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FAQs: Stormwater Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs)

Freese and Nichols is highly experienced in the development and management of large and small CIPs, and over the years we've encountered several common questions among clients who are considering a CIP for their own communities. Following are brief responses to those questions that we hope will be helpful to our readers. However, please do not hesitate to call any of our Ebb and Flow contacts for more information. We're glad to help!

What is a Stormwater CIP?

A CIP is a tool that can be used by a municipality to prioritize which stormwater maintenance or capital projects should be funded next when funds become available. At a minimum, a CIP should include:

  • A list of proposed projects prioritized according to a city-approved ranking system
  • A description of each proposed project
  • A description of the problem(s) each proposed project addresses
  • Estimated total costs to design, permit and construct each project

Stormwater CIPs should be unique to the cities they are based and address their specific needs and priorities. The ranking system involved in a CIP is customized to each city so that it can be used throughout future growth and changes. The CIP deliverable is meant to be a “living document” that the city can update as projects are completed and new ones are added.

How Do Most Municipalities Prioritize Projects?

Most CIP ranking systems consist of three components: ranking criteria, the weighting factor that is applied to each ranking criteria (are they equally weighted, or is one criterion more important than another?) and a project scoring approach that is repeatable and explainable so that each project can be objectively scored in comparison with one another.

What Criteria Are Used to Rank Projects?

The criteria are determined through coordination with City staff, depending on the its needs and priorities. Examples of ranking criteria are: life safety, potential infrastructure damage, project cost, frequency of flooding and maintenance. The ranking system involved in a CIP is customized to each city so that it can be used throughout future growth and changes.

What Types of Projects Should Be Included in a Stormwater CIP?

Any project related to drainage can be included in the stormwater CIP. Some examples for categorizing the projects are flooding, maintenance, water quality and erosion. The stormwater CIP can be used to organize and track projects from study to design to construction.

How Is a CIP Organized?

There are multiple ways to organize and access a CIP. Commercially available programs are available for this purpose; however, it has been our experience that most of these programs are geared more towards water and wastewater systems rather than stormwater infrastructure. Therefore, some cities typically use a spreadsheet as a way to organize and rank their stormwater CIP. Often times, a better way to organize a CIP is to use a custom Microsoft Access database (an example screenshot from a database is shown above). An Access database allows a city to store more information than a spreadsheet in a single location. A customized form within the database provides the city with an easy way to enter, update and rank the projects. Site pictures, existing construction documents, past studies or models can all be linked together and recalled with the project details. The database also has the capability to be linked to a GIS map that will update as the project is updated.

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TagsStormwater, capital improvements,