Commentary

Message from the GM: Emergency repairs and financial strengths

As I near my ninth anniversary with the El Dorado Irrigation District I am humbled and energized by the dedication of our employees who work tirelessly to provide safe and reliable water and wastewater services to our customers.

I am proud of the response of the men and women at our agency and the contracting companies we partnered with who responded in the face of emergency storm damages over the past few months.

Out of over 40 separate areas that were impacted by the storms, the damage done to our high country Project 184 canal and flume water transmission system was particularly significant. The soil failures and slides resulting from the intense January and February storms impacted sections of the canal and flumes that provide up to a third of EID’s customers with water.

The logistics of repairing these sections of infrastructure perched on the side of steep, hard-to-access hillsides was daunting.

We restored the facilities and the work was done in record time. At times construction work was scheduled 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even more important, there were no loss-time injuries.

It’s hard to convey the significance of this achievement. EID’s engineering and operations staff, in collaboration with GHD Inc., Syblon Reid General Engineering, and Doug Veerkamp General Engineering, met an enormously steep deadline to get our system back up and running by June 1 to meet the water use demands of our customers.

While planning these repairs foremost in our minds were the needs to solve the complex problem, be mindful of the cost of repair and build a fix that would endure. The repairs and reconstructions are not temporary fixes. The superb engineering and construction work carried out on these projects have resulted in permanent fixes that will make our hydroelectric water transmission system even stronger.

To get a sense of the enormity of these repairs, have a look at the videos on EID’s website at eid.org/emergency2017 showing some of the repairs over time.

Strong path forward

As our recent financial audit showed, EID has continued to build on its strong and sustainable financial practices. The independent audit (also available on EID’s website) showed that once again EID was worthy of an unqualified opinion. An unqualified opinion is the highest level of assurance that an auditor can provide.

One important highlight of this audit included the financing activities that EID engaged in that strengthened our position. First, the district saw a net present value savings of $1.7 million when it refinanced a portion of 2009A bonds. Second, we refinanced $110.7 million of variable rate debt into $85.2 million of fixed-rate debt — this reduced EID’s total outstanding debt by $25.5 million. During that audited year the district also issued $38.6 million of new debt. The proceeds of this bond issuance are being used to finance the needed construction and rehabilitation of assets in EID’s water system.

Wall Street saw the headway we’ve made. The enhancement to our ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s put EID into the “high grade” of all investment grade credit ratings. This will help reduce the cost of future debt issuance or refinancing efforts.

With a strong financial plan in place and a workforce full of dedicated professionals, EID is able to plan for and meet the many challenges ahead of us.

For more than 90 years, EID has been serving people, agriculture, businesses and the environment in El Dorado County. In its 220-square-mile service area are assets that amount to nearly a billion dollars that require long-range, costly maintenance and reconstruction.

Are there challenges ahead of us? Of course there are. But with clear-eyed focus, conservative planning and the support of our dedicated workforce and community of ratepayers, every challenge is surmountable.

Jim Abercrombie is EID’s general manager.

 

Special to Village Life

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