.
As a companion piece of operating criteria, Level III project applications must be submitted on Sept. 1, rather than on Oct. 1, as was previously required.
“For the Level III projects, we have been accepting applications on Oct. 1, which was a pretty rushed timeline to review projects before the November WWDC meeting,” LaBonde explained. “This provides an additional month for application review.”
LaBonde also said the fee structure for WWDC projects has been revised to reflect reasonable timelines for projects.
“Currently, we accept a $1,000 application fee for new projects,” LaBonde said. “For ongoing projects, there is no additional application fee charged.”
However, WWDC tweaked the requirement to institute a five-year window under which follow-up project applications may be submitted with no charge.
“If a project sponsor waits longer than five years to submit their request, they will be charged an additional $1,000 fee,” he added.
Another significant change to the operating criteria of WWDC relates to priority schedules for funding.
Prior to recent changes, the operating criteria contained a list of nine priorities for divvying out funds in Water Development Accounts I, II and III. Account I now has 14 priorities, Account II lists 12 priorities and Account III identifies five priorities.
The priorities for each account are listed in the lower left.
“A lot of work has gone into redeveloping the operating criteria and rules, “ LaBonde says. “This is the culmination of a year and a half of hard work by WWDC.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.