Plans for Swan Lake 8/27/19

The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners met today to give staff direction on how to proceed with proposals to protect the Lemmon Valley residents (Agenda item 8).  Duane Smith (County Engineer) made a presentation describing the county efforts and approaches he considered promising.

(Staff Report: BCC 08-27-19 – Staff Report – Lemmon Valley).  [Meeting video]

Highlights from Smith’s presentation:

  • The county has spent $8.83M on flood control efforts in the Swan Lake area since 2017.
  • The county is presently spending $230k per month on Swan Lake flood control.
  • He repeatedly called the flooding a “natural disaster” when the jury in the class-action suit determined that Reno was largely responsible for the flooding.
  • The county has requested over $3M in reimbursement funds from FEMA.  The county has received $850k of this to date.  Only certain costs on a specific schedule are eligible for FEMA reimbursement.  FEMA reimbursement can take 2-7 years.
  • The peak lake level in 2019 was slightly above the peak in 2017.
  • The HESCO barriers are the right solution in this situation as confirmed by a consultant.
  • Some of the barriers were leaning because one side was on the road surface.  These barriers have been remounted so as to be more vertical.
  • The pump ducts have been relocated under the road surface so that the harsh ramps that protected them have been removed.
  • Smith claims that county workers have been harassed by area residents.  This is vehemently denied.
  • Water quality sampling by the Health Department shows that the water continues to meet Class-A standards which is suitable for “recreation”. Given the intense algae blooms and the coffee-colored water taken from lake, this seems highly dubious.
  • The county is putting in expanded berms and removing the temporary inflatable dams as the berms are completed.
  • The LVWRF waste water plant operated by the county only discharges 65 acre feet into the lake twice a year.
  • Smith is proposing that some effluent be sprayed (aerated) for evaporation.  He indicated that this would be done at the LVWRF plant.  If this were successful, the plant would need to discharge little or no effluent into the lake.
  • Smith favors pumping some lake water onto vacant property (“land application”) for evaporation.  He also favors “flood pool management” using natural basins to retain water for evaporation and infiltration.
  • If both “land application” and “flood pool management” schemes are implemented, Smith estimates that 400-600 acre-feet could be evaporated.  Note that the area of the lake at flood stage is about 1800 acres.
  • The county has good collaboration with the Reno for working in the area.
  • He plans to use HDR Engineering for long-term mitigation planning.
  • If the 2019 winter is like the 2018 winter, there is renewed risk of flooding.
  • The Prado North development may plan to take soil from the natural berm in Swan Lake increasing the lake’s volume.

Public Comment

  • The North Valleys Blvd was down to one lane for road work.  This combined with the road work on Lemmon Drive and a fire blocking 395S meant that neighbors had to drive north to Stead to take Virginia Street south to reach the city.  There needs to be better coordinating between Washoe County and Reno on construction.
  • Washoe County should consider seeking a change to the Nevada Revised Statutes similar to what was done in Texas bill requiring a vote on annexation including all residents who would be affected.
  • The county should not select HDR for a new feasibility study regarding Swan Lake after the representatives’ performance at the Lemmon Valley residents class action lawsuit.  The firm has proven itself to be technically and ethically questionable.
  • Why not effectively extend the natural berm in Swan Lake over to Pompe Street making a natural rim to contain the water?
  • Smith makes repeated references to “stakeholders” that were included in the discussions of the Lemmon Valley plans.  He included developers as stakeholders, but not homeowners.
  • The recent thunderstorms caused flooding because the runoff could not reach the lake due to the barriers.  The pumps were not running so the water collected on the uphill side of the barriers.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the staff’s efforts (Jung absent).  The direction includes:

  • Continue to fund flood response activities.
  • Design and bid projects to reduce the lake volume.
  • Seek agreements for easements, licenses and others to support these efforts.


In other news … the commissioners heard a report regarding the search for a new county manager to replace acting county manager Dave Solaro (Agenda item 9).  This was from the representative of Ralph Andersen & Associates who is conducting the search (staff report: Staff Report_County Manager Recruitment Update).  She reported that she is starting the evaluation phase of the effort.  She is reviewing resume’s that have been submitted.  She expects this to take a week or two.  She is compiling an “assessment panel” to consider the candidates the week of September 16.  She will be asking some local residents to serve on this panel.  The candidates would be interviewed by the county commissioners on September 30.

One thought on “Plans for Swan Lake 8/27/19

  1. it is very obvious that the city of reno is writing checks they cant cash the city of sparks resealed and paved rock blvd. at nighttime why cant all the road construction in reno be done at night perfect example was today 8/28 1 car crash and it backed up every street in the lemmon valley area now also that is a great loss of productivity for employers also. think about people look at the whole picture


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