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.

Truckee River Winter Forecast: Temps up; coin-toss for wetter or drier

NOAA precipitation forecast probabilities for Dec 17-Feb 18

NOAA precipitation forecast probabilities for Dec 17-Feb 18 (click for full size)

The next 3 months, the typical winter here in western Nevada and the Truckee River basin, will determine whether we’ll see a wetter than normal water year – or drier. The forecast? Precipitation this winter currently is a toss-of-the-coin or equal chances for a wet or dry year. Just a little to our south the chances for a dry year increase; to our north the chances for a wet year increase. This forecast looks into our 90 day future from the middle of November 2017.

Whether precipitation prognostications are accurate, we’ll know on February 28, 2018! Western Nevada did get a significant rain last week with some locations in Reno reporting more than an inch of rain. (At our house we had 1.25″!) The Carson Range and the Sierra Nevada received considerably more – especially on the west side of Lake Tahoe. The Lake rose more than 3.5 inches to 6,228.1 ft. Currently, an “atmospheric river” is hitting the Oregon and Washington coast, but missing the Sierra completely. Hopefully, we’ll see storms similar to our recent dump of rain and snow coming soon. The health of the Truckee River, Tahoe, and Pyramid depend on it.

Pyramid Lake at Popcorn Rock Beach, August 2017.

Pyramid Lake at Popcorn Rock Beach, August 2017.

Over the 2-day rain event that started in the late evening of November 15, flows jumped 5-fold in the Truckee River through Reno. Truckee River flows peaked at 3,000 CFS (cubic-feet-per-second) at Pyramid Lake by November 17. As I write, flows of the Truckee through Reno are still more than 1,000 CFS and releases from Lake Tahoe dam into the Truckee River have been increased by the Federal Water Master to more than 1,000 CFS. Flows this winter in the Truckee River will be determined by the amount of precipitation we receive since currently Lake Tahoe and other reservoirs on the Truckee River are nearly full. Lake Tahoe stands today at 85% full, (last year it was essentially empty!) and the next largest reservoir in the Truckee River watershed, Stampede, stands at 90% full. A wetter than average winter means the Truckee River will see benefits for trees, plants, fish and wildlife along its entire length and Pyramid Lake will continue to rise making up for serious declines in water surface elevation suffered during the first 16 years of the century.

NOAA temperature forecast probabilities for Dec 17-Feb 18 (click for full size)

The NOAA 3 month forecast for temperature puts most of California (including all of the Sierra) and nearly all of Nevada likely to be warmer than average. It is no surprise since we’ve seen the consistently warmest temperatures in western Nevada and the Sierra during the past 2 decades. Without serious action on the climate change front, that is very unlikely to reverse itself anytime soon.


Fluoridated water for Truckee Meadows not solution

A bill, AB 193, that just had a Nevada Assembly Committee hearing last Tuesday, would mandate that the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) add fluoride to our community’s high quality drinking water.  The bill should come again before the Assembly Natural Resources Committee; reports are that the committee members appeared favorable to the Legislation. The legislators appear willing to overrule the voters of Washoe County who rejected water fluoridation by a 58% to 42% vote in 2002. Continue reading

Rain returns to Truckee; Pyramid Lake beaches open to fishing

Fisherman at the North Nets on the reopening of Pyramid Lake to fishing since flood damage in early January.

Alum Creek at the Truckee River.

An all-day rain from an atmospheric river storm hit Reno and the Truckee River beginning on early Monday morning (2/20/17) and is continuing as I write this in the early evening. With snow levels not as high as in the previous rainstorm, the rain is forecast to turn to snow preventing any serious flooding on the Truckee River, but creeks and small streams and, of course, ditches could cause local flooding. Snow levels should continue to lower tonight reducing the threat of flooding. The rain, while inconvenient for those impacted by flood issues, is filling the river with water and will likely lead to much improvement for the river’s riparian forest, especially in those areas that have seen significant restoration efforts over the past decade (like Lockwood and 102 Ranch). River flows into the summer should be far greater than those since 2013 and a huge improvement from the serious drought period from 2014-2015.

Damage at a "dry" stream crossing on SR 445 just north of Pelican Beach at Pyramid Lake

Damage at a “dry” stream crossing on SR 445 just north of Pelican Beach at Pyramid Lake

Also, good news was on tap Saturday (2/18/17) when the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe opened beaches and boat launches at Pyramid Lake along SR 445 for the first time since the flood damaged roads and beach and boat launch accesses in early January. However, SR 446 between Sutcliffe and Nixon remains closed to all but local traffic due to major damage to the highway north of Popcorn Rock. Fisherman and sightseers took advantage of the opening and many could be seen from the North Nets to Shot-Dog enjoying the respite from rain.

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.

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