Joint Washoe & Reno Meeting on Flooding

At 8:30 AM in the county chambers, the seats were mostly full for the start of the joint Reno City Council/Washoe County Commission Meeting.  The stated intent was for the city and county to work together in the meeting and give their respective staffs direction to work on solutions for the Lemmon Valley flooding.  All officials were present.  Council member Reese was on the phone and Mayor Schieve left early.

Public Comment lasted 90 minutes.

  • Tammy Holt-Still spoke flanked by four neighbors holding signs protesting the development and the flooding.
  • Nearly every speaker promoted the idea of a moratorium.
  • Many asserted that more development couldn’t fix a problem caused by development.
  • Many were displeased with the morning meeting time.  An evening meeting would have made it possible for more neighbors to attend.
  • A few residents complained that they can’t sell their homes due to the flooding.
  • Ray Lake of the North Valleys Citizens’ Advisory Board spoke of passive recharge and made the point that there are 17,000 more dwellings in the build plan for the area.
  • Council member Brekhus left the dais to make a public comment at the lectern.  She has written a resolution imposing a one-year moratorium (Lemmon Valley draft moratorium res).  The city, county and community would need to work together during the moratorium period.  She thinks a pause in all construction is imperative at this point.

Dave Solaro (Assistant County Manager) opened a presentation about the storms and flooding.  Precipitation in 2018 was normal, but in 2019 it was above normal.  Flansberg (?) gave a presentation about flood control efforts in nearby Silver Lake.  He was followed by Dwayne Smith.  Here are a couple of points from the presentation.

  • Silver Lake needed many of the same emergency measures as Swan Lake with Hesco barriers, pumps, and new berms.
  • The presentation includes a map which shows the expected flooding without the emergency barriers now in place.  It is sobering.
  • The presentation included current efforts, short term plans, and possible long-term plans.
  • Their intermediate efforts include improving the performance of the Hesco barriers and the berms and also changing the lane stripes on Lemmon Drive.
  • The long term plan proposed by the planning department is to increase evaporation by pumping some water onto vacant land (Prado North was suggested), to increase infiltration by planting a crop that is water intensive, and to start assisted evaporation (spraying into the air).
  • The Lemmon Valley waste-water plant would get improved berms, seepage pumping and water-quality testing.
  • Swan Lake rose 10′ in the 2017 season and then lost about 2.5′ to evaporation in the summer.  It rose only 1′ in the 2018 season and then lost about 2.5′ to evaporation later in the year.  The 2019 season had higher rain and even worse flooding.

Andy Gebhart (TMWA) indicated that there are five good wells operating in Lemmon Valley.  There are others (2?) that are submerged and can’t be operated.  He said that there are three sources for water to supply Lemmon Valley residents and that they should be confident that water will be available.

Doug Maloy (RTC) spoke of their plan to raise and widen Lemmon Valley Drive.  The board will consider doing preliminary design work in May using consultants.  The raised section would be from Fleetwood to either Chickadee or Ramsey.

The discussion came back to the dais with each official allowed 3 minutes.

  • Jardon asked how much the effluent water contributes to the water level.  She also asked if the city or county could avail themselves of emergency federal funding.
  • Herman supported the idea of a moratorium.
  • Brekhus asserted that a moratorium would be pro-development.  Every water supply and sewer hookup should be stopped immediately.  A moratorium proposal should be on the agenda for both the city council and the county commission.
  • Berkbigler wants to see a better barrier for the flooded part of the Lemmon Valley School playground.  She’d asked if the lake could be dredged and then used for recreation.
  • Delgado asked if area development can proceed while they are still working to address the flooding.  He was told it could proceed in limited ways.
  • Duerr asked about using funds from a Flood initiative (AB54?).
  • Lucey wanted cost information about maintaining the Hesco barriers and the pumps.  He does not support a moratorium.
  • Weber wants to see community meetings.  She asked about the availability of flood insurance.
  • Jung wants future meetings in the evenings for the convenience of residents.  She asked about using waste water for flood control.
  • Reese asked about where the financing would come from.  He was told that the county would submit a FEMA proposal in November.
  • Hartung asked if the water could be used to grow alfalfa to consume water.

Vaughan offered a second round of discussion with a 2-minute limit.

  • Jardon wants Washoe County to pursue federal funding.  The county is making little progress in this regard.  She feels that the developers need to be included in the meetings.
  • Herman thinks we should have a winter crop to consume the water since the precipitation is in the winter.
  • Brekhus wants to see public cost accounting of expenditures.  The costs will need to be borne regionally.  There need to be interlocal agreements to define combined efforts.  The Lemmon Valley waste water plant flow should not be re-directed to the Stead plant: its capacity is allocated.
  • Duerr asked about the status of the DRI core study investigating the causes of the flooding.  It is due September 2019.  She suggests diverting some of the untreated sewage from the Lemmon Valley waste water plant to TMWRF (Washoe County).
  • Jardon wants to finish the studies and start work.
  • Jung wants to see the county reimbursed for emergency expenditures already made (FEMA).

The following comments were made during closing public comment.

  • The Prado North property is already under water: there is no opportunity to increase evaporation by pumping water there.
  • Alfalfa won’t grow in mud bogs.
  • The water needs to be diverted before it reaches Swan Lake.
  • The storms aren’t the problem, the development is.

In closing …

  • Jung wants a precipitation chart for Lemmon Valley historically year by year since 1984.  She also wants a chart of waste water volume for the same period.
  • Herman said she would request an agenda item for the county to consider a moratorium.
  • Jardon wants to have another joint meeting including developers.
  • Brekhus will put a moratorium on the city’s agenda.  She does not think another joint meeting is important.  She wants to move forward with concrete plans.  We need to keep an eye on costs since there are many worthy demands for public funds.
  • Jardon proposed a website to describe the Reno and Washoe County efforts to address the flooding.  A motion to create a website passed unanimously.

Hartung claimed that the county was ‘suited to action’ and was pleased by the progress made in the meeting.  This was puzzling since no directions were given to the city or county staffs to move forward with any plans.  The commissioners had requested a lot of information from staff.  The meeting was adjourned shortly after 1:00 PM.

Local Government principals

Reno City Council: Hillary Schieve (Mayor), Naomi Duerr (Vice Mayor), Jenny Brekhus, Oscar Delgado, Neoma Jardon, Bonnie Weber, Devon Reese

Washoe County Commission: Jeanne Herman, Marsha Berkbigler, Vaughan Hartung, Bob Lucey, Kitty Jung

TV Coverage




Lemmon Valley Neighbors Meeting 4/17

Over 100 residents were present in the North Valleys High School cafeteria for a meeting in preparation for a joint meeting of the City of Reno and Washoe County on April 29.  The joint meeting has the sole purpose to consider plans to address the flooding in Lemmon Valley.  Both the city and the county have approved development that has contributed to the flooding.  To date, the two governments have not worked together on the problem and their efforts have been unsatisfactory.

Roger Doyle described the state of residents’ class-action lawsuit (Filed Complaint) against the City of Reno for their part in causing the flooding.  He made the following points.

  1. The case will go before a judge on June 10. The research and investigation are done.  The facts are established.  It is time that the legal arguments are being presented to the court.  Can the argument prove that the city is culpable?
  2. Doyle looked for feedback from the community on how they wanted the case to proceed. There are 55 homeowners in the class-action lawsuit, and he wanted some idea of their priorities.
  3. The criterion of joining the suit was that there was flooding on the homeowner’s property. Residents would be sorted into groups based on the damage caused by the flooding.  The class was closed at the end of May 2017.  Residents should keep their receipts for flood related damage and expenses.
  4. The outcome could be a financial disbursement or a buyout. If it’s a buyout, it would be based on the property values before the flooding in 2017.  Legally, a buyout must reflect the Fair Market Value at the time of the flooding.  It’s unknown if appreciation for the last two years would be considered.
  5. Whatever the outcome, “It won’t be enough”. Residents who leave will likely not find similar large-lot properties within 10 miles of Reno.  The county can take the homes by eminent domain as an alternate to a buyout.  The result will be the same to residents in that the compensation will need to reflect the FMV before the flooding.  In this case of inclusion in the County/FEMA program, FEMA would require that the properties taken not have any development in the future.
  6. Doyle exhorted the residents to advocate publicly for their case. Political pressure is key.  The residents need to make their voices heard to get a fair outcome.  He suggested they write Commissioner Herman (their commissioner) and the members of the city council.  He is already seeing a shift of opinions on the county commission.  If the residents don’t stand up, the City and the County will pick the cheapest option.
  7. Doyle reminded residents “This is Nevada: Water, flat land, and money are in short supply.”
  8. The table of options (BCC 04-09-19 – Lemmon Valley Matrix) presented by County Assistant Manager (Dave Solaro) to the county commission did not have nearly enough information to make a sound decision.
  9. The suit does not address recent efforts that Reno has made to address the flooding. It does not specifically address the hazard presented by the contaminated water.  Any contaminated water during the flooding events is a factor in whether the flooding damaged properties.
  10. It’s a big suit with thousands of pages of documents, many depositions, and a lot of research.  Doyle described a settlement as a “free roll” for the City in that a settlement wouldn’t come out of their budget (FEMA?).
  11. There is no flooding above the 4925’ elevation. This leaves 150 homes at lower elevations.  Washoe County offered to buy out some of the 25 homes that are within 100 yards of the shore.
  12. The residents, the City, and the property owners, need to come to come together on a solution. Declining to negotiate seriously and settle would mean going to trial which would be risky and exotically expensive.
  13. Consideration of a moratorium on new development and construction is not part of the suit. People will need to accept that development will happen.  The development needs to be reasonable and responsible.  Residents are mostly happy to have Walmart and Smiths nearby for shopping.
  14. What if the case is settled, and there is new, increased flooding? Given that neither the city nor the county is ready to halt development, this is a real possibility.  This would be a new suit.

Aside: Doyle suggested residents see John Oliver’s piece on FEMA flood insurance.  Viewers may not like the humor, but the piece is informative (19 minutes).

Tammy Holt-Still took over the agenda once Doyle was finished.

  • The Prado North petition for judicial review was denied on April 9 on the grounds that she lacked standing. This was due to an inconsistency in the NRS that states that the petitioner must petition both the Planning Commission decision and the County Commission decision even when the Planning Commission decision is favorable to the petitioner.  It is literally nonsense.  Residents indicated that they wanted to move forward with an appeal to the Supreme Court and to initiate a case based on a Writ of Mandamus (a special remedy that allows a suit to force a government body to perform a duty under the law).
  • Holt-Still indicated that there was an opportunity for negotiations with Reno. She sought a consensus on several issues regarding the sewer plants and the possibility of a Special Assessment District for flood-related improvements in the North Valleys.  Further details will be available following the negotiations.

Commissioner Herman pointed out that the Vidler Pipeline from Honey Lake is contributing to Swan Lake.  This is in addition to the 2.5 million gallons per day contributed by the Lemmon Valley sewer plant.  The County plans to expand this to 4 million gallons per day.

The presenters stuck to the facts and key considerations.  The questions were pointed.  The answers were frank.  Some frustration was expressed.  But information was effectively provided and consensus on important issues was established.  It was a little rough, but it was democracy in action.

There is no time yet scheduled for this meeting on Monday, April 29th, but I wouldn’t miss it.  It is a big event with far reaching ramifications for the rights of homeowners and the relations between Reno and Washoe County.  It may be a spectacle.  Also, I need to show solidarity with these residents who have been so grossly wronged by our local governments.  While their suffering may be the most egregious, their fight is the fight of neighborhoods all over the Truckee Meadows.

Regional Planning News

This is a guest post by Pamela Galloway.

Goin’ north, the rush is on
Several governmental actions this week are worthy of note.  The Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Governing Board  (TMRPGB), which consists of representatives from Reno and Sparks city councils as well as county commissioners, agreed to turn nearly 560 acres over to the City of Reno.  This land, located some 1,700 feet south of the U.S. 395 and Red Rock Road interchange, lies in the Reno-Stead Joint Corridor. This overturns a previous denial by the Regional Planning Commission.
What does it all mean?  This land, zoned general rural (one home per 40 acres), moves into Reno without any designated zoning.  Known as Echeverria Peavine MPA, it will become eligible for major residential and warehousing development.  According to a dated City of Reno link (below), this could involve some 1,380 residential units and 80 acres of warehousing.  (This has not, however, been approved yet by the Reno City Council and, given its size, it might have to return to the Regional Planning Governing Board.  So these numbers could change, but one gets the idea this is very large and will have significant impact in the north.)
The dated link is an eye-opener about how extensive the development is planned for the North Valleys.  It lists some 15,393 single family and 1,676 multi-family homes planned. I include it to give the reader an idea about the sheer magnitude of City of Reno development planned in the north, and because I could not find a more recent chart.  This does not include commercial/industrial.
New Washoe County schools create significant impacts
When are new or expanded schools considered to be of sufficient regional significance to warrant having more eyes watching what the district is doing?
That was the subject of of some conflicting debate Thursday, also before the TMRPG.  While it is too late to alter the soon-to-be-built Wildcreek high school, a handful of citizens discussed it during public comment, lamenting overburdened roadways, noise, student drug use, and more.  One man said neighbors had been protesting this school for more than two years.  Once constructed, students from Hug High School, Spanish Springs and other schools will go to the Wildcreek school, relieving overcrowding.
Another public commenter stated that Wildcreek will cost between $200-300 million.  Because of the passage of WC-1 in the 2016 election, she said, WCSD will be flush with an unending cash flow for new schools forever.
(I note that a future middle school on Arrowcreek Parkway also generated much citizen opposition.  In both cases, flooding was a concern.  The middle school will have two detention ponds to protect nearby neighbors.)
Reno City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus said she had not agreed with the Wildcreek development (of a public golf course), and would have preferred that students be moved temporarily while renovating Hug High School, and then returning them to that school.  County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung complained that this school had great impacts on traffic, roads, and much else.  He wants any school facility that serves more than 800 students (or he states is a middle school or high school) to be deemed of “regional significance”.  This would result in more oversight beyond the school district and school board.
Some conflicting opinions ensued, apparently around when outsiders such as the regional board become involved in reviewing projects and making final decisions (during or after).  For this reason, it was decided to postpone this until two absent members could be present.  Hartung in particular was adamant that no vote be taken until absent members are present.  Several mentioned problems created for the Regional Transportation Commission.
WCSD CEO Pete Etchart said the school district wants to be transparent and accountable, and wants to be included in the upcoming Regional Plan update.  The schools had no money for a long time, he said, and so now are “behind the curve” in land acquisitions for new schools. He mentioned in passing a five-year facilities plan but offered no specifics.
Powering up with Makita
Reno City Council approved a massive Makita power tools plant on Military Road in Stead this week.  Councilwoman Brekhus described its size as being on the order of Meadowood Mall, but with less land.  Located near the flooding Swan Lake, it will have its own retention pond to handle an estimated 500,000 gallons daily of sewage.  It is also estimated to generate some 1,400 car/truck trips daily with employees cars and business trucks.  A spokesman said it does not expect to have any impact on Swan Lake.
Vocal Lemmon Valley residents, who have advocated for a building moratorium in the closed basin until flooding problems are fixed, were not reassured. One pointed out that two other large commercial buildings have retention ponds that sit empty, not used while their sewerage flows into a Swan Lake sewer plant.  This 40-foot-tall facility is located directly across the street from a new residential subdivision under construction. Councilwoman Naomi Duerr requested that incoming/exiting trucks do so away from the houses, which involves revising the plans.  She mentioned headlights not bothering homeowners at night.  Brekhus was concerned about visual impacts, what would be situated on the rooftop. This had previously been denied by the Reno Planning Commission, so represents another overturned decision.
And in the southeast, Daybreak’s four massive projects hit pause
The four highly controversial “Daybreak” projects situated along Veterans Parkway have been placed on hold.  This was announced earlier this week during a Reno Ward 3 NAB (neighborhood advisory board) meeting.  Someone’s surgery was given as the reason for this timeout.  Daybreak properties run from Rio Wrangler to Hidden Valley, including the Butler Ranch.  Opponents say this includes the Truckee Meadows’ last remaining flood plain, and suffers very serious flooding issues at times.  Proponents say it can be engineered so flooding is not an issue.  Opponents say yes, but what about all the areas around it that would be impacted?  Daybreak spokesperson Andy Durling told officials several months ago that this is not Daybreak’s problem.
More information about Daybreak is available from this website:  <>

View from Verdi


The developer of a  480,000 sqft warehouse on 28 acres in Mogul has requested a postponement after facing opposition from residents.  This is part of the Reno Gateway Business Park development.  The City of Reno Planning Commission agreed to postpone the project; voting 5-1. Although the property in the City’s sphere of influence, it is not contiguous with the existing city boundary, so it can’t be annexed. The developer would like to work with residents and City Staff to amend the site plan before re-presenting to City planning commission.  The County refuses to hear this project even though the developer has requested to present to the W Truckee Meadows/ Verdi joint CAB.  Neighbors have the following concerns.

  • The massive size is comparable to the Amazon fulfillment center in the North Valleys that has 65 truck bays.
  • Why not occupy the warehouses in Boomtown that are practically vacant?
  • Traffic safety is a concern bringing in so much commercial traffic in a residential area.  The additional truck traffic may hinder emergency services and school traffic.
  • This warehouse is not compatible with the character of the area.



The new West Meadows development (aka Meridian 120 North) off exit 5 in Verdi is having trouble selling the new homes. They had expected 40% percent of the homes to be sold by this time, while only 7% have sold. The entry level homes have recently been discounted from $550k to $450k. The builder has declared a 90 day moratorium on home construction in the development.  TMWA will be bringing a new line to deliver water to the Verdi and Boomtown areas.

The Society for the Preservation of Verdi has issued a brief supporting the City of Reno in a petition for judicial review filed by BT South (aka: Reno Land Development) against the City of Reno due to the denial of their development potentially consisting of 3,000 residences. This includes the Meridian 120 South development.  The City council remanded the project back to the planning commission to be ‘all inclusive’.  The developer was attempting to get approval of this project piece meal.  The developer is requesting approval for 78 homes in one of 6 “villages”.  The impact could not be determined by council specifically naming water.

This area has an active neighborhood group: The Verdi Community Council. The area is also represented on the West Valley CAB and the Ward-5 NAB

Fire Protection Coordination 4/10/19

This is a guest post by Tom Daly

Fire protection in Washoe County

Nevada Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 (Kieckhefer R-16) would direct the Legislative Commission to appoint a committee to study fire protection services in Washoe County. Committee members would only  be legislators, appointed by legislative leaders. No outside experts, local officials or taxpayers need apply.


Since 2008, there have been five such expert studies. Those studies are gathering dust, with the majority of their recommendations unfulfilled yet, on one issue, they all agree. In order to improve fire and emergency medical services (EMS) to residents county-wide, you must first ‘fix dispatch’.

Fire & EMS in Washoe County are currently dispatched by four different entities being the Washoe County Sheriff (WCSO) for the Truckee Meadows and North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection Districts (TMFPD & NLTFPD), the City of Reno, the City of Sparks and, for EMS, the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA).

Consider that in Clark County their consolidated ‘regional dispatch authority’ (cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas along with Clark County) has, for two decades, handled fire & EMS dispatch efficiently for all three jurisdictions with the costs pro-rated based on the number of calls per jurisdiction.

IXP Corporation’s 2016 dispatch study reported that the 1990 dispatch agreement between Reno and Washoe County, trading forensics and dispatch services, could be amended resulting in the saving of $991K each year, collectively, for those two jurisdictions via a consolidated dispatch operation run solely by the WCSO.  The County Auditor in June 2015 reported that the current agreement results in a cost of $560K each year (since at least 2007) borne by County taxpayers subsidizing Reno. Our County
Commissioners could dissolve this agreement on a ninety-day notice and bring a new agreement forward, but have not even agendized this issue for discussion, much less ‘for possible action’.

And if you think the ‘closest unit’ is being dispatched for fires, per the existing ‘automatic aid’ agreement between Reno and the TMFPD, you would be mistaken.  That agreement ‘carves out’ portions of the Double Diamond community so that RFD#12 Steamboat will respond, despite TM#33 Foothill being closer by travel time, the agreed upon metric to define ‘closest’.  Reno also refuses to activate its ‘automatic vehicle locator’ (AVL) technology so that the ‘closest unit’ is dispatched regardless of the call’s locale.  Sparks and the TMFPD do so.  Reno instead opts for delayed response by its units so its fire union can be satisfied – citizen safety be damned.

Our politicians delay and deflect but never decide.

Senator Kieckhefer’s well-intentioned resolution will change nothing until 2021, if ever.

God help you if your house catches on fire before then.

Other County Issues: Meeting 4/9/19

The approach to address the Lemmon Valley flooding was the principal issue addressed at Tuesday’s meeting, but it was not the only significant one.  Agenda  /  Video (you can jump to the agenda item)

  • Give the Assistant County Manager authority to make emergency expenditures in Lemmon Valley (item 7)
  • Expand sewer capacity in Damonte Ranch for South Valley growth (item 8)
  • Extend the final map deadline for the Sun Mesa development (item 10)
  • Decide the Marshall Ranch development appeal (item 11)

Agenda Item 7

Authorize Assistant County Manager, Dave Solaro, to enter into agreements and contracts responding to the flooding emergency in Lemmon Valley (agenda item 7).  Dwayne Smith declared that the Swan Lake flooding was an emergency for the county.  He didn’t bring it to the Board of County Commissioners, even though he had identified the crisis three weeks prior.  Commissioner Jung thought it should have come before the board, even if they had needed an emergency meeting.  The Lemmon Valley wastewater treatment plant supports about 1200 residences and some large commercial customers.  This would include up to $500,000 for access road and berm improvements and up to $150,000 for emergency pumps for the treatment plant and collection system.  This proposal passed unanimously after some discussion.

Agenda Item 8

Cast-in-place piping as part of expanding sewer capacity in the South Valleys for “new growth”.  This section is in the Damonte Ranch area.  It is not clear what new growth this is intended to support and whether it is related to the proposed $50M sewer bond for the South Valleys.  The motion carried unanimously with Berkbigler and Jung absent for this vote.

Agenda Item 10

Extend the deadline for the final map for the Sun Mesa development to 2020 (agenda item 10).  This was the first reading and introduction of this proposed amendment.  This development got the tentative map approved in 2004 and has been extended repeatedly.  This is truly a zombie project.  It’s a small extension of an existing development, but no one knows if it will ever be built.  This item will come back for another reading and public hearing on April 23.  There was no vote on the proposed amendment.

Agenda Item 11

The Commission considered the appeal of the Marshall Ranch development project on Winnemucca Road.  The Planning Commission denied this project and the developer was seeking to get the denial overturned.  At the meeting, the developer (Ken Krater) requested a continuance (postponement) so that the vote on his appeal would occur at a later meeting.  He said he wanted to consult with his lawyer about his potential conflict of interest from serving on the Downtown Reno Partnership board.  This presented a problem since the county commission is required by statute to take action on an appeal within 60 days of the appeal being filed.  It appeared that the consideration of the appeal had to occur by April 13.  Krater then decided to withdraw his appeal.  He can resubmit his appeal if it is changed.  Alternately, he could resubmit the same appeal if he waits a year or more.  Commissioners Hartung, Berkbigler, and Lucey all expressed concerns about the project.

Related Public Comment:

Opponents of the Marshall Ranch development said the development would spoil area views.  One asked “Is nothing sacred in this county?  Don’t make the area like Vegas”.  This area is a habitat for the endangered Carson Wandering Skipper (butterfly).

Ray Lake (chairman of the North Valley’s Citizen’s Advisory Board) spoke during public comment.  He was concerned that the county had cancelled 7 of the 8 recent monthly meetings.  He wants to bring Mr. Rodriguez of NDOT to make a presentation about plans for the North Valleys, but is prohibited by the more restrictive rules placed on the CAB’s by the county commission.


Commissioners on Lemmon Valley Flooding 4/9/19

The Board of County Commissioners (Washoe) had several significant items on the agenda today.  All were present.  The audience contained about 40 members of the public.  The principal topic was agenda item 6 wherein the staff is coming to the commissioners for direction regarding an approach to the Lemmon Valley flooding.

The meeting had a lot of speakers for “general public comment” at the beginning of the meeting.  The vast majority were there to speak to the Lemmon Valley flood recovery approach.  This public comment portion took an hour.  Speakers made the following points.

  • The County is unwilling to cooperate with the city to come forward with a common solution to the flooding.  Commissioner Hartung denied this.
  • There needs to be a moratorium.  Speakers asserted that development caused the problem flooding and that more development would make things worse.
  • The school is unsafe with the effluent water encroaching on the playground.
  • Traffic is unsafe for motorists and especially pedestrians with the flood barriers.
  • The water needs to be cleaned up before any more development is permitted.
  • The new inflatable barriers have protected the house but not the septic tank at one home.
  • Older area plans specified no development in the area till the infrastructure is done.
  • Silver Lake is rising and will flow into Lemmon Valley worsening flooding.
  • We have had enough studies.  These seem to have been ignored, anyway.
  • Nevadans are “battle born”.  We need to be “battle ready”.
  • Some county pumps were operated on extension cords run across the Hesco barriers.  Some cords were blown into the water shorting out the pumps.
  • The floodwaters stink and it will get a lot worse with warming temperatures.
  • The speed bumps installed prevent prompt evacuation and access for emergency services.

No love lost …  Public speakers were unsparing of the commissioners and the county staff.

  • County engineer, Dwayne Smith, was repeatedly lambasted by name.
  • Assistant County Manager, Dave Solaro, was criticized by name.
  • “I know for a fact he’s (Ken Krater) paid off some of you guys (commissioners).”
  • “You commissioners need to accept responsibility for the development that caused the flooding.”

Staff assertions;

  • Dave Solaro made a presentation ( BCC 04-09-19 – POWER POINT for Lemmon Valley) showing the history of flooding in the area. The flooding of 2017 was an all-time record.  The flood of ’86 took 3 years to evaporate.  The flood of ’96 took 5 years to evaporate.  The flood of ’06 took 2 years to evaporate.  But the current flood level, will likely take 6-7 years to evaporate.  One recent storm raised the lake level by 1-1/2 feet. 
  • We have met our priority of keeping the flood waters out of peoples homes, but that is not enough for wells, septic tanks, animals, and vehicles.

County Commissioners made these points;

  • Commissioner Herman went through the list on the table (BCC 04-09-19 – Lemmon Valley Matrix ) and discussed the problems with each approach emphasizing how many years they would take.
  • Around 230 homes would need to be bought out if we don’t solve the flooding at a cost of $69M. (Herman)
  • Raising homes would cost $16M but wouldn’t address flooded roads or livestock problems.
  • We should contain the lake to protect homes, wells, and septic systems.  Can we contain the lake with berms?  Can we clean it up to be used for recreation? (Berkbigler)
  • The water is not evaporating as we thought it would.  Future storms will be even worse.  (Berkbigler)
  • “How much have we spent on the flooding in Lemmon Valley, and on what?”  (Jung)
  • We need a detailed report.  We need to move beyond just protecting property.  We need to lower the water level.  (Jung)
  • We need a global solution; not just one to protect homes.  (Hartung)
  • We can get help from Congressman Amodei once we decide on an approach.  (Hartung)
  • Consider the long-term maintenance costs of any proposed solution.  (Lucey)
  • Take solutions to the affected residents and then to the county as a whole to get agreement.  (Jung)
  • We need both a short term and a long term plan.  (Berkbigler)
  • We could build a reservoir on the east side of the valley and pump some of the flood water there.  (Herman)
  • Do we need a new storm-water utility in the North Valleys?  (Hartung)
  • I want to see a timeline for the different options.  (Jung)

Public comment specific to the agenda item regarding Lemmon Valley flood mitigation.

  • We presently have two sewer plants emptying into the lake.
  • The county’s buyout offers have not been representative of home values.
  • More development means more effluent water.
  • It’s not our fault we bought there.  It’s the County that allowed it to flood.
  • More development means rising water levels.
  • The flooding is caused by the high-density development and warehouses.
  • More calls for a moratorium on new development.
  • Can we get a perimeter road?  Lemmon Drive had 12″ of water this morning.

The agenda item closed with Dave Solaro agreeing to come back with a proposal based on the commissioners preferences.

There was media coverage of the meeting.

KOLO-8          NEWS-4          KTVN-2

Presentation by Dwayne Smith, Director of Engineering and Capital Projects – Existing Sewer Capacities and Planned Capital Improvements

I watched Dwayne Smith’s Utility and Engineering presentation to the Planning Commission last Tuesday (April 2.  Washoe County Utility Presentation).   Presumably, this vacuous “overview” covers what the Department thinks is adequate to account for the planned expenditures to be covered by the $50 million sewer bond. Overall I found the presentation to be incredibly elementary and it did nothing to address the technical aspects of the County Engineer’s sewer management, engineering, management conceptual planning – ie, what are the projected costs, in particular cost per acre/feet, gallon or liter of sewage treated and disposed. My comments and questions:

Dwayne mentioned adding groundwater injection as an effluent disposal option in the North Valleys.  He also mentioned, in a different segment of his talk, a description of playas having no outside water discharge and generally large clay layers which preclude infiltration of surface water into the ground.  If they do decide sometime in the future to add injection strategies in the North Valleys and Verdi, which “aquifer” would be utilized? Playas have insufficient aquifer storage capacities (by his own admission during his presentation!).   Along that line, how much money do they plan to contribute to the current aquifer injection pilot work being done by TMWA, and is this part of the $50 million bond?

It is surprising that nobody on the Board asked about the differences in treatment costs for Class A+, A, B, and C water.   Dwayne said they plan to go to Class A+ water effluent throughout the county.  What will that cost, as opposed to Class A?  What is the price difference, per gallon of treatment, between Class A and A+?   Would this be worth the cost? The chart below shows the required treatment levels for each effluent planned use. Will they be over-treating some effluent at taxpayer expense, just to say it’s all going to be A+?

Minimum Reclaimed Water Quality Requirements for Direct Reuse

 Reuse Type Minimum Class of Reclaimed  Water Required
Irrigation of food crops A
Recreational impoundments A
Residential landscape irrigation A
Schoolground landscape irrigation A
Open access landscape irrigation A
Toilet and urinal flushing A
Fire protection systems A
Spray irrigation of an orchard or vineyard A
Commercial closed loop air conditioning systems A
Vehicle and equipment washing (does not include self- service vehicle washes) A
Snowmaking A
Surface irrigation of an orchard or vineyard B
Golf course irrigation B
Restricted access landscape irrigation B
Landscape impoundment B
Dust control B
Soil compaction and similar construction activities B
Pasture for milking animals B
Livestock watering (dairy animals) B
Concrete and cement mixing B
Materials washing and sieving B
Street cleaning B
Pasture for non-dairy animals C
Livestock watering (non-dairy animals) C
Irrigation of sod farms C
Irrigation of fiber, seed, forage, and similar crops C
Silviculture C

At Minute 57 of his talk, Dwayne launched into a discussion of the Planner’s criteria for development and how hard they work to assess impacts of development and determine mitigation needs for each development.  This WOULD have been a perfect seque into the need for more critical technical review of engineering documents provided by developers!   I’m disappointed that the planning commissioners who were present didn’t pick up on this.  Nobody asked what the criteria were, particularly with regard to water use and sewerage evaluation.

About 8 minutes later, Dwayne invited the PC to come visit the Planning Department and observe for themselves how the planners review, critique and evaluate tentative maps and project plans and how the permitting process works.  This would have been another good place to segue to a query of the engineering report review process and whether the Planning Department has the appropriate expertise to review the sewerage/water aspects.

The Planners should provide ballpark costs for water treatment to Class A B C standards.

Every week Lemmon Valley residents stand up to ask over and over why the water keeps rising and why the County can’t do anything about it.  The answer is “Water Balance Modeling”.   I have no idea if the esteemed hydrologists at the County (or TMWA) have revised their modeling inputs for Washoe County, and Lemmon Valley in particular for the 2018-19 winter and spring runoff, but when the model inputs are broken down into their most simple form, it becomes obvious why there’s a problem, and why this issue won’t go away unless we have another 4 year drought….

It may benefit Dwayne Smith to present to the PC and BCC a simplified water balance discussion.   We should frame some questions for the Lemmon Valley STPs, and others around the model inputs, how they are identified, measured and revised as necessary to accommodate changes in precipitation and increase in effluent as development increases.

Taking effluent quality standards to Class A+ might at least protect residents from tainted water, but at what cost?   Wouldn’t it be cheaper to treat to class C or B then revise discharge locations to avoid health and safety issues?   I think it’s going to mean that basin-to-basin pumping is going to have to be an option, eventually, in the North Valleys.

But here’s another possibility. Could it be that, in planning for all future Washoe County effluent be treated to Class A+, the County wants to make some money?   Class A+ water can be SOLD as drinking water! Is this worth it, considering there are plenty of water use options, as listed in the table above, that don’t require A+ effluent water standards?    Why else would Dwayne be pushing (REALLY pushing, he mentioned upgrading to A+ water standards several times in his presentation)?   How much, per gallon or acre/ft will it cost to get to A+?   And is it worth it to us taxpayers if we are all satisfied with the treated water use options listed below?

The other thing that strikes me – South Valleys STP is already treating to A/A+ quality. So if that water is going to golf course and landscape irrigation, then we are paying for overkill.  Only B and C water is required for MOST of the effluent uses Dwayne mentions in his presentation.   This could be an absurdity, depending on the cost basis for this  A+ effluent treatment.

We should be allowed the opportunity to VOTE on this perhaps unnecessary treatment standard!   So they make money back by selling it – to whom?  At what price?  And who gets to keep the money?   How does this profit get put back into the coffers?

Pleasant Valley Violations

In 2017, Gail Willey attempted to move his landscaping operation (including Colorock) from the South Virginia Street location to a property in a residential neighborhood on Andrew Lane in Pleasant Valley.  His argument was that his was a nursery with some landscaping materials and was compliant with area zoning.  His large scale rock distribution operation belied that claim.  This project was denied by the Washoe Planning Commission.  Willey appealed to the Board of County Commissioners and they denied his appeal.  He then applied to the Washoe Board of Adjustment.  They denied the project.  He again appealed to the Board of County Commissioners.  They again denied his appeal.  He was granted a special use permit for the wholesale nursery operation, but not for the landscape rock operation.

Now, it’s 2019.  Willey did not apply for the special use permit for the wholesale nursery.  Instead, he started moving his large trees and bulk-bin blocks (roughly 900) to the property with no special-use permit.  His lawyers claim that his operation is allowed under the “crop production” category in the zoning.   He is bringing in mature trees: these aren’t grown on site.  So, he did not apply for a special use permit to operate a nursery and he is not complying with the crop-production requirements in the zoning.  There is no credible defense for what he’s doing.

Neighbors have been calling the County Code Enforcement since December receiving no answers or solutions.  Neighbors arranged for a meeting with County Code Enforcement on Tuesday, March 26th and requested that their commissioner, Bob Lucey, be present.  The neighbors had a detailed presentation describing the situation and Willey’s violations (134 Andrew).  Commissioner Lucey arrived late (missing the presentation) and then left early.  He was quick to defend the Willey operation saying that it was no different than storing and selling hay.  Growing crops is not the same as receiving, storing, and shipping 20′ trees.  It looks like Gail Willey is operating a commercial business in an area zoned General Rural”.  This is disregarding the South Valleys Area Plan.

Willey has multiple violations.

  • He is storing the concrete blocks in a flood plain.
  • He has done grading in a flood plain without a permit.
  • He is storing commercial vehicles (trucks mostly) on the property.
  • He is storing trees for commercial purposes on the property.
  • He is bringing in large trucks that cannot navigate the road and his driveway.
  • He is bringing commercial trucks through a residential neighborhood before 7:00AM.
  • He is not operating his business license as issued and the County stated they are allowing deviation so they could possibly modify the terms of his license in the future.

Willey’s violations have been identified for three months, and there has been no action by Code Enforcement.  The neighbors left 27 detailed questions for the Code Enforcement Department that they want answered.  The Code Enforcement principals agreed to answer some by next week, but did not commit to answer all of them.  Dave Solaro stated that he had sent a letter to Gail Willey on March 25.  The Code Enforcement principals seemed reluctant to take any action against Willey and hoped that the neighbors could reach some compromise.  The neighbors want to see the codes enforced.  They feel the County is allowing Gail Willey to operate a Commercial Business in an area zoned General Rural pretending it is something else.  They are alarmed that staff indicated that possible changes could be made to his Business License without citizen involvement.  They are concerned that the County Code and included definitions could be changed for one person or business.  It looks like another case of Commissioner Lucey not defending the interests of the residents.