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PLANNING AND ACTING

Once a client has decided generally on goals and a course of action, detailed plans are necessary for specifying and achieving these effectively, efficiently, and as quickly as pragmatically possible. Almost always, execution of a plan requires information and capabilities for analyzing it. George Weber, Inc. Environmental can support a client in achieving their goals once they have been decided by developing:


STRATEGIC, COMMUNITY, REGIONAL, AND LAND USE PLANS

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Ketchikan, Alaska Socioeconomic-Fiscal Impact Assessment and Mitigation Plan


Ketchikan, Alaska, Potentially Impacted by
Quartz Hill Mine Development
(Source: George Weber)

Weber managed a computer based socioeconomic and fiscal impact assessment and mitigation plan for Ketchikan, Alaska to plan for nearby development of the proposed Quartz Hill Molybdenum Mine.

Driven by alternative estimates of the potential number, characteristics, and timing of the project workforce, the model projected, comprehensively and in great detail, the resulting potential growth in community population, demand on community features (e.g., housing, infrastructure, services, etc.), and effects on community costs and revenues.

In addition to the project workforce estimates, the model required as inputs considerable data reflecting local conditions (e.g., labor market, demographics, materials availability and costs), which he developed.

Using the model, the project formulated and assessed alternative strategies for managing the project workforce (e.g., housing construction workforce at project site rather than in the community), demand for housing and community services, and fiscal policies for financing the projected need for capital improvements and routine operating and maintenance.

Ketchikan, Alaska
Ketchikan, Alaska
(Source: George Weber)

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Rural and Tribal Community Wastewater Management Plans

Weber managed a variety of wastewater management planning projects in rural, primarily Tribal, communities with funding from the Municipal Facilities Program, Region 8 EPA . Each of the plans paved the way for the assisted community to receive financial assistance for implementing the plan from EPA under the Clean Water Act.

Weber managed development of a regional wastewater facilities plan for the Cucharas Sanitation and Water District, in Huerfano County, Colorado. The District is located in the upper Cucharas River watershed, located in the northeastern Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Southern Colorado. The planning effort addressed an area having diverse land-use and environmental characteristics. Developed land uses in the watershed included the town of Cuchara, a few subdivisions, a small ski resort with adjacent condominium development, and scattered rural residential dwellings. The town and ski area were served by collection and small treatment systems. Subdivisions and scattered residences were served by septic systems.

Cucharas and Spanish Peaks
Cucharas and Spanish Peaks, Colorado:
NASA SRTM Perspective View with Landsat Overlay
(Source: NASA)

The plan proposed an approach that matched an appropriate wastewater management scheme, as determined by land-use and environmental features, with each sub-area of the service district. The plan allowed for the future evolution and ultimate integration of the wastewater management systems — if the area developed as expected. The plan also proposed an institutional mechanism for managing the district, including for permitting, monitoring, and enforcement functions.

Weber also conducted a range of wastewater management projects for several Native American Tribes. The projects included:

  • Environmental assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI) statements for Fort Washakie and Great Plains Hall, Wind River Reservation (Wyoming);
  • Amended facilities plan and user charge assessment for Pine Ridge (South Dakota);
  • Facilitating agreement among the Ignacio Sanitation District, Southern Ute Tribe, Municipal Facilities Program Region 8 EPA, and other interested parties concerning a final ammonia limitation for the NPDES permit governing the District wastewater treatment plant.
  • Interim facilities plan and user charge assessment for the Ignacio Sanitation District/Southern Ute Utilities Division, Southern Ute Tribe (Colorado); and
  • Septage holding and disposal facilities location study for the Rosebud Reservation (South Dakota).

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Great Plains Reservoirs, Colorado Multiple Use Plan

Weber did preliminary planning and stakeholder involvement directed at developing consensus and collaboration among stakeholders related to improving the Great Plains Reservoir system into a multiple use resource benefiting surrounding communities in rural Southeast Colorado.

Goals the Southeast Colorado community wanted addressed by reservoir development included:

  • Increase the quantity and improve the quality of water for irrigation;
  • Develop the reservoir into a recreation area and wildlife refuge;
  • Improve the quantity and quality of domestic water supplies; and
  • Use the reservoir and related developments to stimulate and diversity economic development.

The preliminary assessment and concept plan accomplished the following:

  • Identified project components and structure;
  • Presented methods and analyses used to produce results;
  • Described how community development principles and techniques should be applied overall to maximize the potential for achieving community goals;
  • Documented the current physical system and operation;
  • Documented citizens’ vision for Nee Gronda development; and
  • Identified problems that needed solving and actions citizens could take to resolve them.

Weber also developed subsequent component plans examining domestic water supply issues, and identifying and assessing alternatives for organizing, administering, and financing the improvements.

Eventually the studies and community development work, including the work of others before and after, generated grants totaling $7.5 million to purchase water rights and develop a park on the reservoirs.

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Hanford Nuclear Weapons Facility Comprehensive Land Use Plan

Weber served as the land use consultant for Jason Associates in their effort for the Richland Operations Office, U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) to develop a comprehensive land use plan for its Hanford Site near Richland, Washington. The Hanford Site occupied 586 square miles in southeastern Washington, and has diverse missions associated with environmental restoration, waste management, and science and technology. The land use plan identified and evaluated environmental and socioeconomic impacts of implementing a ‘no action’ and five ‘action’ land use alternatives for the site for a time frame of at least 50 years. The comprehensive land use plan was prerequisite for determining standards appropriate for site cleanup. Weber’s responsibilities included training Jason staff in basic principles and techniques of land use planning, and advising DOE site managers on land use issues, including how to develop a land use suitability analysis.

Hanford Nuclear Reservation and Vicinity from Space
Hanford Nuclear Reservation and Vicinity from Space,
Before and After 100,000 Acre Wildfire
(Source: NASA Langley Atmospheric Sciences Data Center)

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PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTING INFORMATION SYSTEMS FOR USERS

Data development and information management are critical for achieving all programs and projects effectively and efficiently. Weber has developed and applied a process for developing computer information systems to support decision-making.

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User Needs Assessment and Preliminary System Design

The process addresses the front-end of computer information system development, and involves assessing the needs and capabilities of the potential users, then developing a preliminary design to meet these. Weber developed the approach based on a combination of project experience, training, and researching the literature addressing: public organization development and use of management information systems, technology transfer, computer decision support system (DSS) development and use, and geographic information systems (GIS).

The approach builds on two fundamental starting points — first, a broad perspective of what comprises a computer information system, and second, that organizational and personnel factors are critical to the information system being successful. A system that is technically superior is NOT successful if the organization and staff it has been designed for do not use it effectively!

The approach assumes a view that a computer information system consists of four general components — computer technology, data, analytical capabilities, and people. Each is critical to effective functioning of the system and receives balanced treatment. The system is viewed as a whole.

Users are asked to participate in the needs assessment so that we can understand their perspectives on how well the current information system works, and the improvements and capabilities they desire for a new system. We obtain and facilitate development of users’ views using a sequence of questionnaire survey, personal interviews, and workshops. Involving the future users of the system motivates positive reactions and commitment to the new system as they see their ideas incorporated.

Weber has published one summary of the approach in ‘Transferring GIS Technology to Community Decision Makers’ (Papers and Proceedings of Applied Geography Conferences, 1987, pp. 52-63). He has taught the approach in a ‘professional skills workshop’ for the Department of Government, New Mexico State University. In addition, he has presented the approach to the Western Regional Social Scientists (1988), in addition to the National Applied Geography Conference.

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Developing a Collaborative Source Water Quality Monitoring Program for Three Drinking Water Utilities

George Weber, Inc. Environmental (GWE) completed a project in January 2007 that is helping the City of Greeley, Tri-District, and City of Fort Collins utilities develop a design and strategic implementation plan for a comprehensive collaborative water quality monitoring program of the Cache la Poudre River (CLP). The CLP is a significant source of raw water for these utilities that provide drinking water for most of the Urban North Front Range, Colorado.

The utilities reached agreement on the project and scope of work after meetings over a period of several months, several of which GWE helped organize and facilitate.

GWE began with a presumption that framed the currently independent and potential future collaborative CLP water quality monitoring programs as ‘information systems’ — ones that develop, maintain, analyze, and use water quality data to support decision making by each of the three water utilities. GWE adapted and used a systems approach that Weber developed and applied in the past for understanding an existing information system, identifying the unmet needs of its users, and developing a preliminary design for a new or refined system and implementation plan for meeting users’ needs.

In general terms, the approach frames the information system of interest as a whole, and examines and characterizes the system components, processes, and relationships among them in order to develop an understanding of how the system works. System components include the context and organization within which the information system resides, and involved staff, hardware, software, and data. System processes encompass the activities of data development, maintenance, and analysis, and presentation and use of the information produced to accomplish specific functions and decision-making achieving the organizational mission.

Specific technical achievements of the Project include:

  • Identifying, naming, and prioritizing numerous CLP water quality data sets of all three utilities;
  • Developing an overview characterizing each general phase of CLP water quality data activity for each high priority data set developed by all three utilities (Tri-District 2, Greeley 7, Fort Collins 12);
  • Mapping locations of sampling sites for each high priority data set, for each utility, as well as, comparatively for all three together;
  • Developing a ‘rough draft’ matrix identifying all water quality parameters the three utilities are monitoring and the parameters each high priority data set is monitoring at general locations in the CLP source water area; and
  • Developing additional analytical observations and questions to guide subsequent decision-making by the utilities.

Important general accomplishments of this first iteration Project include:

  • Developing the characterization of the three currently separate programs sufficiently to potentially enable a scope of work for subsequent actions to develop a collaborative program to be more focused, definable, and manageable;
  • Determining that minimum prerequisites (including NO significant barriers) are present for collaboration to occur among the three utilities; and
  • Developing consensus among the three utilities on a general substantive scope for a collaborative Program, and strategies for its development, administration, and funding.

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Directory to Colorado Water Quality Data

Weber applied a hybrid of this process and the stakeholder process to assess potentially sensitive political, organizational, management, and technical issues related to a major water quality initiative the Water Quality Program, Colorado Geological Survey (CGS) was considering. The process identified potential barriers and political conflict that could occur if the initiative were launched as originally conceived. The CGS modified the initiative, and other agencies, whose lack of opposition and positive support were critical for success, supported and cooperated with the revised initiative to produce a Directory of Colorado Water Quality Data. See Stakeholders.

Weber supported CGS in designing an interview protocol and interviewed potential suppliers and users of water quality data to characterize their water quality data and identify their potential needs and uses related to the Directory. He assisted in developing the computerized database, input forms, and reports.

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New Mexico Aviation Division Management Information System

Weber applied the approach and developed a needs assessment and preliminary system design for the New Mexico Aviation Division (NMAD). The information system was designed to support the agency’s mission, and particularly long term planning and capital improvements for public aviation infrastructure. New Mexico Aviation Division personnel participating in the needs assessment identified their needs for a system offering greater flexibility, quicker response time, more direct access to data, and greater personal control of data processing and analysis within the organization than the existing system provided. New Mexico Airports Locations
Click here to view larger image

New Mexico Airports Locations
(Source: New Mexico Department of Highways and Transportation)

The preliminary design developed specifications for five modules — Aircraft Registration, Community Trend Tracker, Aviation Trend Tracker, Airport Planning and Programming, and Office Management. The study also developed a strategic plan for developing and implementing the recommendations. Weber completed the project, which was one component of the New Mexico Airport System Plan Update Project, conducted for New Mexico Aviation Division by the Geographic Applications and Research Laboratory, Applied Geography and Planning Program, Department of Earth Sciences, New Mexico State University (Los Cruces, New Mexico).

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Boulder Medical Center Administrative Computer Decision Support System

Weber conducted a needs assessment and preliminary system design for the purpose of developing a microcomputer based decision support system for the Boulder Medical Center, Boulder, Colorado. Boulder Medical Center administrators were using a commercially available mainframe management system, but wanted a desktop system improving flexibility, response time, access to data, and personal control of data processing and analysis.

The needs assessment identified a number of specific issues related to each information system component including significant problems with the existing commercial system and use by staff, and data quality. Particularly significant, were problems with the quality of diagnostic and procedure data that had a direct effect on revenues Boulder Medical Center collected from Medicare/Medicaid, insurance companies, and other cost reimbursement organizations, and demands on physicians’ and other service providers’ time revising paperwork in order to obtain reimbursement. Also significant was the finding of an inherent conflict in diagnostic and procedural data quality as it related to revenue generation in contrast to other critical functions including long term planning, resource utilization, and pure research. The assessment also identified staff needs for the desktop auxiliary system that would enhance administrators’ capabilities to perform a variety of analyses supporting including strategic planning, productivity enhancement, quality assurance, recruitment, utilization review, and human resource management.

The study developed specific action recommendations under three strategic alternatives addressing:

  • Existing MIS and its use by staff;
  • Data quality; and
  • Designing, developing, and implementing the recommended desktop-based auxiliary system.

Subsequently, the Boulder Medical Center contracted with Weber to conduct a second study under the second strategic alternative addressing the most pressing diagnostic and procedural data quality issues.

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