Class-Action Suit: Monday 6/17

The plaintiffs continue to make their case.  Roger Doyle re-calls Mike DeMartini to the stand.  They discussed the retention pond for the large Walmart that had a drain to Swan Lake apparently in violation of Reno ordinances.  It appears to have been intended as a “detention pond” with the purpose of slowing down the surface runoff rather than a “retention pond” with the purpose of holding the runoff until it either evaporates or percolates into the soil.  DeMartini found at least two other large ponds that had drains.  While not a meteorologist, he had access to a lot of precipitation data from NOA, MADIS, and the Weather Underground, and to “Co-op gauges” in the area.  They discussed local versus regional rainfall.  He worked on the Granite Hills subdivision built in the 70’s (366 homes).  Horse Creek had been dug to remove water so the area wouldn’t be swampy.  In early 2017 he would visit Swan Lake once or twice a week.  He’d never seen flooding like that in 40 years.  He served on the Regional Water Commission since 1995 which required that he be knowledgeable based on the various hydro logical studies.  The water commission was responsible to maintain the quality and quantity of Swan Lake in part to protect a wetlands for migrating birds.  Reno is represented on the water commission and was reluctant to have the commission address the flooding issue.  They didn’t want to be bound by the commission’s decisions.  The city did not take actions that could have reduced the flooding.  Jonathan Shipman cross-examined DeMartini for the city.  Shipman asked how many times DeMartini met with the plaintiff’s counsel.  He said once or twice and that he primarily answered their questions about flooding.  Shipman brought up a standing agreement that RSWRF provide at least 490 acre feet of effluent a year to support the wetlands in Swan Lake.  DeMartini promoted an ambitious pumping scheme to pump water from Swan Lake out of the basin.  The destination of the water was undisclosed.  DeMartini said the excess water could be pumped out in 90 days.  He requested a permit to do this.  The permit was denied, but he made requested changes and resubmitted.  The amended version was approved.  DeMartini made his own theoretical model for the collection of the runoff in the North Valleys basins.  Reno owns the properties under Horse Creek.  They compact the soil under the entire subdivision before starting construction.  It isn’t just the paved areas that have poor permeability.  Shipman with re-cross-examination asked “Did you tell anyone at Washoe County or TMWA that this pumping plan was an investment?”  DeMartini answered “No”.  Shipman did not pursue this question further.  DeMartini said that John Enloe of TMWA did not want to pump out the water to use it for irrigation but rather to store it for future use.  Reno claims ownership of the effluent pumped from RSWRF into Swan Lake.

Busby called Janelle Thomas to the stand.  She was a senior civil engineer working for Reno April 2015-April 2018.  She discussed how the city planning department worked and how new projects were reviewed.  She worked on housing developments along with apartment developments and commercial plans.  She was not very familiar with the waste water treatment.  She was asked about the Silver Dollar development: she had testified about it to the Reno Planning Commission.  Reno is allowed to pump water into Swan Lake up to the 100-year flood plain per NDEP.  But, the permit prohibits injury to property rights.  Candeni Sendall did the cross-examination for Reno.  She covered the dates of Thomas’s employment by Reno as well as the planning review process.  They discussed the differences between retention and detention ponds.  The purpose of the detention pond is to hold the runoff from a single bad storm.


  • Jury paid close attention to DeMartini’s testimony.
  • Roger Doyle’s examination seemed informative and logical.
  • Shipman’s cross-examinations seemed repetitive and disjointed.

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