RENO - A Texas company that buys and sells construction and mining equipment plans to formally ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permission to move a small section of the Truckee River.
Hoss Equipment wants to put the river back into an old channel it abandoned five years ago during a flood to make way for an 18-hole golf course.
The plan calls for reclaiming and using 35 acres now submerged by the river on land the company purchased 14 miles east of Sparks.
But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others question the river-moving plan.
Fernley businesswoman and river activist Melissa Smith has told anybody who will listen that she opposes the proposal, no matter how environmentally friendly some people say it is.
''For once we should let nature do its thing. Try as we may to manage everything - from wildfires to floods - why not let the river alone for once.''
Hoss Equipment spokesman Dick Rice maintains that the project has few critics and that it will be huge benefit for the environment.
During high water flows in March 1995, the Truckee broke through a thin dirt bank that separated it from a big gravel pit once owned by former Reno construction magnate Robert L. Helms. Ever since, the river has flowed through the 30- to 50-foot deep pit on its way to Pyramid Lake.
The old channel, with cool, towering cottonwoods, sits abandoned just to the south.
''Here I am trying to spend $10.5 million to enhance wildlife and create wetlands and I'm literally catching hell,'' Rice said about the golf course plans.
The company wants to build a 14-foot-high, 200-foot-long berm between the old riverbed and the submerged gravel pit and direct the waters back.
Chad Gourley, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consultant who has worked for many years on Truckee River restoration projects, says the river is already healing itself, thanks to the 1997 flood and several other high-water flows.
Putting the river back into its old channel would kill hundreds, if not thousands, of young cottonwood trees that have taken root in the shallow groundwater, he said.
''Now that the river is well on its way to recovery, it's time to move it,'' Gourley said. ''I have a problem with that.''
Gourley said there's nothing natural about the old channel either. It is boxed in by railroad tracks on one side and a man-made earthen dike on the other, cutting the river off from its flood plain, he said.
''There is nothing natural about this channel other than somebody in the past put it here,'' Gourley said.