Category Archives: River Restoration

Human modifications of the river and its flood plain damaged the rivers ability to support fish and wildlife, protect water quality, and the ability of the communities to avoid catastrophic damage from naturally occurring floods. Restoration of a more natural river channel and maintenance of an open flood plain protects private and public infrastructure investments while protecting fish and wildlife and water quality.

Brodhead Park east end goes to Riverside Park Apartments LLC

Brodhead Park is on the left side this image taken from the "old" Wells Ave bridge.
The Reno City Council unanimously approved using a 10,660 square foot portion of Brodhead Park adjacent to the Truckee River for an apartment complex (see our earlier post with maps and photos here). Below is today’s announcement from the City of Reno.

“Council approves Brodhead Park Boundary Line Adjustment and Improvement Agreement

J.10.1 – Council unanimously approved a Boundary Line Adjustment and Improvement Agreement to convey a vacant and undevelopable 10,660-square-foot portion of Brodhead Park between Wells Avenue and Park Street south of the Truckee River Bike Path to developer Riverside Park Apartments LLC, an affiliate of Hokulia Holdings LLC. The agreement requires the developer to use the property only for an infill apartment complex and convey to the City a 1,868-square-foot parcel adjacent to the Truckee River Bike Path and spend up to $75,000 for trailhead and bike path improvements.”

– January 25, 2017 Reno City Council Highlights 

Brodhead Park is on the left side this image taken from the "old" Wells Ave bridge.

Brodhead Park is on the left side this image taken from the “old” Wells Ave bridge.

Overhead view of property (right-most parcel outlined in black-white) to be transferred to developers for a new apartment complex.

Overhead view of property (right-most parcel outlined in black-white) to be transferred to developers for a new apartment complex.

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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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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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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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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.]

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Rarest Birds of the Truckee River

The Truckee River in the high cold Great Basin Desert seems an unlikely place for rare birds to appear. But in the last five years, the River has hosted four birds that made the regional Rare Bird Alert lists. Most recently, Greg Scyphers found two quite rare birds in the riparian forests in the Truckee Canyon.

Painted Bunting.  G. Scyphers

Painted Bunting. G. Scyphers

Last fall, a female Painted Bunting was discovered hiding next to a little oxbow pond in one of the lower river restoration areas created by The Nature Conservancy.  A beautiful multi-colored sight in the lower mid-western states, the bird is rated as a “casual” fall visitor to the West.

Yellow-throated Vireo. G. Scyphers

Yellow-throated Vireo. G. Scyphers

Earlier last spring, a Yellow-throated Vireo which is common in its far eastern US range showed up in a patch of riparian forest. Catching a glimpse of this bright yellow vireo flying between willows and cottonwoods was a challenge, but all viewers enjoyed its distinctive song.

 

Long-tailed Duck.  (D. Ghiglieri)

Long-tailed Duck. (D. Ghiglieri)

A Long-tailed Duck (AKA Oldsquaw) graced the Truckee River in downtown Reno during the winter of 2010/11, diving and swimming underwater for its meals.  This duck usually winters off the west coast and breeds by ponds in the far-northern tundra.

Blue-winged Warbler.   (D. Ghiglieri)

Blue-winged Warbler. (D. Ghiglieri)

An even rarer Eastern warbler showed up in the fall of 2009 in another restoration area along the lower Truckee River – a Blue-winged Warbler. This brightly colored warbler lives east of the great plains in brushy meadows and is considered a “vagrant” to the West.

Historically, rare Black and White, Tennessee, Black-throated Blue, and Blackpoll Warblers, American Redstarts, a Harlequin Duck, and a Pacific Loon have been found by birders in the river or in the river trees.

Resident birds and seasonal river visitors include the American Dipper (AKA Water Ouzel), Hooded Mergansers, Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Northern Pygmy Owls, and Bullock’s Orioles.

The Truckee River continues to attract flocks of birders who enjoy both the rare and the resident birds.  Do you know of any other rare birds on the Truckee River?  I look forward to hearing about other avian gems along our river!

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