Debbie Lauchner (Finance Director) gave a budget report to the Reno City Council last week (3/25/20). She mentioned that the $55M sewer-bond request had been approved by the state and that the first $2.6M had been disbursed.
The Reno-Stead Water Reclamation Facility (RSWRF) bond was controversial since the treated effluent mostly flows to Swan Lake and contributes to the flood hazard. The plan is to double the RSWRF plant’s capacity from 2 million gallons per day (mgd) to 4 mgd. The increased capacity is needed to support new development in the North Valleys. The bond was originally denied by the Planning Commission due to the lack of a credible plan to dispose of the additional effluent. The city council later approved the plan. A condition of the expansion was that the plant not contribute any more effluent into the Swan Lake basin than it presently does. Several schemes were considered to dispose of the additional 2 mgd including building a new reservoir to support evaporation, spraying the liquid into the air to cause evaporation, or injecting it into the drinking water aquifer after treating it to a Class-A+ standard. Since the plant expansion was approved, these schemes have been proven not feasible. The evaporation was considered too risky. The site identified for a new reservoir was judged not suitable. There is no plan to build a plant to improve the effluent quality to a Class-A+ standard so that it could be injected. So, the plans to expand the plant are moving forward and the money is being disbursed, but there is no credible scheme to handle the increased effluent volume. This has been likened to starting to build a bridge with no plan as to how to finish it on the far bank.
Tammy Holt-Still of the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee, wrote a letter (RSWRF-bond) to the governor and top state officials pointing out the reasons why the bond request should be denied. Unfortunately, it appears that the decision to approve the bond had already been made. It may be largely a “rubber stamp” process on the part of the state. The letter makes the point that the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection should address the issue of the large volumes of water being “imported” into the basin from Honey Lake (via the Vidler pipeline) and from the Truckee River. There needs to be a “water balance” analysis performed to confirm that water coming into the basin is balanced by the consumption and outflow. Given the past practice, Lemmon Valley residents are rightfully worried that the effluent flows will end up flooding them once again. One would hope that losing the class-action suit would make the city more wary of rampant development in the North Valleys: this does not appear to be the case.