Listening to residents talk about the amount of water flowing into Lahontan Reservoir is like hearing the latest tales of the next discovery of a previous commodity.
Liquid gold in the form of water is making residents reminisce about the “good, old days” when water annually filled Lahontan Reservoir and other area ponds and provided more than enough life support to the farmers’ crops.
With all the pleasantries expressed about water, residents must also think about potential flooding that may occur at any time depending on the right weather conditions.
The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District began releasing water out of the reservoir and into the Carson River on Saturday based on runoff forecasts and to mitigate flooding along the low-lying areas. Another concern is the reservoir could reach capacity earlier than expected.
“We’re over 220,000 acre feet,” said TCID executive manager Rusty Jardine on Monday as he described the water capacity at Lahontan Reservoir.
Jardine, county and city officials met Monday to discuss potential scenarios involving spring runoff. In what is a switch from drought to an overabundance of water, Jardine said the snowpack in the Sierra has enough water content to fill a reservoir the same size of Lahontan ... or even larger.
Both TCID and county officials are also keeping an eye on this week’s weather forecast that calls for another wet pattern to enter eastern California and western Nevada. The National Weather Service said rain is predicted to fall in the low-lying areas from Thursday through Monday, while snow will fall in the higher elevations. A special weather announcement may be found at NOAA.gov under Reno’s forecast.
According to TCID, a system of priorities will be followed first by delivery to the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Stillwater Wildlife Management Area, the Fallon National Wildlife Area, the Carson Lake and pasture and marsh and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Indian Reservation. Jardine said water would also be stored in regulatory reservoirs throughout the Newlands Federal Reclamation Project.
“The drawdown is intended to balance the inflow from anticipated run-off from the Carson River with releases of water to be made at Lahontan Dam,” Jardine pointed out. “The drawdown is further intended to manage against any possible flood conditions that may ensue in the lower Carson River channel in the Lahontan Valley.”
In addition to releasing water, TCID received a permit from the Nevada Division of State Lands to start dredging the Carson River channel. TCID rented heavy equipment over the weekend from A & K Earth Movers to clear out the river.
“We’re making room as we speak,” Jardine said, “to give as much flow in the Carson River as needed … and to put water through the entire system.”
Both TCID and Churchill County Sheriff Ben Trotter have been encouraging home owners residing along the Carson River channel in the Fallon area to remove any items of personal property within the channel that may serve to impede river flow. Jardine said items may include fences or landscaping features that may cause the collection of debris during high river flows.
At a special meeting of the TCID Board of Directors on Tuesday morning, direrctors learned the excavation work in the Carson River may be completed this week.
“TCID and County Road crews have been working to clean the major canals and the Carson River channel to accommodate initial water releases that will gradually increase,” said County Manager Eleanor Lockwood. “The river and canals will be running at maximum capacity for many months. We encourage all property owners along the Carson River to take necessary precautions to minimize flooding, and we urge you to stay away from these waters and keep your children away from them.”
Lockwood said the rivers and canals could be running at capacity into July ... perhaps longer. As river flows increase, Lockwood said residents should contact TCID (775-423-2141) if they notice any water leaving the river channel or canal system.
“In the coming weeks the county will ensure sand and sandbags are stockpiled in the most vulnerable areas,” she said.