Monthly Archives: September 2016

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


Tributaries make up most of the flow of the Truckee River

Old Virginia Street Bridge in 2014 in downtown Reno

Lake Tahoe rose to about a foot above its rim during the spring, but has now dropped below its rim elevation of 6,223 feet.  Flow from Lake Tahoe to the Truckee River is now effectively zero, but was also minimal through much of August as well. Most of the water in the Truckee River is now coming from tributaries to the river below Lake Tahoe both from natural flow and releases from reservoirs.

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

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

Water releases from Donner Lake into Donner Creek enter the Truckee River just above the town of Truckee. Water from Prosser Reservoir enters Prosser Creek and comes into the Truckee River several river miles below Truckee. Releases from Stampede and Boca reservoirs into the Little Truckee enter the Truckee River from the north just above the Hirschdale Road.

Other small tributaries to the Truckee come in from Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley upstream of Donner Creek along with several other streams from the west off the crest of the Sierra Nevada. Downstream of the town of Truckee (in addition to Prosser Creek and Little Truckee River mentioned above) Martis Creek comes in from the south from Mt Pluto and Martis Peak to the south. Further down two creeks – Gray and Bronco Creeks – come in from the Carson Range from the west side of Relay Ridge and Mt Rose.

Squaw Valley Creek.

Squaw Valley Creek.

Together these tributaries make up the majority of the current flow of the river at Farad of 182 cubic-feet per second (CFS), but additional tributaries enter the Truckee River below Farad as well. Truckee River flow below Farad gets confusing because there are significant withdrawals of water from the Truckee River into a canal system designed in the 19th century for irrigation and a modern diversion of water from the river at Chalk Bluff and again at Glendale Bridge by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority for municipal and industrial use (most of the water consumed goes to watering residential and commercial landscapes.)

At Verdi, Dog Creek comes in from the Crystal Peak area to the northwest. In west Reno where the Mayberry foot bridge crosses the Truckee River, Hunter Creek comes into the Truckee River from the southwestern end of the Carson Range.

Steamboat Monkeyflower at Steamboat Hotsprings adjacent to Steamboat Creek.

Steamboat Monkeyflower along with other rare flowering plants are unique to Steamboat Hotsprings adjacent to Steamboat Creek.

Steamboat Creek enters the Truckee River just at the Reno-Sparks Water Reclamation Facility at the end of Clean Water Way.  Steamboat Creek flows from Washoe Valley (from Little Washoe Lake and from ‘big’ Washoe Lake when it has water). Steamboat Creek picks up additional water from its tributaries – Galena, Whites, and Thomas Creeks being the largest, but there are several other small streams flowing year-round or seasonally that can add to the flow. Steamboat Creek also receives water from the Steamboat Ditch – which is actually a diversion from the Truckee River above the town of Verdi that flows around the west side of the Truckee Meadows.



Caspian tern flies over the Truckee River Delta at Pyramid Lake, September 2016.

Downstream of where Steamboat Creek comes into the Truckee River, the only significant tributary to the Truckee River is Long Valley Creek which enters the river from the Virginia Range to the south at Lockwood in Storey County.

Flow in the Truckee River is determined by the amount of water entering from the entire watershed, of course, but as the Truckee River winds its way through its 110 mile length once past Lockwood the amount gain from additional stream flow becomes less and less all the way to Pyramid lake.


Pelican waiting for lunch in the Truckee River on the Pyramid Lake Reservation below Marble Bluff Dam.

The issue for the Truckee River then becomes how much water is taken out of the river for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use that never returns.