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.

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


“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

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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Cutthroat Trout spawning in Truckee River after 77 year hiatus

The Pyramid Lake strain of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout has spawned successfully in the Truckee River after an 77 year absence.

Fish surveys by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Truckee River show that 1,000 “baby” cutthroat trout are survivors from the successful spring 2014 spawning run.  This is the first time that the famed trout has successfully spawned in the Truckee River since 1938.  See Jeff Delong’s story in the RGJ here.

Fisherman at Warrior Point at Pyramid Lake

Fisherman at Warrior Point, Pyramid Lake

Truckee Meadows drought: tepid TMWA response, deja vu

Washoe Lake nearly dry in March 2015. Washoe Lake is in the Truckee River watershed.

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority seeks a 10% reduction in water use from all its water customers sighting exceptional drought conditions and sooner reliance on its private drought reservoir storage and local wells. As reported on Fox Channel 11 the drought is “worse then (sic) expected”, according to an unnamed TMWA spokesman, “but, the good news is there will be enough water to get through this year.”

Demands on the Truckee River exceed the rivers ability to keep up. The river is particularly stressed during droughts which could become more common.

Demands on the Truckee River exceed the rivers ability to keep up. The river is particularly stressed during droughts which could become more common.

So defines our water supply strategy, “pray for snow”.

All TMWA customers are under the same voluntary call for water reduction. TMWA recently added about 23,000 water customers when it absorbed Washoe County Water Resources and the South Truckee Meadows General Improvement District. Last year TMWA didn’t ask customers to reduce water use by 10% until nearly August.

While the ten percent reduction is called for across the board of all TMWA customers, it isn’t clear how TMWA will report or monitor how customers respond. Further, the call for voluntary reduction fails to recognize that some are very large consumers of water – especially for outdoor watering – while many customers use significantly less water.  The call for a 10% water use reduction by all customers in August, September and October of 2014 actually resulted in a 7.5% reduction or about 1,100 acre-feet according to TMWA. It remains to be seen whether people will respond for an entire spring, summer and fall season with reduced water use. A couple of days of thunderstorms in August 2014 bringing significant rain to some areas in and around the Truckee Meadows could have helped TMWA achieve the reduction.

TMWA’s call for a cutback of 10% in water use doesn’t address the waste of water that is common throughout the valley.  Automatic sprinklers are notorious for wasting water in my neighborhood with obviously broken pipes, poor installations, and way too long cycle times that lead to serious overland flow into the street.  Reports of these problems to TMWA has yet to yield any fixes since early last summer.  Will TMWA begin to address water waste this year?  

As we move into uncharted territory this summer and fall with a 7% of normal snowpack at Lake Tahoe, the public discussion of growth and water use seem to be far away.  

Waterdownthegutter copyAn RGJ editorial “A low-snow future? We need to Talk: Our View“, raises questions about our current drought and its implications for our water future: “This could be just another wild swing in the Sierra Nevada’s historically fluctuating weather.  Or it could be a sign of things to come?”  Indeed, I’ve posed a similar question in one of my blogs:. The RGJ points out several facts which point in a very troubling direction for our region’s water supply:

  • 120 years of records show the average statewide temperature has risen 3.5º F

  • every year since 1999 had above average temperatures

  • ski areas are closing earlier than ever – even large ski areas like Sugar Bowl on the western slope where huge snow totals were common

  • snow levels have risen 500 feet in elevation in the last 30 years

  • Lake Tahoe will likely not rise above its rim in 2015 sending no water into the Truckee River

  • the average daily minimum temperature in Tahoe City increased 4.2º F in 100 years

What the RGJ failed to mention is also significant.  For example, to most of us who pay attention, the drought has been with us for 15 years with 2 wetter years interspersed.  Or put another way, western Nevada has had 13% above average or wet years and 87% below average or dry years in the last decade and a half. 

Could a shifting climate, warmer winters and summers, and prolonged dry periods change both the way we live as well as dry-up our rivers and lakes? It is going to take serious changes to our water use if the last 15 years are the new “normal”.

The news from the last month gives us a taste (an unpleasant one at that!) of what may become our water future. 

Washoe Lake nearly dry in March 2015. Washoe Lake is in the Truckee River watershed.

Washoe Lake nearly dry in March 2015. Washoe Lake is in the Truckee River watershed.