U.S. Highway 50 east of Fallon opened on schedule Wednesday night after construction crews wrapped up work on a culvert installed for possible flood mitigation.
Meg Ragonese, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Transportation, said NDOT and Granite Construction spent one week installing additional drainage culverts on a stretch of highway between Wildes Road and Macari Lane about nine miles southeast of Fallon. Ragonese said the project cost $940,940.
“The state covered the initial cost,” Ragonese said, adding the federal government may not cover the bill since the work has been pre-emptive
If flooding were to occur, and the culverts either on U.S. 50 or U.S. 95 south of Fallon played a pivotal role in abating any flooding, she said the state would revisit the projects with the federal government.
NDOT similarly installed additional drainage culverts underneath U.S. 95 in mid-March to help channel floodwaters underneath the highway.
Ragonese said improvements would also help reinforce the two highways against potential flooding in future years. For now, though, she said local officials and NDOT will monitor both highways and bridges for any potential impact of heavy water flows. She said the state and Churchill County will also monitor other highways in the area that could be affected by flooding.
Ragonese said only two area projects were completed including the Highway 50 project. although NDOT could look at U.S. 95 near Trinity on Intersate 80 because of potential flooding caused by the Humboldt River draining into the Humboldt Sink.
“Granite Construction installed 60 concrete boxes creating a large drainage culvert underneath U.S. 50 to enhance the flow of floodwaters under the highway,” Ragonese said of the most recent work.
On Wednesday, Granite completed the project, and guardrails were installed on each side of the new culverts. Additionally, a nearby channel with flowing water was tied into the main culvert. She said utility lines were re-routed near the culverts.
Rusty Jardine, general manager of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, said district and county crews are cleaning out, widening and lowering the diagonal drain that will tie into the recently completed culvert. “The Big Dig” channel as referred by TCID will carry water from Carson Lake to the Stillwater Point Reservoir and eventually to the Carson Sink. The channel will move water away from low-lying property owners in the valley, Jardine pointed out.
South of the emergency weir and spillway that was constructed off the V-line canal last month, Jardine said canal water has almost filled up Sheckler Reservoir but hasn’t fanned out in the desert heading south.
Weather is another concern for TCID. The National Weather Service has not backed off on its prediction for a strong April storm that will hit western Nevada today and extend through the weekend. A NWS report said this storm pattern will be as powerful as the one that rolled through the Sierra Nevada mountain range and valleys in January.
The NWS issued this warning for several major rivers: “The Truckee, Carson and Susan rivers are all expected to see rapid rises and will likely near monitor stage. The greatest uncertainty for main stem river flooding is on the Carson and Susan rivers which have minimal flood controls and respond dramatically to small changes in snow and/or rain elevations.”
For that reason, Jardine said residents living near the Carson River should keep an eye on fast-moving water. Because of this weekend’s strong weather system, local officials and the weather service said mitigation efforts to curb potential flooding must be ongoing. Jardine said about 100,000 sandbags were delivered in March to residents living near the river.
According to TCID’s morning report on Thursday, the Carson River is running at 1,520 cubic feet per second at Fort Churchill south of Silver Springs and 2,410 cfs below Lahontan Dam, which is holding back slightly more than 242,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir.
The TCID report said inspection of the dam’s left side was completed, and a balanced release is being implemented by the district’s Dam Tender and Hydro teams. Furthermore, the outflow in the river below Lahontan will increase during the next several days.
Jardine said the reservoir will take a lower inflow but then discharge more water into the Carson River heading toward Fallon and the Carson sink. He said the purpose of the drawdown is to create additional storage room in Lahontan Reservoir for Sierra runoff.
“We’ll have water blasting into the system,” Jardine said. “You’ll see an increase in amount of water flow through all our channels.”