Daybreak Decision Delayed (9/11/19)

The Reno City Council voted 4-3 to delay a decision on the Daybreak development until their meeting on September 23.  This review is proceeding in an unusual way because the investors (Newport Pacific Land Co.) have already gone to court and negotiated a stipulation with the City Attorney (Karl Hall) and Council Members Delgado and Reese.  Following the denial of the project by the Reno City Council on November 28, 2018, NPLC went to the Reno Planning Commission with a proposal for a part of the Daybreak project called Rio Wrangler North II.  The Planning Commission denied this project, and NPLC went to court with a petition for judicial review and a claim for $50M in damages against Reno for the original Daybreak project.  Their claim is that the city denied them their project unfairly thereby “taking” value from their property.  The stipulation mandates that Reno must agree to the Daybreak plan with minimal changes or go to court starting on September 27.  The main point being that the city cannot add more conditions to the project to gain approval.  The court action on September 27 would be Reno’s motion to dismiss the case brought by NPLC.

Neighbors were disappointed that the city council did not affirm their previous denial of the Daybreak project, but it was understandable that the majority preferred to delay.  NPLC has made many changes to their plan and provided this information to the council members just yesterday.  They do not have a new, complete proposal, so the Reno Planning Department will need to update the existing plan with these changes.  Once the changes are incorporated, the council members will be able to review them, but this must all happen in less than 12 days.  None of the council members were satisfied with the accelerated schedule.  Voting for delaying the decision until September 23 were Reese, Delgado, Jardon, and Weber.  Voting to deny the project again were Brekhus, Schieve, and Duerr.

Karl Hall gave a presentation describing the stipulation and the “order on stipulation”.  He also covered the choices facing the city.  (Daybreak_Discussion_KHall)

Andy Durling of Wood Rogers gave a presentation describing the proposed changes.  He spoke like an auctioneer to try to cover the material in the 10 minutes allotted.  No reasoned conclusion could be drawn under these circumstances. (His presentation is not available at this time.)  He went on to make the point that the zoning amendment had already been approved for the Butler Ranch North portion and that NPLC could proceed with that and it would not get some “improvements” that are incorporated in the new plan.

Points made during public comment; (note: there were 124 comments received in opposition online.  There were four comments received online in support)

  • There is already area flooding due to blocked drainage channels that are not maintained.
  • The Daybreak development could cause flooding leaving Reno liable as they were for the Lemmon Valley flooding.
  • Earlier development projects contributed more to the community in terms of schools, fire, road improvements, etc.
  • Reno staff admits they don’t enforce requirements in the Reno Development Handbook.  We are not confident the flood mitigation features will be incorporated.
  • This process is not transparent.  It looks like “Let’s make a deal.”
  • There have been many “100-year” floods in recent history.
  • Daybreak only considered flooding on the Truckee River.  They did not consider flooding on Steamboat Creek.
  • Reno has no enforcement on previous developments that violated the master plan.
  • The council was right to deny the project earlier.  They should affirm this decision.
  • Reno should buy the Daybreak properties from the investors and set it aside for recreation and flood control.
  • The wetlands are critical for the wild horses and other wildlife.
  • NPLC is a real-estate speculation firm.  They can’t commit to what the developers will do later.
  • Only 245 homes were approved in the original Butler Ranch development.
  • Why should Reno grant NPLC an exemption from the Re-Imagine Reno master plan?  If every developer gets an exemption, the master plan is meaningless.
  • We need common sense development that does not engender these problems of flooding and traffic.

Discussion by the council members and staff;


  • The stipulation violates the Hanson Rule related to legal counsel acting on behalf of a governing body without that body’s approval of the action in a public meeting.
  • This sets a remarkably dangerous precedent: NPLC should re-apply and pay a new filing fee.  Why do they get a “do-over”?
  • This is a new application and should go through the Planning Commission.
  • Why should we let this project jump in front of others awaiting approval?
  • We should see the new tentative maps before considering approval.
  • NPLC could move forward quickly if they would comply with the existing zoning and master plan.


  • “Why not bring this back as a new project instead of requiring a new decision on a modified version?”
  • The earlier denial by the city council was based on their inability to make the “findings” required to approve the project.
  • We got a lot of new information from NPLC just yesterday.
  • I hear the lack of trust in the city’s code enforcement.


  • “Why did NPLC get to file their complaint so late?  They only had 30 days from the decision.”  Hall answered that the 30 days starts from the filing date, not the decision date.  This answer was not entirely satisfactory.
  • A lot of documents have been submitted since the development documentation binder was distributed.
  • There is no map for the current or revised development.
  • The Butler Ranch North Planned-Unit Development (PUD) approval is now 15 years old.  They have still to get a tentative map.  Is the old PUD even relevant?
  • I don’t even know what questions to ask at this time.
  • The need for an additional fire station is not addressed.
  • This project should be re-submitted as a new plan.
  • The investors claim this is an “exaction”.  This is not possible since the project was never approved.
  • The housing density is way too much.  I don’t see how this can change by 9/23.


  • Can we get answers from staff about the changes in 2 weeks?  Can staff identify red-flag issues by then?
  • Can we negotiate a later date for a decision?  An additional month to October 23 would be a better plan.


  • His goal with the stipulation was to have the negotiation be as much in public as possible.
  • The master plan only “discourages” building in flood plains: it does not prohibit them.
  • We have a critical housing shortage.  Reese wants to continue to explore the process.
  • He wants to know “What were the investors assumptions and who did they talk to?”
  • We should move forward from where we are and not start over with a new application.


  • There is not sufficient detailed information to consider approval at this point.


  • We should move forward.
  • She wants to delay a decision for an extra month.
  • We need to grow and build homes or we’re dying.


  • Today is a day to decide if we want to engage in the settlement process.
  • If the council approves the delayed decision, they may be able to negotiate a delay in the due date.

Arlo Stockham (Reno Planning Manager)

  • The planning department can review this in two weeks and identify any red-flag issues.



Reference from previous pages and posts;

Take-5 to push back against the Daybreak Development

Daybreak Strikes Back

Daybreak Denied

Daybreak Development Continued

Daybreak Redux at NAB3

Rio Wrangler North II Denied by Planning Commission


Take 5 to Push Back Against Daybreak!

USECC - Flooding Butler Ranch North looking south from Mira Loma Jan 2017B copy

The massive Daybreak development will worsen flooding along the Steamboat Creek.  It will destroy the natural flood storage capacity in the area and divert runoff downstream toward communities to the North.  It will mostly fill the area from Damonte Ranch to Hidden Valley with 4,700 homes.  The Reno City Council will consider approving the development on 9/11.  This is not just an issue for the Damonte Ranch neighbors.  Steamboat Creek flooding can close the airport and block access to Route 80.  This is a regional issue for the future of the Truckee Meadows.  AGENDA


You can e-mail one or all of the City Council Members.

You can fill out a public comment form online and pick “oppose” and “no” for speaking in person.  This will be agenda item D.1 on the 9/11/19 meeting agenda.  LINK

You can write the City Clerk, Ashley Turner, who will faithfully log your position and your comments. … or

You can make one or all of the following points.

  • This is the last “natural sponge” to absorb runoff and store flooding from Steamboat Creek.
  • This project is not compliant with current zoning or the master plan (Re-Imagine Reno).
  • Technical flood control questions from the Truckee Meadows Flood Authority have not been addressed.
  • There has been no comprehensive testing for Mercury on the property.
  • Traffic along Mira Loma near Veterans’ Parkway is already dangerously heavy.
  • There is no plan for an additional fire station which will be needed.

There will be public comment allowed on the specific Daybreak issue.  If you want to go and speak, you can speak at the beginning of the meeting during “General Public Comment” or later on the specific agenda item D.1 which is instructions to staff regarding the Daybreak ruling.

“Evil succeeds when good men people are silent.”  Make your voice heard!  Be counted as one opposed to this dangerous and destructive development.  Do it for your love of the Truckee Meadows.  Do it for yourself.

See the previous post for more detailed information on the development and the current status.  Note: I was mistaken that the court case was a petition for judicial review.  It was rather a civil case for damages brought by the developer against the city for wrongly “taking” their property by imposing unreasonable restrictions.


Daybreak Strikes Back

The massive Daybreak development will be back before the Reno City Council on September 11.  It is a disastrous project for 4,700 homes to be built on the east side of the Reno basin from South Meadows Parkway up to Mira Loma Drive.  Most worrisome is the fact that it will occupy much of the last space available to store floodwaters for the entire valley and for natural percolation into the soil in the Steamboat Creek watershed.  The developer is proposing a complex arrangement of culverts and drains to control flooding in their development.  This may prove unfortunate to neighborhoods to the North where the the runoff is headed.  The developer expressed that the effect on downstream properties was not considered.

The developer petitioned the Washoe District Court for a judicial review of the Reno City Council decision to deny the project which required changes to the Reno Master Plan (Re-imagine Reno) and to zoning.  This led City Attorney’s to negotiate with applicants and their attorney’s to try to avoid court proceedings, which was done out of the public eye and behind closed doors. The negotiated stipulation that was provided to the court and then remanded by the court on August 29 favored the developer by almost eliminating Reno’s ability to add requirements or conditions to approval of the project without Daybreak’s approval. Reno can only approve the project (it might be presented with ‘slight modifications’), or it can deny it and go to court on September 27. If Reno approves, then it will have a first reading on September 23 followed by the second reading sometime at the beginning of October. If Reno approves the project, it is further obligated to support the project before the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Authority.  Reno attorneys Karl Hall and Jonathan Shipman were parties to the stipulation agreement.  It is not known what went on during the negotiations.

There’s a fundamental issue.  Does Reno control development at all?  Daybreak is not compliant with the master plan or existing zoning.  What entitles them to a special exception for the benefit of their investors?

Note that the developer petitioned for judicial review on February 15 when the deadline for them to file would have been Christmas 2018 (probably December 26).  That was 25 days after the project was denied.  Why was the developer granted a 7 week extension?

Judicial Ruling (Stipulation by Reno and developer attorneys): USECC – 20190826 Stipulation – Daybreak

Judicial Order (enforcing Stipulation): USECC – 20190826 Order on Stipulation – Daybreak

Concerns about the Daybreak Development from the public:

  • It would develop the last “natural sponge” to absorb runoff on the Steamboat Creek.
  • The flood data the developer used was out of date and incomplete.  The developer has not addressed concerns about their analysis.
  • The ground water is only 1-4 feet below the surface in this area.
  • Newer homes nearby are suffering the corrosion of pipes due to the high ground water.
  • There are many unaddressed issues with this project.  This area is identified as a “critical flood zone”.
  • The Butler Ranch North area has been designated as critical flood storage areas by the City of Reno, Washoe County and the Army Corps of Engineers
  • The developer’s flood model does not consider the effect on neighboring properties.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers have recommended over decades in their Draft Feasibility Studies not to build on this site.
  • Re-imagine Reno indicates not to build in a flood plain.
  • Earlier tests show high Mercury contamination in areas associated with the Steamboat Creek floodplain.
  • Steamboat Creek is fed by nine tributaries all of which are subject to flooding and contributing to increase Steamboat flooding.
  • Traffic on Mira Loma between Veterans Pkwy and McCarran is already dangerously heavy.
  • RFD is concerned that there is no plan for an additional fire station

Council Member comments from November 28, 2018:

Brekhus: “Why are different flood models used in the analysis?”

Delgado: “I don’t know why this project is before us now given the number of  concerns that have not been addressed. I’m concerned that we may be making a situation like the North Valleys.”

Duerr: “It is one of the most dangerous projects in the area.  Double Diamond is in my ward and has chronic flooding problems.  A 50-year flood on the Truckee can produce a 100-year flood event on Steamboat Creek.”

Bobzien: “I’m particularly concerned about the open questions from Mr. Aldean. I can’t make the findings to move forward.”



This has been a long and tortured process for this massive development.  Here’s a summary of some of the key points to date.

NPLC BV investment company (Newport Beach) buys 980 acres for $52M in June 2017.

Daybreak reviewed by NAB-2; February 20, 2018
Daybreak “continued” (decision postponed) by Reno Planning Commission, July 11, 2018
Daybreak approved by Reno Planning Commission, July 19, 2018
[Johnson, Gower, Weiske, Griffith in favor, Hawkins, Marshall opposed]
Daybreak decision “continued” (postponed) by the Reno City Council; November 14, 2018
Daybreak Project denied by Reno City Council, November 28, 2018.  The vote was 6-1 to deny the project with only Weber opposed.
The developer tries a different approach: get the project approved in parts rather than the whole 980 acres.  The developer submitted the Rio Wrangler North II development as a stand-alone project.  It was denied by Reno Planning Commission; February 6, 2019
The developer files a petition for judicial review with the Washoe County District Court February 15, 2019.
South Meadows West and Rio Wrangler North II before NAB; March 5, 2019.  The Rio Wrangler North II review was belated since it should have been done before the Reno Planning Commission review.
Judicial ruling documented on August 26, 2019.
Reference applications: LDC18-00025, LDC18-00037


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.

Local News … 8/26/19

Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District news; notes by Tom Daly

Apparatus – In late July TM received two new Type 1 structure engines and assigned those to TM#32 Eastlake and TM#40 Mogul. These were authorized in the FY19 budget. Two more engines are in the FY20 budget.

Strategic Plan – This plan will be delayed until January 2020 in order to add a five-year financial projection as to expected revenues and expenditures and will include a Fleet Management Plan and a Facilities Master Plan.

Fire Marshal – This vacant position will likely be filled and announced at the November 2019 TMFPD Board meeting.

TM#37 Hidden Valley living quarters renovation and new vehicle bay – A Special Use Permit (SUP) is needed from the Board of Adjustment, so look for that at their September or October meeting. Also, the City Council of Reno is slow walking their required second vote on a minor boundary adjustment for the site and the County is insisting on an expensive sewer line adjustment when only a short connection via an easement is needed. Once approvals are received the living quarters work will proceed immediately with ground breaking for the new apparatus building likely in the Spring of 2020.

Personnel – On 8/27/2019 the BCC will consider the appointment of Deputy Fire Chief Alex Kukulus to the Emergency 911 Advisory Committee for a term of four years ending June 30, 2023.

Wildfires – The District’s first large-scale (about 1500 acres) wildfire impacting structures is burning in the Red Rock area with only minor containment to date, see  KOLO-8 coverage.


Reno City Council meeting (8/26/19); notes by Steve Wolgast

The city council voted unanimously to ask the Finance Department to prepare an ordinance approving the $55M bond request for the RSWRF plant expansion.  Council Member Brekhus was absent.  This is still a preliminary step, and does not oblige the city to issue the bonds.  The bond request will come up for a vote in October (probably).  This will allow more time to determine exactly how they will handle the increased effluent produced by the plant.  A “work committee” is being assembled that will be tasked with developing a plan and presenting it to the city council.  Conditions will be included in the finance ordinance including a cap on the effluent flow volume that can go to Swan Lake.

There was some ambiguity regarding the maximum effluent flow that will be permitted to be discharged into Swan Lake.  Director Flansberg said the current flow in the winter is approximately 1.8 million gallons per day (mgd).  Council member Duerr reiterated her condition that this be reduced by the diversion of 0.5 mgd to the TMWRF plant.  The inference is that the maximum net flow to Swan Lake should be 1.3 mgd this winter.  Flansberg said that NDEP would issue the permit for increasing the plant discharge after the construction on the plant expansion begins.  This sounds illogical.

Residents raised the following concerns during Public Comment.

  • Reno residents could consider changes enacted in Texas law that gives residents about to be annexed by a city the right to vote on the annexation.
  • There’s a lot of construction going on right now.  The city should allow time for the new housing capacity to be absorbed before rushing to approve more.
  • It’s premature to approve the RSWRF sewer bond.  There is no sure method now to dispose of the extra 2 mgd of effluent that will be produced.  There are a number of possible scenarios that could work, but all of them are speculative at this time.

Current construction viewed from the Steamboat Hills:   Wolgast_General_Comment_082619

Open issues facing the RSWRF expansion: Wolgast_Agenda-Item_D3_082619A


Endangered Example

The Washoe County Commission has consistently overturned the decisions of the Washoe Planning Commission when the Planning Commission denies a developer’s project.  The commissioners routinely praise the developers and development as being a solution to problems caused by development.  The Lemmon Drive Estates (also known as “The Lakes at Lemmon Valley”) stands as the exception to this rule.  It was denied by the Washoe Planning Commission on May 1, 2018.  The developer appealed and their appeal was heard by the Board of County Commissioners on November 13, 2018.  The county commissioners sided with the Planning Commission unanimously, and the developer (applicant) sued the county in district court.  The court (Judge Barry Breslow) decided for the developer instructing the county to approve the tentative map for this project (July 19, 2019 ?, court record).  It appears that the judge did not grasp the safety issue that was central to the original denial.  Tuesday, the county commissioners decided to appeal the district court decision to the Nevada Supreme Court 3-1 (Herman, Lucey, Hartung for, Bergbigler against, and Jung absent). (Agenda) (Video)

Public Comment

  • Mess at Scott’s Ranch (Lemmon Valley) is not getting cleaned up by the county.  Disintegrated Hesco barrier is not cleaned up.
  • The county is “top heavy” with too few workers and too many managers.  The county doesn’t keep it’s commitments to do maintenance.

District Attorney, Nate Edwards

  • A typical time frame for a Supreme Court appeal would be 1 to 1-1/2 years.
  • The developer has filed a request with the court to recoup legal costs of $45,000.
  • There is a pending transaction (sale?) regarding this property depending on the outcome of the legal proceedings.
  • Does the County think it’s important enough to defend its jurisdiction to go forward with the appeal knowing that it would be liable for increasing legal expenses and also damage claims by the developer for delaying the project?

Developer’s Attorney, Stephen Mollath

  • The stewardship of the county should be to follow the zoning and the applicable laws.
  • There’s no zoning change or special use permit required.  It’s a simple tentative map.
  • The ingress and egress issues were wrongly decided by the Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners.
  • He recommends the developer seek damages for the delay that would be caused by the appeal.

Commissioner Discussion

Berkbigler “Why was right-in, right out the key point in the litigation?”  Edwards “This was the dominant issue in the Planning Commission’s decision.  This is likely to be the only issued emphasized in appeal.”  Berkbigler is concerned about the cost of possible damages if the county loses on appeal, but is also concerned about adding more housing with the flooding issues not fully addressed.  The county has approved “right-in, right-out” developments in other locations.

Public Comment

  • The developer’s attorney was disingenuous claiming that it was important to proceed with development while admitting that the plan was to sell the property.
  • This developer has not abided by regulations having gone into an area that was to be undisturbed in order to acquire rock for another development.
  • Right-in/right-out access will not be practical for fire engine access.
  • There were many issues to this case beyond ingress and egress that were not argued in the case.

Commissioner Discussion

Berkbigler shares the concern regarding fire engine access with the right-in/right-out configuration.  She asks if the additional conditions can be added to the approval of the development at this point.  Paul Lipparelli answered that the court ordered that the county approved the tentative map.  Additional conditions will be applied to complete the final map, but these are not discretionary.  The conditions you’re considering would normally go with a special use permit.

Lucey asserts that the original decisions denying the project were valid.  There were several reasons to deny this project, not just the ingress and egress issue.  The planning function belongs to the county with its open forum, not in a courtroom with only a judge deciding.

Hartung agreed with Lucey.  He is not comfortable with a judge overturning a planning decision.  He thinks the original decision was correct.  He knows there are a number of right-in/right-out developments and knows of many that have failed miserably and for that reason we have decided to move away from utilizing this scheme.  RTC was not willing to implement a better configuration.  The intersections are too close for each one to get a traffic signal.  There were more problems than just the traffic including the run-off handling and the incompatibility with adjacent properties.

Herman opposed the project since we did not have the sewer capacity to support this development and this is still not addressed.

Berkbigler agrees with the points made by the others, but thinks the fiscal risk of losing an expensive appeal is too great.

Public Comment

  • The appeal is the right move by the county.
  • Culverts in Lemmon Valley are full of weeds that are the county’s responsibility to maintain.  Mr. Solaro does not respond to requests to his office.


This is a telling moment.  The only development project denied by the Board of County Commissioners (in the last two years) was overturned.  If the developers get their way in this case, it means that they get approved 100% of the time.  At the South Valleys CAB meeting on June 14, 2018, county planner Roger Pelham was challenged to name a single development project that the county had denied.  The only example he could think of was Lemmon Drive Estates.  The county must fight this vigorously, or they must admit they have no say in how development proceeds or in the consequences to the homeowners and the taxpayers.  Mr. Edwards’ tepid assertions don’t inspire confidence.


Reno … in for Half a Billion $ ?

At the meeting on August 14, the Reno City Council focused on North Valley sewer infrastructure. (AGENDA) (VIDEO)

  • The city council approved a contract with HDR Engineering to study the feasibility of building a new reservoir for effluent in the Red Rock Road area north and east of the Stead Airport for $1M. The estimated reservoir cost is $90M.
  • The city council overturned the Reno Planning Commission denial of a special use permit to expand the RSWRF waste water facility in Lemmon Valley.
  • The city council approved a request to the Washoe Debt Management Commission to review Reno’s request for a $55M bond to expand the RSWRF waste water facility. At least two more city council approvals will be required for the bond to issued.
  • The city approved a contract to do the detailed design work for the RSWRF expansion for $485,000.

Council-member Brekhus expressed concern that the combined North-Valleys sewer expansion costs (including TMWRF improvements, a new reservoir, American Flat irrigation, and Beddell Flat injection) could approach half a billion dollars. All these proposals were approved 5-1 with Schieve absent and Brekhus opposed.

This meeting started at 10:00 AM with a “time certain” commitment to cover the appeal of the Planning Commission decision to deny the RSWRF plant expansion after 6:00 PM.

Public Comment:

  • The moratorium is needed for the North Valleys and should have been approved by the council.
  • There is an inadequate storm water system in the North Valleys. They should not be importing more water.
  • The city council meeting on August 6 was an overflow crowd. Some residents were not able to speak because they couldn’t get in. This is in violation of the Open Meeting Law.
  • HDR’s engineers were misleading and misinformed in their testimony in the Class-Action Lawsuit of the Lemmon Valley neighbors. The HDR firm is not a good candidate for this new contract.

Agenda item B.9 is the approval of a contract to HDR to do a feasibility study for the proposed reservoir.

Council discussion;

  • Reese asked about HDR’s suitability for this contract. Flansberg (Reno Public Works) “HDR is one of the top 3 firms in the country for dam design.”
  • Duerr; “Who at HDR will be the principal for the new study?”
  • Flansberg; “It will be Noel Laughlin not Michael McMahon or Mark Forest who testified in the class-action suit.”
  • Noel Laughlin; “We’ll be looking at geotechnical issues (earthquake hazard) as well as seepage issues. The reservoir volume will be approximately 3,500 acre feet.”

Agenda item B.14 is the resolution to put a $55M bond proposal on the list for the Washoe County Debt Commission to consider.

Council Discussion;


  • The sewer connection fees paid by developers in 2018 was $12M while debt payments on this new bond could be $10M per year.
  • The RSWRF plant only currently supports 6,000 customers.
  • These debt payments will be an impediment to many projects that have been planned. The council should look at the fiscal issues in a broader sense before taking on more debt from this bond.
  • The coming bond to improve the TMWRF treatment plant is likely to be an additional $200M.
  • She asked that the council members not take their sights off the impact this will have to sewer fees to customers that have had dramatic increases recently.
    Brekhus is opposed to this piecemeal approach to the sewer issues without agreement on a plan of the larger scope.
  • There should be discussion with Washoe County to close the LVWRF plant and bring their users to the RSWRF plant which produces Class-A effluent instead of Class-C effluent.


  • She wants a new “work committee” to look into the North Valleys sewer infrastructure plan including a new sewer rate structure. She wants to see this committee report before a new RSWRF bond would be approved.
  • She is chair of the Debt Management Commission and this request would be reviewed as to the city’s capacity to handle the additional debt. She was emphatic that the proposal is not an approval of the bond, but rather a request for the Debt Commission to review the proposal.

Debbie Lauchner; (Reno Director of Finance)

  • She said that the city could borrow at 2.14% (as of 8/14) and that the annual payments would be closer to $3.9M for a long term bond.

Agenda item I.2; John Flansberg is appealing the decision by the Planning Commission to deny them a zoning change that would allow the plant to expand to 4 million gallons per day (mgd) capacity from 2 mgd capacity .

Council Discussion:


  • She presented a rough map showing the planned developments and asked which would be expected to be served by the expanded RSWRF plant. Some of these developments have been approved, but some are still tentative. There was no definitive answer for which areas would be served by the expanded waste water plant.
  • “The short term plan to send 0.5 mgd to TMWRF through the ‘flow-shave’ pipeline now appears to be up in the air. The reservoir plan is the interim plan. The long term plan is the injection of water into the aquifer. The injection project in Beddell Flats is yielding mixed results. It appears that this ‘interim solution’ may be the only solution. I’m concerned about the costs. How much will the new reservoir cost?”


  • “We estimate $90M.”


  • ” That’s a lot more than I would have thought. So, if we need $55M for the RSWRF expansion plus $90M for the reservoir plus a budget request for a major TMWRF expansion, we could be looking at half a billion dollars total. We presently only have about $50M in sewer bond debt. There is no way that the city will recoup $90M for the reservoir. This is going to be taking funds from infill projects to the urban core as specified in our Master Plan.
  • Does the Master Plan build out in the North Valleys require this expansion?
  • Now, I hear that the flow shave (diversion of sewage to TMWRF from RSWF) may not even happen.”


  • “My condition is that the expansion of RSWRF does not increase the flow of effluent into Swan Lake. Public Works needs to explore the possible uses of Class-A and Class-A+ water. Is there a plan to get to Class-A+ water?”


  • “Class-A+ water can be achieved with additional filtration and UV treatment.”


  • “We need to coordinate with Washoe County since they will have increasing needs for waste water treatment with their developments.”


  • “This expansion means doubling the amount of water imported into the valleys.”


  • “Building to the North Valleys zoning may require 8-9mgd capacity in the long run.
  • There is no plan to increase the permitted discharge volume to Swan Lake (approved by NDEP).
  • “We need the plant expansion so that we have some redundancy in our system in case some part of the facility needs maintenance.”


  • “How about we just have a CIP (Continuous Improvement Program) project for RSWRF to improve the technology and efficiency at a much lower cost than this expansion?”
  • “How are things going with your ‘science project’ of re-injecting water into the aquifer?”


  • “We have determined that the American Flats injection site can take 2mgd of injection for up to 5 years. After that, we will need to be consuming some of the water stored in the aquifer or it will impact Silver Lake.”
  • “The project to inject water in the Beddel Flats looks promising.”
  • “The discharge permit for RSWRF allows for Class-C effluent, but we discharge to Class-A”.

Public Comment;

  • The flume overflow of RSWRF with Silver Lake runoff shows that RSWRF doesn’t have good data to make sound decisions.
  • There is presently no plan for the problematic LVWRF plant. It should be decommissioned.
  • Water injected into American Flats is showing up in Swan Lake as shown by a dye test.

To overturn the Planning Commission denial, the city council would have to make all the “findings” that are normally required for approval.

Duerr said she could make all the findings and moved to overturn the Reno Planning Commission denial with the following additional conditions.

  • No additional discharge to Swan Lake with the expansion.
  • Retention volume on the plant to be 1.5x the expected additional runoff.

Duerr had additional “aspirational goals”.

  • Develop the capability to produce Class-A+ water. This can be discussed at the time that funding is discussed.
  • Work with the county for a coordinated plan including decommissioning the LVWRF plant.
  • Work with developers as part of a broader effort.

Brekhus can’t make the findings; this is in part due to the growth that the expansion will support.

  • Finding “A” is not met: the expansion may not be compatible with the neighborhoods.
  • Finding “B” is not met: expanding the plant will diminish the quality of life there.
  • Finding “C” is not met: the roads and emergency services will not support the expansion.
  • Finding “E” is not met: the expansion does not protect the environment.
  • This expansion of service for development depends on the water injection process which is so far not proven.

At the end of the meeting, agenda item B.10 was addressed. This is a contract to proceed with the detailed design of the RSWRF plant expansion with a contract to Stantec Engineering for $481,210. Brekhus argued that the city was taking steps that were likely to commit the city to major expenditures when the big issues are not settled.


Why not …

  • Impose a moratorium on new water and sewer hookups.
  • Get the “flow shave” line from RSWRF to TMWRF operating.
  • Determine which customers the expanded RSWRF plant would serve.
  • Work out the details on how the American Flats irrigation project will work.
  • Wait for results to confirm that the Beddell Flats injection scheme is viable.
  • Get better cost information on all of the projects.
  • Find out how the city could coordinate with the county.
  • Make an informed decision on how to proceed.

Who benefits from this hasty, risky approach?