The plaintiffs (neighbors) prevailed on their claims of “inverse condemnation” and “conversion”. In some regards, the neighbors had won before the verdict was read. A lot of information was presented at trial that confirmed the malfeasance of the city toward the Lemmon Valley residents. The city council should feel chastened.
Here are some of the points made in the trial that I thought were significant.
- The Quad-Knopf study was completed in 2007 having been commissioned by the city. The study concluded that suburban-density development should never be done in that closed basin. If such development were done, it would require 100% mitigation. The mitigation would be retention basins that could hold 100% of the runoff from the property due to the impervious surfaces. The study considered all the solutions that are currently being considered, and found that none were promising. Reno ignored the results and approved high density development with no mitigation or inadequate mitigation.
- The Ecologic study commissioned by the City of Reno in 2005 addressed the issue of waste water effluent contributing to flooding. It indicated that increasing development supported by “imported” water (from outside the basin) would cause flooding if the effluent were discharged into Swan Lake. It indicated that there was no easy or cost effective way to handle additional effluent generated in the basin.
- NRS states that “Approval of tentative map by the city does not constitute ‘substantial involvement’ with the development.” This seems to indicate that the city is not responsible for anything that it explicitly approves. The NRS should be changed.
- After the 1986 flooding, the Regional Water Commission was formed to consider flood characteristics of Lemmon Valley. The RWC concluded that all developments should have 100% mitigation of their impervious runoff. Reno did not want to be bound by their results.
- Reno paid HDR $325,000 for their engineers to testify for the defense against the scientific evidence supporting the plaintiffs. Once their testimony was done, Reno granted HDR a new contract for $1,000,000 for a feasibility study about a new reservoir. It sure looks like quid-pro-quo.
- Dave Solaro claimed that Washoe County didn’t evict residents from flooded properties, but the county put red and yellow tags on homes that said “Do not enter.” and “Uninhabitable”.
- While there were 57 plaintiffs in the suit, there were 160 homes with flooded septic systems.
- Mike DeMartini testified that a home on a 1-acre lot will have almost no impact on runoff compared to a 1-acre parcel in its natural state. He remembered seeing almost no runoff from his 1/3 acre lot during a heavy storm.
- Most of the existing development is within the City of Reno. The older neighborhoods in the county are on 1-acre lots with well and septic. They produce little run off and no effluent. The county’s role will change with the new Prado North and Lemmon Valley Heights developments both approved by the county commissioners.
- The RSWRF permit with the NDEP allows them to discharge effluent in Swan Lake up to the 100 year flood plain which would cause major flooding around the lake.
- The RSWRF measuring flume (gauge) was overflowing for almost 1,400 hours. They really don’t know how much effluent and storm water they discharged to the lake. The experts for Reno, used the recorded flow data which was clearly too low.
- When Silver Lake flooded, the Lear lift station pumped a lot of runoff along with sewage to RSWRF and this was discharged to Swan Lake after treatment. This could have been avoided with better attention to the storm sewers in Silver Lake.
- Reno doubled the developed area around Swan Lake since 2005. Their mitigation efforts had negligible effect.
- 2017 was a “ten-year” storm, not a “100-year” storm. It had less precipitation than 1986, 1997, and 2005.
- The RSWRF plant has a bypass line that could have sent some of the RSWRF flow to TMWRF, but this bypass line failed during the storm.
- Undisturbed parcels will likely have 3-10% runoff from storms: roughly 90% will be absorbed. Developed parcels will have 68-90% runoff: roughly 20% will be absorbed.
- Roger asserted that Shipman lied (ok … “made a fallacious statement”) that the city had not hired a consultant to assess the damages that the plaintiffs had suffered. Shipman didn’t dispute it. It makes me wonder if Reno was thinking about a settlement before the verdict.
- Roger asked Reno’s hydrologist, Forest, “Did you select methods to support the answer that Reno wanted?”
- McMahon (hydrologist for Reno) repeatedly contradicted earlier testimony he’d given in a deposition. Roger repeatedly asked “Do you remember answering this question in your deposition?” followed by “Do you remember how you swore to tell the truth?”. At one point, McMahon made a retort. The judge came down on him hard.
- John Flansberg, Reno Public Works, did not seem to know that the Reno design manual requires mitigation on all projects to reduce runoff. The first time he asked anyone on his staff to look into mitigation was 2018.
- Will Reno ever go back and seal the drains in the retention basins that are not built to the city handbook? These function as detention basins, which is not what is required. Will they fine the builders or developers? Most of the developments do not comply with the Reno ordinance for mitigation.
Quad-Knopf study: 40 PLF 1812- 2338 North Valleys Flood Control, Vol I & II, Quad Knopf_ABBR [Note that appendices and references have been removed to limit the file size.]
Ecologic study: 133 PLF 1630-1662 2005 NV Effluent Disposal Options