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Engaging Public Participation Using Decision Science Tools for Effective Development of a Community-Focused Long Term Control Plan

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The City of Omaha has initiated development of a comprehensive Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) which will require an extensive public involvement process to ensure a successful project. The combined sewer system (CSS) area encompasses approximately 51 square miles in two watersheds; Missouri River and Papillion Creek. The entire CSS area has been divided into 10 basins for evaluation as part of the project. With 10 basins and six Basin Consultants engaged at the basin level for the study, the Program Management Team (PMT) has initiated a detailed decision process to maintain continuity for engaging the public in the alternative selection process at the basin level. With this integrated approach, alternatives identified at the basin level will be easily rolled into the system-wide LTCP with each alternative prioritized based on the benefit and cost of the alternative for the program.

Decision-management tools assist project teams in identifying, organizing, communicating, and completing complex decision-making tasks. These tools are used in a workshop setting to identify key criteria and subcriteria for selecting an alternative. The defined approach for using decision science tools allows the program management team to identify important evaluation criteria in the community, structure the problem, build consensus with the public, document the decision making process, and communicate the results of the decision to the owner, regulatory agencies, review boards, and the public.

The Omaha CSO Program will apply a defined approach for engaging the public in the alternative evaluation process. The individual Basin Consultants will work with the PMT and the City's Public Participation Facilitator to identify 12–15 individuals to participate in each of the 10 Basin Advisory Panels. These individuals will participate in three educational workshops facilitated by the PMT during the fall of 2006. The first workshop will provide an overall description of the Omaha CSO Program and introduction to Decision Science Tools. The second workshop will provide an introduction to CSO control technologies. The final workshop will provide a further description of the specific Decision Science Tool (Criterium Decision PlusĀ® or a spreadsheet model) used for the program. During this final workshop, the Basin Advisory Panels will identify the key decision criteria for the program and assign weights to these criteria. The individual Basin Consultants will then rate the control alternatives based on these assigned weights. The selected alternatives for CSO controls will be presented to the Basin Advisory Panels at the conclusion of the rating process.

The results of the alternative selection process will be compiled to identify project priorities on a basin level and also on a program level. Projects with the greatest benefit for the least cost will be implemented first in each basin. As the program continues, each project will have a declining benefit in relation to the cost. Eventually, the cost of the projects will outweigh the benefit it provides, thus the “knee of the curve” for the program will be reached. At this point, the water quality advances reached by the program will be compared to the goals of the program to determine if additional projects must be implemented.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-01-01

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