Category Archives: Flood Project

The original flood project developed by consensus of community members over several years was a “living river” project that reconnected the river to the flood plain. Politicians changed the plan and took out the “living river” parts and now plan exclusively to have flood walls, huge levees, and no river parks or restoration in the Truckee Meadows

Snowpack increases; wet storms forecast

Tundra Swans fly over the Truckee River at Pyramid Lake January 1, 2017.

2017 opened to cold temperatures followed by rain and today the first significant snow in Reno this winter. Since the beginning of the stormy weather here in the central Sierra surrounding Lake Tahoe, snowpack has gone from well below the 1981-2010 average to now above that 30 year average. Total precipitation, however, continues above average since October with at least one station around Tahoe currently reporting  greater than 170% of average.

The National Weather Service is forecasting more rain for lower elevations and snow in higher areas of the Sierra. “Heavy rain” is in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday for Reno.

Reno Forecast for Jan 7 to 9, 2017

Reno Forecast for Jan 7 to 9, 2017

Currently there are concerns about flooding on the Truckee River through the Truckee Meadows although flooding is expected to be only moderate perhaps similar to that experienced in 2005. Hopefully, damages will be minimal. While the community completed a flood management project proposal prior to 2005, it has still not been implemented in the Truckee Meadows.

The impact of heavy mountain snow and rain in lower elevations increases the likelihood that the Truckee River may see moderate flooding all the way to Pyramid Lake. Such an event should have a significant positive effect on the river environment by helping to restore meanders and provide new or rearranged gravel bars for seedlings of cottonwood, willow, and alder trees to become established. Areas that have been restored by the Nature Conservancy downstream of the Truckee Meadows using federal funding (think – Lockwood to the McCarran Ranch) could see even more benefits from high water that spills onto the restored flood plain.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it helps get the Truckee River up to and beyond its long term average flow for 2017. [Typically, the western water year is measured from October 1 to September 30; so the first full month of fall kicks off the water year.]

So here’s where we are today (January 5, 2017) with Lake Tahoe water level, Truckee River flows at 3 locations (taken early morning), and snowpack measurements and annual precipitation at 2 locations.  We’ll look again after the approaching storm is over next week.  [CFS stands for cubic feet per second and the percent of average is compared to the 30 year period from 1981-2010. “Snow water equivalent” measures the amount of water in a column of snow. “Total precipitation” is all rain and water content of snowfall, etc.]

Lake Tahoe water elevation

6223.68

8.2″ above rim

Truckee River Flow at Reno (changes daily)

722 CFS

Truckee River Flow at Tracy (changes daily)

1,480 CFS

Truckee River Flow at Pyramid Lake

1,360 CFS

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Snow water equivalent in snowpack

13.3 inches

112% ave

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Snowpack depth

72 inches

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Total precipitation

48.4 inches

175% ave

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Snow water equivalent in snowpack

22.6 inches

154% ave

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Snowpack depth

103 inches

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Total precipitation

29.7 inches

143% ave

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

Truckee River at Rock Park in Sparks (flow is around 1,100 CFS)

Truckee River at Rock Park in Sparks (flow is around 1,100 CFS) on January 4, 2017.

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Tahoe rises almost to its rim

Truckee River at 4,000 CFS December 10, 2016 during Sierra rains.

The “atmospheric river” resulted in rain throughout the central Sierra and the Reno area for most of Saturday, Dec 10, 2016. Rain was heavy in the mountains with snow confined to higher elevations. Consequently, runoff from the storm quickly entered the Truckee River below Lake Tahoe and sent flows approaching 5,000 cubic-feet-per-second through Reno and Sparks. That flow rate amounts to 2.2 million gallons of water per hour. The Truckee River hasn’t seen this rate of flow since 2012.

Graphic from USGS Lake Tahoe Gauge (Red annotations are mine)

Graphic from USGS Lake Tahoe Gauge (Red annotations are mine)

Lake Tahoe as of today is just a little more than 1/2″ from its rim. Water from Lake Tahoe begins to flow into the Truckee River once its elevation reaches 6,223 feet. Lake Tahoe dropped below its rim this summer after rising above its rim in the spring, but has been mostly below its rim since October 2014. (Click graph for full size)

The National Weather Service in Reno is forecasting more rain should begin Tuesday. It could be an exciting week for the Truckee River if we get a repeat of mountain rains. High flows are important to move sediment and create new places for trees, grasses and shrubs to grow and create habitat for fish and wildlife. Floods are damaging to infrastructure built in the flood plain of the river, but flooding helps keep rivers healthy. Keeping buildings out of the floodplain and away from the river is the best approach to protecting our property and limits damage from flooding without expensive flood “control” structures – flood walls, levees, and dams.

Now that the rain has ended (hopefully, more snow and rain is on the way), the river is dropping rapidly. At 10 pm on Sunday, Dec 11 the flow rate through Reno is less than 1,500 CFS.

Truckee River at 4,000 CFS December 10, 2016 during Sierra rains.

Truckee River in downtown Reno just above the Arlington Street bridge looking west at Whitewater Park.

Truckee River at 4,000 CFS December 10, 2016 during Sierra rains.

Truckee River at 4,000 CFS December 10, 2016 during Sierra rains.

Truckee River at about 200 CFS on December 4, 2016 during dry weather.

Truckee River at about 200 CFS on December 4, 2016 during dry weather.

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Rain welcome after long dry summer

Reno Thunderstorm August 11 2014

This Saturday, October 15 the rain intensified with the new storm. While the temperatures seem  unseasonably warm, rain is always welcome in the desert.  At 9:30 pm it is still raining and the temperature where I live in Reno is  50º F; not close to snowing, that’s for sure.

Rain, however, does result in rapid runoff from commercial and residential properties and parking lots and roads. Oil mobilized by rain in parking areas and roads runs off to adjacent streets, into the storm drains, and then into the Truckee River. Containing this toxic runoff requires a good storm drain plan that works to reduce and clean the runoff before it reaches the Truckee River. The community should focus more resources on cleaning pollution associated with rapid storm runoff.

A rain in Reno results in oil being mobilized and moving from parking lots to storm drains and into the Truckee River.

A rain in Reno results in oil being mobilized and moving from parking lots to storm drains and into the Truckee River.

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One Truckee River Plan adopted by Washoe, Sparks, and Reno

Truckee River at 2nd Street in downtown Reno in June.

One-two-three – each of the local governments has now adopted the One Truckee River Plan when the Reno City Council unanimously voted for it on September 28. The Washoe County Commission and Sparks City Council approved the plan earlier this month. A year-long process established the plan with involvement of many citizens and groups and agencies from the community. The approved plan addresses numerous issues of the Truckee River (and tributaries) through the urban area of the Truckee Meadows.

Community members at the first "One Truckee River Plan" meeting in fall 2015.

Community members at the first “One Truckee River Plan” meeting in fall 2015.

The One Truckee River Plan phase one lays out goals for implementation as funding becomes available and a time-frame to accomplish them.

  • “Goal One: Ensure and protect water quality and ecosystem health in the Truckee River” has six specific objectives with more detailed sub-objectives dealing with storm water, watershed management, human impacts, trees and vegetation, wildlife habitat, and the proper functioning of the river and its floodplain lands to attenuate flooding.
  • “Goal Two: Create and sustain a safe, beautiful and accessible river connecting people and places” also has 6 specific objectives to address appropriate use and discourage illegal activities, promote planning and management between Cities and County, enhance public safety and access, ensure better transportation and restrooms, add public art and murals, provide housing for homeless and access to medical care as an alternative to living on the river.
  • “Goal Three: Create an aware and engaged community that protects and cares for the river” has five specific objectives to promote awareness and education of the river’s natural and cultural importance, increase student education and participation, add opportunities for activities for all, inspire culture of stewardship, and ensure easy access to information. The latter could include a Truckee River Visitors Center, a network of kiosks, encouraging collaboration to Native American cultural uses of the river, and opportunities to acquire land or protect natural or cultural resources.
  • “Goal Four: Create an aware and engaged community that protects and cares for the river” has four specific objectives to create a sustainable organizational model to make implementation of the plan successful, develop partnerships and raise awareness of the plan, bring in funding to support the plan, and improve our understanding of the condition of the Truckee River.

The One Truckee River Plan – OTR Plan – is probably the most comprehensive look, yet, at the needs of the Truckee River and how to make the river a better place to visit while improving water quality, safety, accessibility, and helping residents and visitors to understand what makes a river “healthy”.

Truckee River Walk along Riverside Drive.

Truckee River Walk along Riverside Drive.

Organizations which were key to pursuing and moving the plan to adoption are The Nevada Land Trust and Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. The National Park Service helped with funding and local and state agencies along with the Reno Sparks Indian Colony and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

One of the key features to the plan is community education and involvement and that is always a positive to help make changes in the river corridor where they are very much-needed today. The next phase of the plan will address downstream of the Truckee Meadows where rapid development in Washoe County and Storey County continue to threaten the river and its vegetative corridor. Phase two of the OTR Plan may well be more controversial since industrial interests have dominated recently with construction of huge new buildings, roads, and bridges.

For now, we can celebrate a new approach to benefit our area’s most important natural resource – the Truckee River.

Truckee River, March 2015 - flows of 290 CFS through Reno are substantially below normal river flows.

Truckee River, March 2015

 

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“One Truckee River” Plan moving ahead

Spearheaded by the Nevada Land Trust and Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful with funding from the National Park Service, TMWA‘s Truckee River Fund, City of Reno, the Northern Nevada Water Planning Commission, and the Washoe County Ballot Initiative Question 1 fund, phase one of the “One Truckee River” plan is moving forward.  Stakeholder groups covering 9 issues are diving deeper into topics outlined in the first joint collaboration meeting held on September 30, 2014 at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center. Phase one of the plan covers 18 miles of the urban core of the Truckee River through the Truckee Meadows from Chalk Bluff to the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility (TMWRF).

The goals of the planning effort are to create a common vision for the river, provide for comprehensive planning, a forum for collaboration & communication, coordinated action, and funding.

The 9 stakeholder groups tackle issues that are often interrelated and multi-jurisdictional. Dealing with river health, public safety, and water quality, for example, involves at a minimum, understanding how to solve problems ranging from encampments along the River to increasing biodiversity of riparian species and finding funding to accomplish them.

Outcomes from the 9 issue areas go next to the core planning team which will be meeting in February 2016.  OnStrategy will produce a draft plan based on stakeholder input by late spring 2016. Public open house meetings on the “One Truckee River” plan are now scheduled for mid to late summer 2016.

Find more on the plan and its goals at onetruckeeriver.org.onetruckeeriverplanningvisionsheet1

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Reno-Sparks’ Truckee River Trail a treasure … but graffiti, trash, & vandalism detract

Truckee River Trail winds along the Truckee River from Ivan Sack park in Reno to Vista in Sparks (map ends at McCarran Blvd)

The Truckee River is a community asset – a treasure, really – for residents and visitors alike. Many of us spend weekends and as much free time we can get along its banks or in its water. For many residents and visitors the Truckee River Trail through both Reno and Sparks is the best way to spend a lunch hour or a day enjoying the river and absorbing a bit of nature running through our urban home. Truckee Meadows residents embraced the Truckee River and enabled the cities and county to create a trail that spans the valley from west to east right along the river.  Recently, river projects at Reno’s downtown Whitewater Park and Spark’s Rock Park enhance river function and provide very popular recreation for kayakers, rafters, and swimmers. A downtown amphitheater at Wingfield Park provides a venue for performances and events enjoyed by thousands. The Trail is continuous from Ivan Sack Park in Reno all the way to Vista in Sparks.

Truckee River Trail winds along the Truckee River from Ivan Sack park in Reno to Vista in Sparks (map ends at McCarran Blvd)

Truckee River Trail winds along the Truckee River from Ivan Sack park in Reno to Vista in Sparks (Click to expand; map ends at McCarran Blvd)

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We love the Truckee River

Most of us love the river and enjoy the river and depend on the river. We want community leaders to focus more on the river – orient buildings and activities to face the river to offer inviting spaces for all of us to experience and enhance our daily lives.  And, we want the community to protect the river environment by planting and protecting the trees that line its shores, improve water quality by reducing and filtering storm runoff, improve recreational opportunities and public access for pedestrian and bicyclers, enhance fish passage by removing barriers and providing more space for the river, and create more open space along the river to protect the flood plain where it is still available as envisioned in the Community Flood Plan of 2005.  More can and should be done to protect the Truckee Meadow’s most important natural feature.

Graffiti, trash, and vandalism … OH MY …

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Truckee River Restoration and the Flood Project

Floodwalls in downtown Reno at Brick Park before the movie theater was constructed

Ever wonder why the Truckee River looks … well … bruised and abused once it gets to Nevada?  The damage to the river’s native trout and bird life has been 150 years in the making.  Today, we’re living with the consequences of decisions to divert flows and, literally, straighten out the Truckee River that were made by the first settlers to the area and subsequent generations – both good and bad.  But we had and still have a chance to do things right by the river we all love.

Flood Wall near Walmart constructed on Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Lands in 2009

Flood Wall near Walmart constructed on Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Lands in 2009

Bruce Bledsoe explains the current state of affairs of Truckee River restoration successes and otherwise in two articles just posted to our website:

You can find all of Bruce’s loaned articles (© Bruce Bledsoe, 2014) on our website under Resources and see all the Chapter title’s of Bruce’s book there as well.  And while you’re looking around don’t miss all the other posted tidbits from the Pyramid Lake water elevations of the 21st century to the Truckee River Watershed Map (produced by the Nature Conservancy).

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