Working against time
May 9, 2017
A packed commission chamber of concerned residents learned Monday that potential flooding and high water flows in the Carson River could last until the end of summer.
Every two weeks city, county and state officials are updating residents on the status of the Lahontan Reservoir and dam, the canal system and the snowpack runoff from the Carson and Tahoe basins of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Since February, the Truckee Carson Irrigation District has released more than 300,000 acre-feet of water from the reservoir in anticipation of a runoff that could equal the content of two Lahontan Reservoirs. County Commissioner Pete Olsen said local officials recognized the need to take action, which resulted in cleaning the river of debris, building an emergency weir and spillway off the V-line canal west of Fallon, installing drainage culverts under both U.S. Highways 50 and 95 and digging a channel from Carson Lake to the Carson Sink.
"People are dedicating themselves, pushing themselves to get the job done to protect us," Olsen said.
Olsen added U.S. Highway 95 may have been washed out by now if it weren't for or the Nevada Department of Transportation installing the culverts. Water from the V-line canal has been flowing south since late March to both Sheckler Reservoir and Navy training range Bravo 16 before navigating its way toward the culverts and then to Carson Lake.
Olsen noted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recognized the local agencies for their effort for taking a proactive approach to mitigate possible flooding.
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Furthermore, Olsen said the governor's office approved Emergency Management to loan excavators to the county to dig out the channel, which is 60-feet wide and 15-feet deep. Water is expected to flow in a channel to Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge today. Olsen also recognized the Farmer Brigade, farmers and ranchers who have volunteered their time and their equipment.
"It's been an epic battle to get it done, but I think we're in pretty good shape," Olsen said.
The "Big Dig" used 10 large excavators, two bulldozers, eight tractor/scrapers, two blades and more than 20,000 man hours to move more than 2.5 million cubic yards of dirt.
Olsen also said by the end of the month, the snowpack could still yield upward to 400,000 acre-feet of water. The reservoir's capacity is slightly under 300,000 acre-feet.
Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford said all agencies have cooperated and worked together and said the city and county have a history of working well together.
"It's been remarkable to see how the city, county, TCID, NDOT and the BOR (Bureau of Reclamation) work together," Tedford said.
With the prediction of the area being under a flood advisory throughout the summer, Tedford told the audience to make sure they tell their neighbors and friends the flood threat is ongoing.
Ernie Schank, president of the TCID Board of Directors, said the reservoir and dam have protected the community since the early 1900s, and he also thanked the cooperating agencies for their work.
"Together, they have built a more modern infrastructure to handle any potential flooding," he said,
Schank said BOR has helped TCID in meeting the challenges of potential flooding, and a representative from Reclamation, Rob Martinez, assured the crowd the dam is in good shape. Rusty Jardine, TCID's general manager, said the excessive water is putting great pressure on the system, but he reaffirmed the dam's in great condition and doing its job.
"If Mother Nature is cooperative, we will be able to manage this," he added.
Incident Commander Bill Lawry said people should have a plan for their personal property in case of flooding. Lawry said the county has thousands of sandbags available at the fairgrounds, and about 250,000 have been delivered to residents and business owners along the river corridor. Sheriff Ben Trotter encouraged residents to access the county's website (http://www.churchillcounty.org) and select the red button, Community Alert, if they want to be notified by email and text of any potential danger.
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