IVGID GM’s Corner: Operating the district during winter storms (opinion)
January 20, 2017
What drought? I'm sure that is what a lot of you were thinking about a week ago when you were attempting to remove four feet of snow from your driveway!
While we've all been praying for snow, I for one did not ask for it all to be delivered in one week! And for those of us who serve the public, we definitely prefer our weather to be doled out in measured doses. Unfortunately, we rarely get an average winter. We are far more likely to get something well above or below average.
Consequently, we have to size and maintain our infrastructure systems for the extreme days, not the average. For example, our water system is sized for not only the day of the year we consume the most water, but the hour of the day we consume the most water as well. The same goes for our wastewater plant as well.
And because we often have short memories when it comes to storm events, citizens often question why we build our facilities for a ten-year or hundred-year event. When folks want us to cut our costs, they often point to the "over-sizing" and the redundancies we put into our facilities.
I remind people that we don’t have the option of going out of business
— even on a temporary basis. We are tasked with serving you 24 hours a day, seven days a week from now until eternity. While a private business has the option of closing early, closing for vacation or going out of business
— we don’t have that option.
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I remind people that we don't have the option of going out of business — even on a temporary basis. We are tasked with serving you 24 hours a day, seven days a week from now until eternity. While a private business has the option of closing early, closing for vacation or going out of business — we don't have that option.
That is why you still had potable water last week and that is why your toilets still flushed and why your sewage didn't discharge into environmentally sensitive areas. It is also why your services still function whether 15,000 or 5,000 folks happen to be staying in our community any single day.
When the storms took out critical energy infrastructure all over town, all of our generators kicked in and kept our facilities running. We also had enough fuel to keep our staff inspecting and removing snow from our facilities. We also stood ready to offer long term shelter at the Rec Center if it had been necessary.
And just a reminder that our utility infrastructure is not a single point. It is a huge network of pipes, pump stations and treatment facilities throughout Incline Village and Crystal Bay. Due to our topography, we have a larger system than many communities ten to twenty times our land area and population.
As with many of our partner agencies, we learned a lot from the 1986, 1997 and 2005/2006 storm events. One of the reasons that we were able to maintain functionality was due to the additional investments made after those events to ensure more reliable service for the next major storm.
Kudos go to our staff for putting together a long term plan to address our needs and kudos to our Board of Trustees and the community for supporting these investments in the last decade worth of budgets.
And by the way, we've been able to make all these expenditures while continuing to maintain some of the lowest total utility costs around the lake.
I'd also like to personally thank all of our staff members who worked long shifts to keep our critical infrastructure functioning during the storm event.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't thank all of the responders to this event. It was a team effort led by our Fire District to make sure Incline Village and Crystal Bay were able to function during and after the storm.
We could not have resumed all of our venue operations without the efforts of our partner agencies. And our utility staff would like to give special thanks to NDOT and Washoe County for providing immediate access during the storm to our water and sewer stations in impassable areas of Crystal Bay and Incline Village.
Let's hope the rest of the season is an outlier and we just have an average amount of precipitation. We have enough snow to hopefully keep Diamond Peak running until Easter, no more large storms necessary!
"GM's Corner" is a recurring column from Incline Village General Improvement District General Manager Steve Pinkerton, who will discuss issues and offer updates regarding various district matters. He may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.