Why Daybreak is Dangerous to E. Reno

The following is a piece from Kim Rhodemyre of the Upper South East Communities Coalition. 

The Truckee Meadows averages a 100-year flood about every 17 years. Technically we are overdue. Records on flooding here started being kept in about 1862. One-Hundred year floods have happened either on the Truckee River, Steamboat Creek or both in the following years; 1862, 1867, 1886, 1890, 1907, 1909, 1928, 1937, 1950 (twice – 5 days apart), 1955, 1963, 1965, 1986, 1997 and 2005. Of course the lack of population in certain areas until the last 25-30 years led to under-reported damage but eyewitness accounts can be found in documented records of these events.

On September 23, 2019, a majority of the Reno City Council took a first step in making east Reno a more dangerous place to live.

As everyone is aware, when a flood event occurs, east Reno stores flood waters for the entire Truckee Meadows until it can get through the Vista Narrows and get downstream. What does that mean? The canyon east of Vista in Sparks is a pinch point that makes water back up into east Reno, starting on UNR Farms and going into the old Rosewood Lakes Golf Course and further, until the flood volumes can get through the canyon and downstream. Vista Narrows can’t handle the volume of flood waters all at once through that canyon. The UNR Farm also holds flood waters from the North Truckee Drain in Sparks so Sparks also contributes to flooding in East Reno. The UNR Farms that holds Truckee River overflow is also impacted by Steamboat Creek flooding which drains that way. Steamboat Creek has 9 tributaries, 6 of which come from the west side of the valley, Thomas Creek, Whites Creek, Dry Creek, Evans Creek, Galena Creek and Boynton Slough. All affect how much Steamboat Creek floods.

There is another pinch-point in this area, and that is the Butler Ranch Narrows. This is where the hills come together in north South Meadows and south Hidden Valley. This pinch-point affects Steamboat Creek flooding. When Steamboat floods the water was stored on the Butler Ranch North (south of Mira Loma) until it flowed into flood waters from the Truckee and both could get downstream through the Vista Narrows. Sometimes this can take up to a week. Recently, this narrows was impacted by the building of Veterans Parkway which put a 6 lane road and its base footprint into the Butler Ranch narrows creating an even narrower opening. Steamboat used to flood the entire South Meadows area. When they started development of South Meadows Damonte Ranch areas somehow approvals were given to straighten and channelize Steamboat Creek and now that makes flood waters head north through the Butler Ranch narrows quicker. Since water was no longer spreading out on the Steamboat Creek floodplain of South Meadows et al, it has become deeper on the Butler Ranch North between the Butler Ranch narrows and Mira Loma. That is why, for almost 20 years, the Truckee River Flood Project, along with the City of Reno, Washoe County and the Army Corps of Engineers had designated Butler Ranch North as a flood water storage area along with the old Rosewood Lakes Golf Course and the UNR Main Station Farm.

Let’s talk about ‘engineering’. East Reno hears that a lot. From everyone. About 15 years ago the Reno Tahoe Airport had engineers who said it was just fine to put a 17 acre flood mitigation detention basin right next to Hidden Meadows which is just north of Hidden Valley and is along Steamboat Creek. It took about 18 months for that to fill up and has been a pond every since. Useless for flood water storage. The developers of Double Diamond had engineers who felt that flood mitigation detention basins would be necessary to hold flood waters throughout their community. The four largest detention basins have water in them and have for years. They are useless. The water table is higher than the developers always claim. A development along McCarran had engineers and they were going to build flood mitigation basins but decided to build their houses on a foot more fill because the fine from the City was cheaper than the mitigation would cost to build. The effluent dam on Alexander Lake Road is labeled a high risk dam built near a fault line and one little earthquake could break that dam and flood everything from Mira Loma to South Meadows Parkway. ‘Engineering’.

The most impactful project on flooding in east Reno is the Southeast Connector, or Veterans Parkway. As you read this the majority of the project is out of compliance with their federal 404 permit and RTC is desperately trying to find a way to drain the water out of their flood mitigation detention basins because they have been full of water for over a year and they can’t figure out how to drain them. It was discovered after it was built that the Veterans bridge over the Truckee River was built too low to clear flood waters underneath it so they had to dredge the Truckee under it to make sure that flood waters would not top over the bridge. During construction the project was delayed for more than 8 months because their road was sinking near the Rosewood Lakes Golf Course. They had to tear it up and dig down until their heavy equipment disappeared into the trench, bring in tons and tons of broken concrete and gravel, pack it down, and regrade the base and let it sit until they thought it was no longer sinking. The bridge over Steamboat Creek was supposed to be closer to Mira Loma but they found out when they tried to sink the pylons that they were sinking into the muck so they had to move the bridge more than 300 feet south. These are just a few examples of ‘engineering’ failures in east Reno. RTC had ‘engineers’. They had the BEST engineers. Or so we were told. If the Army Corps of Engineers was not in charge of oversight of the project, then nothing would have been done to try and remedy the detention basin issue because Reno has no enforcement. It is like the wild west out there after developers get their approvals.

Why is Daybreak going to make east Reno more dangerous? Think about it. Daybreak is going to be built from South Meadows Parkway to Mira Loma. Through the Butler Ranch Narrows. Daybreak is eliminating Steamboat Creek flood storage areas so where is that water going to go? Not in their communities. They have ‘engineered’ their communities to build their homes on fill and carve out areas along Steamboat Creek to make the water flow through their communities faster. They also claim that they are going to have enough detention to mitigate the losses of detention. Most of the detention basins in east Reno have failed. We are supposed to believe that Daybreak is going to be different? Daybreak is also going to create an even more significant pinch point where the Southeast Connector already constricted the area at the Butler Ranch narrows, and then channel water faster to Mira Loma. History and geography shows us that water backs up at a pinch point so does that mean that the South Meadows community is now going to be the new Steamboat Creek flood storage area? It’s possible. How far will it back up? To Carat Ave? Steamboat Parkway? Then, once the water is channeled through Daybreak it’s going to hit north of Mira Loma and inundate Rosewood Lakes, Roseview, Herons Landing, Creekside Apartments, Rosewood Apartments, Donner Springs Mobile Home Park, The Village At Donner Creek, Eastside Subdivision, Hidden Meadows and parts of Hidden Valley. Most of these areas already flood. Eastside floods if someone sneezes hard upstream.

Recently FEMA demanded a remap of east Reno to update flood maps. From the Truckee River to South Meadows Parkway. These areas have not had a complete remap since the mid 1980’s. It has already been stated on the record by the former Executive Director of the Truckee River Flood Project that the current flood modeling is about a foot off. Meaning that they expect the current flood water elevations to be a foot higher than their modeling indicates. If that is so, then there are going to be hundreds of people put into the floodplain and they will be required to get flood insurance. Daybreak is not going to be included in that remap because it is not built yet. Really. Daybreak used the current outdated modeling to get their approvals. They are now indicating that they will make sure that SOME sections of their project comply with the new remap, though they are going to start on other portions as soon as possible….but ‘engineering’….right?