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Inter-regional partnership paves the way for the future

WAPA’s Colorado River Storage Project, in collaboration with the Desert Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions, recently initiated a new Inter-Regional Service Partnership Agreement. This agreement addresses challenges in managing dollars in the Upper Colorado River Basin Fund (Basin Fund) and more clearly defines the roles, responsibilities and authorities across these three regions. 

A backdrop of challenges 

Senior Vice President and CRSP Manager Rodney Bailey, who has the legal responsibility to oversee all Basin Fund dollars, has seen functions gradually shift to other WAPA regional offices over the past few decades. While CRSP funds equate to 173 full-time equivalents within CRSP, DSW, Headquarters and RM, the CRSP Manager only has direct supervisory oversight of roughly 40 FTE.  The CRSP Manager is responsible for the Basin Fund, however, the informal structures and arrangements developed did not allow for clear oversight.  Yet, the CRSP manager is ultimately responsible for those dollars. 

“The Basin Fund is critical for maintaining CRSP infrastructure, for CRSP, DSW, RM and Reclamation operations, and for supporting power deliveries to our customers,” said Bailey. “The CRSP manager alone is responsible for maintaining an adequate balance in the Basin Fund.” 

Complicating matters is the persistent drought in the Colorado River watershed, which has strained financial resources, making Basin Fund management highly intricate. Efforts to implement cost-saving measures face hindrances due to the organic development of expenditures and approval processes over the years. The intertwined nature of joint projects and funding allocation across the regions adds complexity, challenging communication, coordination and financial reporting. 

The need for a more mature governance structure was apparent, emphasizing the importance of clearly defined roles, responsibilities and authorities for services provided on behalf of and by CRSP. 

“Clearly defined roles and responsibilities ensure respect for everyone, allowing for support of innovation rather than requiring time to address who is doing what,” noted Program and Regulatory Advisor Amy Cutler. 

Service Level Agreements now in place 

For nearly three decades, WAPA employees have fostered a successful collaboration between CRSP, DSW and RM. The new partnership agreement captures that good work on the CRSP system and does not disrupt existing operations. The formalized structure enhances governance by providing a clarified framework and knowledge base. 

The partnership agreement outlines roles, responsibilities and coordination between CRSP, DSW and RM, which are addressed comprehensively in 12 Service Level Agreements covering 33 functional activities. CRSP retains overall responsibility and authority for the Basin Fund and the CRSP hydropower projects and transmission systems. Delegating authority across different functions works well, and CRSP can retain budgetary authority. However, flexibility is built in, allowing adjustments during execution based on budget and programmatic reasons, with coordination to minimize impacts on other power systems. 

Most importantly, CRSP, DSW and RM agreed on overarching principles to ensure mutual support and success. These include active participation in strategic conversations, transparent communication, better understanding of peer-to-peer relationships, recognizing multidirectional impacts, coordinating responsibilities and creating an annual responsibilities matrix. Collaboration on funding priorities, effective customer engagement and risk assessment are integral aspects of this partnership. 

The SLA rollout has been taking place over several months and concluded with February meetings explaining how the process will work in each region. This collaborative agreement marks a significant step toward addressing challenges and optimizing CRSP, DSW and RM coordination. The agreement sets the stage for a streamlined, accountable and efficient future in managing the Basin Fund and associated CRSP programs, reinforcing our commitment to delivering reliable and sustainable hydroelectric and transmission services to our customers. 

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Last modified on April 9th, 2024