Up the creek without many options
June 19, 2007
DAYTON – A lack of funding and a desire for historical accuracy are getting in the way of shoring up Gold Canyon Creek in Old Town Dayton.
On New Year’s Eve 2006, the creek, which normally only has water 20 percent of the year, flooded, filling the yard of Ray and May Walmsley and damaging the bank near the historic firehouse and jail on Pike Street.
That erosion could soon undermine the firehouse structure and has kept the Historical Society of Dayton Valley from seeking grants to restore the building, which also houses an 1860s-era jail.
“We’ve got some cracks in the foundation in the back part of the jail and they were getting larger,” said Mabel Masterman, secretary for the historical society. “We were thinking about going for grant money for the building, but efforts to get money to fix the foundation would be moot if the erosion in Gold Canyon Creek wasn’t addressed first.”
Ray Walmsley, whose family came to Nevada in 1859, said flooding is a problem.
“I’m glad I put the bulkhead in,” he said, pointing to a brick bulkhead on the southwestern corner of his hose.
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He said Gold Canyon Creek is where they panned in the old days and found the gold that led to the Comstock Lode. In fact, he said, there’s still some gold in the creek.
“You can go in there right now and find color,” he said.
He said the creek used to run year round, but was diverted upstream years ago.
“I have a water right in there, but there’s no water,” he said. “But there’s a lot of water goes through that baby when it comes.”
County Engineer Dick Faber said a concrete lining is the easiest and least expensive way to shore up the banks of the creek but it’s not historically accurate. He also said there were other drawbacks to concrete.
“If we concrete line it, it takes away a lot of the aesthetics,” he said. “Plus it will attract skateboarders and graffiti.”
Faber said rip-rap is an option, which he described as sort of a loose cobblestone that would allow for some vegetation that would deter the skateboarders and graffiti artists and make for a nice place to walk.
“When we were going to enhance Main Street, we were going to do a loop from Pike Street to Main Street to the depot and draw people down here to this area for walks,” he said. “Rip-rap would allow us to have a trail and would discourage kids from going in it.”
But the enhancement died when the NDOT Transportation Enhancement grant was pulled and Lyon County’s budget got tighter.
“We’re going to have to look elsewhere for some grants,” he said. “A lot of people are concerned about this area.”
Faber estimated it would cost more than $500,000 to stabilize and line the half-mile section of creek from Shady Lane to Highway 50.
He said that when water comes through the creek, it comes through fast, at 900 cubic-feet per second. He said the creek’s banks were bold, but the sides have soft soils, so they just wash away in a flood.
“There’s also trees and brush that inhibit high flows,” he said. “And when they put in the box culvert, they put pipes through it and that inhibits high flows.”
He said channels have a tendency to find their own way, and to do the repairs properly the county would have to remove the vegetation, shape the channel straight to the highway and line it. They might also have to put some kind of barrier on the sides to keep people out.
Another barrier to taking action is that the county does not have a right of way through the creek.
“It’s not a drainage ditch,” he said. “People on either side own to the center of the creek.”
He said some property owners have given permission to work on the creek, but not all.
The Historical Society of Dayton Valley opposes concrete and rip-rap, and would rather see cribbing to shore up the creek, which Masterman said was done in the old days.
Some evidence of that is apparent. Old railroad rails still stick out on the east side of the creek, driven in with boards installed behind them to shore up the side and some of the board is still visible.
“Cribbing is an old fashioned way of shoring it up and making it look like crib railings,” she said. “(Rip-rap) didn’t seem to fit into the historical way creeks used to be repaired or modern versions of what could be used in a historical section.”
The area is part of the Comstock Historic District, but State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James said work on the creek might not have to get approval from the district.
“It would depend on whether or not it would be regarded as a structure,” he said. “If it qualifies as a structure, they should be getting permission from the district.”
Bert Bedeau, administrator for the district, was not available for comment.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.