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




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