Class-Action Suit: Wednesday 6/12

Luke Busby put Karen Johnson on the stand.  She lives with her husband Jeff, adult son Jeff Jr., his wife and a baby at 415 Pompe Way.  Jeff struggles with Parkinsons.  Their property flooded forcing them to evacuate.  Their large propane tank broke loose and was floating in their yard.  This home does not have a well, but gets water plumbed from TMWA.  They all lived in a 2-bedroom apartment for a year before returning home.  Their home didn’t flood, but there were new cracks in the foundation.  Busby presented photos of her flooded property and of the water flowing under the Hesco barriers and under the raised portion of Lemmon Drive.  William McKean did the cross-examination and asked her about the flooding, the timing, about the county notices, and the FEMA sticker.  He also asked about them moving their fifth-wheel travel trailer.

Busby called David Westhoff to the stand as an expert hydrologist.  He was a reviewer of the major report (below) done in 2007 by the Quad-Knox corporation about the contribution of runoff from precipitation on the level of Swan Lake.  The study was performed for the City of Reno and the Washoe County Regional Water Planning Commission.  The conclusion of the report was that development in Lemmon Valley had been limited by the availability of water.  If water was “imported” (by TMWA), the imported water and the resulting waste water would present a problem.  The report considered several options for mitigation, but none of them were promising.

  • Excavating to make the playa deeper.
  • Using levees to hold back the rising water.
  • Using Low Impact Development practices.
  • Injecting the runoff into an aquifer.
  • Making an effluent reservoir in the Silver Lake basin.
  • Pumping the excess out of the Swan Lake basin.
  • Building an infiltration reservoir near the Stead Airport.

Westhoff made the point that runoff from increased development would not be effectively mitigated by detention basins.  Low Impact Development will have little effect on storm runoff.  Busby also made reference to the Ecologic study done in 2005 (below) that considered the issue of waste water disposal as opposed to storm runoff.  This study considered that the RSWRF facility might be expanded to 7 mgd.  The study considered 9 approaches to dispose of the effluent and identified 3 as the most promising.

  1. Send effluent to the TMWRF facility
  2. Reuse more of the effluent for irrigation and dust control
  3. Build Vadose Zone wells near the airport (a variant of rapid-infiltration-basins)

These are already are under consideration and all have limits and drawbacks.

Reno attorney cross-examines Westhoff making the point that Westhoff did not make measurements, collect data, or do much analysis as his contribution to the Quad-Knopf report.  Westhoff did not work on the Ecologic study.  Westhoff made the point that most of the mitigation basins are “retention” rather than “detention” designs.

Busby, on re-direct examination, made the point that the Quad-Knopf report had been reviewed by many agencies and was considered authoritative.

Busby then called Jeff Johnson to the stand to talk about his property following his wife’s testimony.  He said he lived in the trailer near his house for a period when he was concerned about looters.  Reno never compensated him for the imposition caused by the flooding.  He estimates that the Hesco barriers have about 2-1/2 feet of water behind them.

Reno’s McKean cross-examined Johnson and asked about the current condition of his home.  He talked about the installation of the Hesco barriers.  He asked “Do you think if the county had installed the Hescoes earlier that your property would have been protected earlier?”  Johnson answered “Yes.”  Busby objected, but the court allowed the statement to stand.  This appeared to be a successful effort by the defendants to show that the county was also responsible.  Johnson also answered that they had briefly put their house on the market, but had then taken it off.  It had been listed at $249,000 while they had paid $135,000 for in in 2014.

The trial was interrupted for some drama when one juror improperly expressed an opinion about the case contrary to the court’s orders.  The judge and all the attorneys then interviewed all the jurors (in chambers) to find out if the one had influenced the others.  They concluded that the issue was limited to the single juror so that they would not declare a mistrial.  The juror was dismissed leaving 8 jurors plus 1 alternate.

Ecologic Study: 133 PLF 1630-1662 2005 NV Effluent Disposal Options

The Quad-Knopf study is nearly a gigabyte in size.  This is an abbreviated version with the appendices and supporting data removed: 40 PLF 1812- 2338 North Valleys Flood Control, Vol I & II, Quad Knopf_ABBR

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