FALLON - Water has been released from Lahontan Reservoir to several areas in the Lahontan Valley, including reservoirs and the U.S. Navy's Bravo 16 range, to make room in the lake for snow melt.
Water officials are watching weather reports and using historical data to gauge how much water must be released from the reservoir to alleviate flooding worries without wasting the water.
The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District began releasing water from Lahontan Reservoir on March 20, when water was within six inches of the top of the dam.
Local law-enforcement and emergency-management officials are monitoring area waters and warning residents about potential flooding.
"The river's running pretty full and there's a substantial amount of water in Lahontan Reservoir, which has been reduced a little bit, but there's a substantial amount of water still to come off the hill," said Churchill County Sheriff Richard Ingram. "We are attempting to prevent and minimize the effect on our community. We wanted to bring together those people who are likely to be involved if that water creeps up on us."
Churchill County Search and Rescue volunteers have notified residents living along the Carson River of potential flooding if the unusually heavy snowpack in the Sierra Nevada melts too quickly.
A high-water caution letter was also presented to about 125 residences between the Reno Highway and Bafford Lane, alerting occupants to be prepared for potential flooding.
Emergency management teams have met to discuss what is being done to prevent excess water from spilling onto private property.
Ernie Schank, president of the TCID board of directors, said there are 15 days of storage capacity in the reservoir if the Carson River runs at full capacity.
Two things are needed to eliminate the chance of flooding, Schank said.
"We'd like to have it warm up down here so irrigation orders rise and stay cold (in the higher elevations)," he said.
If farmers begin ordering water, it will lower the lake level and make more room for run-off when the massive amount of snow in the mountains starts to melt.
TCID will continue to release water from the lake as needed.
"We're running quite a bit of water down the river," Schank said.
County Commissioner Norm Frey suggested river residents who store equipment or animals on low-lying land move them as a precaution.
"It is wise to get them out now while it's dry," he said.
The sheriff's department is also keeping watch on debris in the river that could gather at bridges and impede water flow.
"We're concerned debris might clog that river channel," said Ingram. "We're monitoring that throughout the day and night. Cleaning debris from that river is a huge operation. We're keeping our fingers crossed and hope the debris finds another place to clog up rather than the bridges."
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By the numbers
• 252,600 acre-feet of water in the reservoir as of midnight Sunday
• 250,804 acre-feet of water as of Tuesday
• 363,000 acre-feet of water is projected to flow into the reservoir from the snowpack
• In an emergency, the irrigation district can install flashboards above the concrete portion of the dam to enlarge storage capacity.
• 311,000 acre-feet capacity of reservoir with flashboards
• Ebbets Pass alone is packed with more than 63 inches of snow, which is 175 percent of average.
• The level of Lahontan dropped more than two feet since water releases began March 20
• An acre-foot of water covers an acre of land one foot deep, or about 325,000 gallons