Category Archives: Fish and Wildlife

Cui-ui and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout swim the waters of the Truckee River. Originally abundant in Pyramid Lake and dependent on the Truckee for spawning during spring runoff, the Cui-ui fish was a staple of the Pyramid Lake Paiute people. The Cui-ui persists in the lower Truckee and Pyramid and remains on the threatened list because of lower Lake levels and dependency on a lock system to access spawning areas in the River. The Cutthroat Trout, originally found throughout the Truckee River and tributaries and Lake Tahoe and its tributaries, is once again a fishable species in Pyramid Lake due to continued work by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Lahontan Cutthroat went extinct in the Truckee, Tahoe, and Pyramid after massive over-fishing, logging, diversions, and the introduction of numerous competing fish from Europe and elsewhere in the US. Lahontan Cutthroat were reintroduced to Pyramid and the Truckee River and are now found in the lower Truckee River and throughout Pyramid Lake. Numerous birds and other wildlife were documented on the Truckee River and river restoration efforts have benefitted many species that depend on the riparian zone of the river and its tributaries.

American Dipper in the Truckee

American Dipper at Idlewild Park in Reno January 3, 2015

Ever see a small dark bird bouncing on rocks then diving into the water in the Truckee?  Most likely you’ve spied an American Dipper called by some a water ouzel.  Dippers are quick to disappear on their dives and can reappear elsewhere in the stream with amazing speed.

Today we took a walk along the river at Idlewild Park and were happy to spend some time watching a dipper doing its bouncing dance along the rocks (and ice) in the river.  Dippers have been known to nest under bridges in downtown Reno.  They are commonly seen also at Mayberry Park.  They can be found year round, but easier to see, I think, in the winter.  Here is a short video showing their typical behavior.

Normal drought or climate-change drought?

The snow pack for the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe is below normal for the end of December– again.  The Reno Gazette-Journal reported the Truckee River basin snowpack at 67% and the Lake Tahoe snowpack at 44% of “normal”.  December and January are usually the heavy lifters when it comes to providing the bulk of the moisture collected in the Sierra Nevada.  What the rest of the winter has in store for us remains an unknown.

Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Minnesota reported December 4, 2014 that the current California Drought is the worst in 1,200 years (at least).  The scientists analyzed growth rings on Blue Oaks growing in California to reach that conclusion and implicate human-caused climate change as the reason.  While droughts have always occurred, the current one is worse because of both increased temperature as well as decreased precipitation.

An icy Truckee River flows into Pyramid Lake on New Years Day 2015.  Pyramid Lake levels have fallen dramatically since 2000.

An icy Truckee River flows into Pyramid Lake on New Years Day 2015. Pyramid Lake levels have fallen dramatically since 2000.

Forbes published yesterday an article “No doubt it’s a climate-change drought, scientists say” quoting Jonathan Overpeck with the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona saying, “Of course everyone knows California’s drought has been for three years, rain so far has been helpful, there’s a snowpack in the Sierra Nevada’s that is about 50 percent of normal thanks to recent precipitation, but that hasn’t stopped the drought. The drought is still going to be the story at the end of the year, I think.”  He went on to say, ““To frame the drought we should be mentioning that much of the southwest and west has been in drought now for nearly 15 years, since 1999…”

While many in Nevada (and California) are hopeful that this year will see a turn-around and we’ll see above normal winter snows by the 1st of April, the last 15 years should give us pause for expecting that the drought will simply end and everything will return to “normal” in the long-run.  Climate change is the new dragon in the room.

December 30, 2014 Drought Monitor Map

December 30, 2014 Drought Monitor Map

Water for Tesla?  Not a problem?

American White Pelicans at Pyramid Lake. Pyramid Lake has fallen more than 25 feet since the drought began in 2000.

When you think of an industrial facility such as the Tesla Lithium Battery Gigafactory, it is easy to overlook the need for water to run it.  But most places that make things need to use water at some point in the process.  The Tracy power plant east of Reno is an example.  It is located on the Truckee River because to make power you need water for both the steam-powered turbines and for cooling. How much water will the Tesla Lithium Battery Gigafactory require every year? Will Tesla’s gigafactory recycle water and have little net use of water?  Or will it require lots of water?

The proposed Tesla Battery Gigafactory designed to match the 2013 world-wide output of lithium batteries by 2020. The gigafactory is now slated for Nevada's Storey County in the TRI Center.

The proposed Tesla Battery Gigafactory designed to match the 2013 world-wide output of lithium batteries by 2020. The gigafactory is now slated for Nevada’s Storey County in the TRI Center.

On September 5th, Mark Robison of the RGJ wrote an article “No water worries for Tesla at Reno industrial park.”  Therein he quotes the owner of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park (TRI), Lance Gilman, as claiming he has ample water.

“We’re really not impacted by the drought situation,” [Gilman] said. “Our water source appears to be incredibly stable and we haven’t seen a change in it at all (during the drought). We can pump 2 to 3 million gallons a day or more under today’s capacity and that’s, of course, expandable dramatically.”

In a more recent RGJ article on Reno’s potential lack of sewer capacity, it said TRI would like to receive water from the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility.

” The Tahoe Reno Industrial Center has already expressed interest in the effluent. The Regional Plan, however, prohibits the gray water from being shipped out of the service area.”

The TRI facility lies within the Truckee River watershed and groundwater or surface water use will impact the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake and communities east of the Truckee Meadows.

The Truckee River in September 2014 below the Glendale TMWA Treatment Plant is mostly dry.

The Truckee River in September 2014 below the Glendale TMWA Treatment Plant is mostly dry.

How much water Tesla needs and where that water will come from did not appear to be part of the decision-making process for Governor Sandoval’s negotiators.

It should have been.  The Tesla deal could cost us a lot more than the negotiated $1.25 billion.

Drought to persist through remainder of 2014

NOAA's National Climate Prediction Center shows the drought "persisting or intensifying over California and Nevada through the end of 2014.

Drought relief for Nevada and California is not in the cards according to the Climate Prediction Center at least through December.

“…the Pacific Northwest, and northern and central sections of California and Nevada, and much of western Utah are predicted to have elevated odds of below-median precipitation during the OND (October-November-December 2014) period…”

NOAA's National Climate Prediction Center shows the drought "persisting or intensifying over California and Nevada through the end of 2014.

NOAA’s National Climate Prediction Center shows the drought “persisting or intensifying over California and Nevada through the end of 2014.

The description above seem mild considering the map that accompanies the explanation.  If the winter of 2014-15 turns out to be as dry as 2013-14, our lakes and rivers will be severely impacted again as human uses will take a larger share of the available water leaving little for instream flows.  Continued dropping of water levels at Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe and reservoirs is expected.

Will the Climate Prediction Center prognostication actually happen?  Or will the weak El Niño surprise us with something big as winter approaches.  It has happened before, but we are going to need more than one or even two excellent water years to make up for the losses we’ve seen in western Nevada over the past 14 years.

We in the west find ourselves in a long-term drought of 14 year duration and a warming climate.  Gambling that we’ll be bailed out of our excessive water use by a heavy snow year may not turn out to be a good strategy.

The Truckee River does not have enough water.  Ditches like the Highland ditch have effectively been dry now for more than 6 weeks.

The Truckee River does not have enough water to meet water rights in the Truckee Meadows. Area ditches like the Highland Ditch shown here have effectively been dry now for more than 6 weeks.  TMWA has had to release stored water from its reservoirs to supply its customers.

Bruce Bledsoe’s “Truckee River Articles”

John Champion Park in Downtown Reno

Insightful research led Bruce Bledsoe’s career as a journalist and opinion page editor for the Reno Gazette-Journal.  In 2001 Bruce Bledsoe won “Editorial of the Year” with his piece: “Private briefings affront to public.”  Retiring from the newspaper business didn’t stop his desire to research interesting topics or write about them.  Let’s just say that the Truckee River stands out as interesting being one of the most fought over rivers in the nation.  Bruce has taken up the challenge to fill in the gaps in all of our knowledge of our iconic river with an entire series on the Truckee River — covering topics from atmospheric storms to zeroing in on where the diminished and diminishing “flood project” is going.

Bruce has generously provided to the Yacht Club some of his most recent insightful articles on the Truckee River, but many more are soon to be available on his website.  We’ll let you know when that happens – right here.  In the meantime, enjoy these 14 copyrighted articles found in our resources page.  We’ve put the first 6 articles online already and will add others over the next couple of months.  Check back with us to learn about not only the founding mothers of the “Yacht Club”, but how the Club influenced the flood project.

John Champion Park in Downtown Reno

John Champion Park in DownTown Reno

Bruce writes about Boise’s restoration of its much maligned and neglected namesake river and how that led to the town’s green belt success story.  And what about those “flood walls” you see (too often)?  Who thought that up?  Just what were the “Vista Reefs” that the Army Corps of Engineers engineered away?  And is it possible to protect communities from flooding caused by encroachment on river floodplains and wetlands when private property rights advocates say “anything goes”?  Bruce answers these questions – and plenty more – to help you and me understand how we got to where we are today and visualize a way forward.  Thanks, Bruce!

[Click on “Resources” and find the articles you’re interested in.  If the particular article link isn’t active, check back as we are adding them a little at a time.]