Stead Sewer Plant Expansion Denied

The plan to expand the wastewater treatment plant capacity at Stead (RSWRF) was denied unanimously by the Reno Planning Commission last night.  This was a great meeting with incisive questions, informative answers, and insightful discussion.

The proposal is to expand the capacity of the plant from 2.0 million gallons per day to 4.0 million gallons per day.  As it is, the treated wastewater flows into Swan Lake.  There is no alternate routing of the waste water as part of this proposal (Proposed_Stead-Plant_Expansion_051519)

Residents expressed the following concerns.

  • The water level in Swan Lake is still rising.
  • There is only one foot of freeboard (height not submerged) on the Hesco barriers.
  • The contribution of effluent to the level of Swan Lake is significant.
  • The number of evaporative ponds has been decreased: these are full.
  • Stantec did the hydrology report for the Prado development as well as for the new treatment plant.  It looks questionable.
  • Closing the Lemmon Valley wastewater plant was considered in 2006, but never implemented.  The residents lack confidence in official commitments.
  • There are 17,000 new homes planned for the area.  The infrastructure should have been in place before these plans were approved.
  • Can the Stead plant be upgraded to treating water to an A+ standard so that it can be discharged anywhere?  Can this be part of the plant capacity increase?
  • Why not get a new permit at a reduced level that matches the current effluent flows?
  • The original plant was built in 2006.  The expansion should include improvements to incorporate current technology.
  • The Stead plant has exceeded its permitted effluent flows twice in recent months.
  • FEMA prohibits new development approval in flooded areas until the flooding is mitigated.
  • The Planning Commission is responsible for approving the developments that have resulted in the flooding.

Irene Tudor, a member of the Ward-4 NAB made the following points.

  • Water inflow and outflow is not balanced for Swan Lake.
  • The waste water operating plan was developed in 2013.  The situation is very different now.

Joe Coudriet, Reno Public Works Department, gave a presentation prepared by Stantec.  This included an informative map of planned development in the area.

(Presentation to the Commission – LDC19-00060 (Reno-Stead Water Reclamation Facility) (1))

His points.

  • Given the number of development plans in the North Valleys, the time to plan to expand the treatment plant is now.
  • There is consideration that the Lemmon Valley treatment plant might be decommissioned with the wastewater being redirected to the Stead Plant.
  • The plant expansion will not increase effluent flow to Swan Lake: they are still limited by their current permit (2.35 mgd).
  • It is most cost effective to double the capacity of the plant rather than to increase the capacity incrementally.
  • Plan to “shave” (redirect) 0.5 mgd of untreated sewage directly from the Stead plant to the TMWRF plant (Truckee Meadows Wastewater Reclaimation Facility).  This flow would not end up in Swan Lake.  They plan to move forward with this scheme, but it may not be in operation till early 2022.  The line to TMWRF is nearly complete.  This will not be used to reduce the existing flow into Swan Lake, but rather to allow the Stead plant to handle more than their current permit.

Commissioner discussion:

  • Why not start diverting the 0.5 mgd now to reduce the discharge into Swan Lake rather than diverting later to support additional development?  Answer: such a reduction would upset the operation of the plant.
  • Why not use the pipeline to divert treated effluent so that it does not contribute to the level of Swan Lake?   Answer: this would be possible.  It’s less efficient since the treated effluent would be treated a second time.
  • Why is the diverting pipe so small that it can only handle a fraction of the flow?  Answer: the pipe was existing.  It wasn’t built just for this purpose.  The capacity could be more than 0.5 mgd with limited improvements.
  • If the Stead plant has exceeded its permit capacity before, what gives us confidence that increased plant capacity won’t mean regularly exceeding the discharge permit?  Answer: the plant has only exceeded it’s permit on two occasions (one in 2017) when there was high precipitation.
  • Why expand the Stead plant at all when we don’t want the effluent in that basin?  Why not direct all the sewage to TMWRF for treatment?  Answer: TMWRF has limited extra capacity.  With future development, we may need 6-8 mgd capacity in the North Valleys.  TMWRF does not have 4 mgd extra capacity, but they could handle 2 mgd more if improvements in the connecting line were made.
  • Why don’t we have wastewater treatment capacities that match our growth plans under the new Reno Master Plan?  Answer: this facility plan has been in the Master Plan for 10 years.  We are looking into alternatives.  We understand there is an issue of trust with the public.  We will not increase our wastewater flows above the permitted amount until there is a comprehensive plan in place.
  • If we’re importing water into the basin to support development, where does the water go?  Answer: about half of it goes to a treatment plant.  The rest is consumed.
  • With the improvements to the Stead plant, could we plan to decommission the Lemmon Valley plant?  Answer: Yes, with some modifications.  This will depend on the Reno City Council’s decision.  Extra storage capacity will make it possible to dispose of more water for re-use (golf courses, dust suppression, etc.) which will reduce the flow into Swan Lake.
  • What would it take to improve the discharge water to Class-A+?  Answer: we presently discharge water to the Class-A standard for re-use customers and also to the creek.  It is a higher grade of water than is discharged by TMWRF which is Class-B.  Class-A meets state standards and is considered safe.  Class-A+ is advanced treatment that would be suitable for aquifer recharge.  It is very expensive and the treatment from Class-A to Class-A+ would likely be handled by the water authority (TMWA).
  • Are you planning for some of the big developments being proposed in the North Valleys?  Answer: yes; one mgd capacity will support about 4,500 homes.  The increase to 4 mgd will provide capacity for many new homes.  Some of the large developments being proposed are outside of the Stead-plant service area.

Commissioner discussion

  • Commissioner Marshall was not comfortable approving the plant expansion absent a credible plan to address increasing discharge to Swan Lake.  He doesn’t see this expansion as consistent with the Reno Master Plan.
  • Commissioner Weiske wants to see a discharge plan in place before the plant is expanded.
  • Commissioner Olivas says that sometimes we “bet on the come”, but there are two many holes and unanswered questions in this project.  The flooding shows that the older plan was faulty and having a permit to increase the discharge does not mean that it’s wise to do so with our current information.
  • Commissioner Gower agrees with Commissioners Marshall and Weiske about conformance with the Reno Master Plan.  He wants to take a step back and be more thorough with the overall strategy before moving forward with a piece of it.
  • Commissioner Johnson struggles with the infrastructure issue because this will allow for additional discharge and for additional water to be delivered to the North Valleys.

My impressions …

  1. It looks like closing the Lemmon Valley wastewater plant is not controversial.
  2. A substantial part of the Stead wastewater could be directed to the TMWRF facility.
  3. The Lemmon Valley residents are raising substantial and profound questions.
  4. The Planning Commissioners are really applying themselves to get to the truth.


Take 5: oppose SB327 Today!

The Senate Bill 327 will allow developers to get easier approval for massive developments (like Stonegate or Daybreak) with less public review.  It is written by Ben Kiekhefer on behalf of his employer who works for developers.  It passed the Nevada Senate by a wide margin.  It is now before the Government Affairs Committee in the Assembly which does not seem to take much interest in it.  They may review it as early as Thursday 5/16 (agenda).

Note: the bill has been substantially edited from the original version, but the effect and intent are unchanged.

Please send one or more members on the Government Affairs Committee a brief message telling them to oppose this terrible gift to developers.  Developments built under these rules could detract from the appeal of the Truckee Meadows for generations.

List of Committee Members … click the name for a contact form.

If you have time, come to the hearing.  It will be in Room 3143 in the Legislative Building in Carson City starting at 9:30 AM.  The committee is considering a number of bills.  There is no guarantee that this bill will be covered on 5/16.

Save The Date: June 2, 4:00-6:00 PM WRAP Mixer, Tamarack Casino

Friends, Supporters, Concerned Citizens,

Please join like-minded neighbors for an update on development issues around the county and an opportunity to meet other supporters of responsible development.  Have a glass of wine or other beverage from the cash bar.


4:00 PM Open the room.  Get a drink and a seat.

4:15 PM Start program:

  • Introduce a planning commissioner or two.  They can discuss issues of concern to them and answer some questions.
  • Describe issues from Pleasant Valley, Damonte Ranch, Galena, Verdi, and Lemmon Valley.
  • Introduce neighbors from the various parts of the county and have them describe their efforts and results.

5:15 PM Get acquainted with neighbors and principals.  Inquire about what tactics seemed to work to blunt destructive development.

6:00 PM Leave the room

The Tamarack Casino is located at 13101 South Virginia St. just north of the Summit Mall.  The Casino was kind enough to provide the meeting room free of charge.



Assembly Hearing for SB327 – Short But Only Sweet For Developers

I attended the Assembly hearing yesterday morning to review SB327, the bill that will allow expedited land development.

Original Bill Summary: Revises provisions relating to land use planning. (BDR 22-883)

Current Bill Title: AN ACT relating to land use planning; defining “residential dwelling unit”; authorizing the governing body of a county or city to provide for the division of land into five or more lots in an ordinance for planned unit development; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.

I made the following observations:
1)  Alex Assefa, Democrat from Clark County made pronounced commentary on whether this bill addresses the real issue of affordable housing in NV.  The gentleman member seated to his left (I wasn’t able to identify) made a point about the need for “starter homes” and Mr. Assefa pressed that starter homes and affordable housing are two VERY different types of housing.  One is based on an upwardly mobile family unit, and the other must serve the working class with very limited upward financial opportunity.   Mr. Assefa is rightly concerned that this bill does NOT address the need for affordable housing.
2) Gregory Hafen a Republican from Nye county stated that he works as a developer and sees a “need for this bill”.  What he SHOULD have done is immediately recuse himself because he stands to benefit financially if this bill should pass.
3) John Ellison, a Republican from Elko county stated that “fast is always better” in response to Aaron West’s comment that developers “lose $5,000/per lot per year” as a result of the current tentative map approval process, and that the purpose of SB327 is to get product to market faster.
Am I the ONLY one who sees what is happening here?   The product that is really needed is AFFORDABLE HOUSING and the proponents who spoke in favor, Aaron West (NV Builders Alliance) and Angela Fuss (Head Planner for Lumos Assoc., engineers and planners working exclusively for developers) will financially benefit from passage of this bill. as will at least one of the Assembly members, Mr. Hafen and the sponsor, Senator Kiekhefer, who’s law firm McDonald Carano represents the Stonegate developer.  It is apparent that he is sponsoring a bill specifically to favor developers as clients.
The hearing was a farce and did nothing to elucidate ANY altruistic need for this outrageously corrupt bill.   Affordable housing?   Really?

The hearing on this bill lasted only 45 minutes.   Only one person spoke in favor of the bill: Ms. Melinda Smith, representing the Builders Association of Nevada.  Surprised? Not.

Three people spoke against the bill, all offering very salient points as to why this bill is not only totally unnecessary, but only benefits developers at the expense of existing residents and environmental concerns:

Mr. Patrick Donnelly, representing the Center for Biological Diversity, linked this bill to the increasing threat of urban sprawl and poor environmental planning.  He also linked this bill to those who are working on the Lands Bill.

Ms. Maxine Meeks, a former Carson City Planning Commissioner, spoke against this bill, stating that the public review process is “the heart and soul” of the PUD and that this bill effectively prevents citizen participation.

Mr. Mike Lawson, Washoe County Planning Commissioner for District 2 made the following comments:

The current process under NRS 278 is for a development to be completely designed so that individual residential lots and many details are defined. This requirement ensures the design can be reviewed for tentative map approval. Engineering reports need to be submitted to show that there is traffic capacity, water availability, sewer treatment capacity, and flood control before the development can be approved by the planning commission at the tentative-map step in the only step that gets public review and input. Under SB327, the primary developer can submit a plan for a Planned Unit Development (zoning exception) and tentative map including superpads which have no design details. The primary developer could sell the superpads to commercial builders who would complete the detailed design for these large tracts. This creates several issues including but not limited to the following:

  • Under SB327, the development is never reviewed in its entirety. Neither the planning commission nor the public gets to consider the finished product.
  • If the primary builder grades the entire project but the superpads don’t sell, we have a mammoth scar on the landscape for the indefinite future with erosion and other hazards.
  • SB327 is written so that the primary developer may include estimates of water, traffic, sewer, emergency services, and other impacts the development will produce.
  • SB327 would not require the primary developer to submit his plan incorporating superpads to the planning commission for review. The City or County could designate a manager or other professional to review the plan with no public review.
  • • SB327 would not require the secondary developers to submit any engineering reports regarding the tract plans. So, no one is responsible for the engineering analysis of the finished design.
  • SB327 would require cities or counties to designate a single person to review and approve the secondary developers’ tract plans. These plans would not go before the planning commission. The city council or county commission would never vote on these plans. There would be no public review.
  • SB327 would only allow the city or county 30 days to approve, conditionally approve, or disapprove a tract plan (SB327 13.1). This is not enough time to seek public input or to get questions answered.
  • SB327 would only allow regional agencies 15 days to respond to a secondary developer’s tract plan.

As of the morning of May 7, 2019 the NELIS website showed 96 comments in opposition to SB 327 and zero in favor. It is apparent that this Bill would serve the few at a cost to the many.

The Legislators would be wise to show us who REALLY profits or do not pass this bill!

Simple Addition: Flood Edition

OK.  It’s not “simple addition” to figure out the flooding contribution of waste water on the level of Swan Lake.  It’s about as hard as figuring out how much to tip your server.

The Reno Stead Waste Water Plant flows 2.5 million gallons of treated effluent per day to Swan Lake. (Smith)

The Lemmon Valley Waste Water Plant flows 0.22 million gallons of treated effluent per day to Swan Lake. (Smith)

Combined, they flow 2.72 million gallons of treated effluent per day to Swan Lake.

One acre foot is 325,861 gallons.

So, 2.72 million gallons per day is 8.34 acre-feet per day.

Multiply by 365 to get 3,046 acre-feet per year.

The area of Swan Lake is 1,600 acres. (Smith)

Divide 3,046 acre-feet by 1,600 acres.  The result is 1.90 feet per year.

ANSWER: Waste water discharge into Swan Lake raises the level 1.90 feet per year.  


  • The effluent discharge into Swan Lake is a significant factor in the lake level.
  • It looks like the 2.5 feet of evaporation loss comes from measurements, so this is net of the 1.90 feet of effluent contribution.  Thus the total loss to evaporation is 2.5 + 1.90 = 4.4 feet.  If the effluent were shut off, the lake might fall 4.4 feet during a year due to evaporation.
  • If the Reno Stead Waste Water Plant flow increased to 4.0 million gallons per day and the Lemmon Valley Waste Water Plant flow increased to 0.3 million gallons per day, the total would add 3.0 feet to the level of the lake every year.  In this case, the lake level would only lose 1.4 feet per year from evaporation (net).

It looks like the neighbors who assert that the flooding is substantially due to effluent from development are right.


PS  Check out the “In The Media” page to see what is going on in the news and opinion columns relating to development.  This page is updated frequently.