High Water 2017 thanks community volunteers in flood mitigation efforts

A sign indicting full capacity at Lahontan Reservoir was found floating on top of the water and was presented to the Truckee Carson Irrigation District. From left are Rusty Jardine, TCID's general manager; Ernie Schank, president of the TCID board; Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford and County Commission Chairman Pete Olsen.

A sign indicting full capacity at Lahontan Reservoir was found floating on top of the water and was presented to the Truckee Carson Irrigation District. From left are Rusty Jardine, TCID's general manager; Ernie Schank, president of the TCID board; Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford and County Commission Chairman Pete Olsen.

Both the city of Fallon and Churchill County thanked hundreds of volunteers and agencies for their community spirit posed by a record snowfall in the Sierra and the potential for flooding in the Lahontan Valley.

The High Water 2017 Celebration at Oats Park on Saturday recognized agencies and people who made a difference in preventing the Carson River from inundating thousands of acres and structures in Churchill County.

According to information from both state and federal hydrologists as well as from the National Weather Service in January, if Churchill County and the Truckee Carson Irrigation District didn’t implement flood mitigation, up to 3 feet of water could have flooded the city.

Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford and County Commissioner Pete Olsen appeared on Centennial Stage to deliver their remarks in an afternoon dedicated the area’s residents. Tedford said the High Water celebration actually began Feb. 17 when TCID and volunteers recognized the county’s peril and began to take major steps to lessen the threat.

For the next four months, enough precipitation from the snowfall would’ve filled three Lahontan Reservoirs or almost 900,000 acre-feet of water. The reservoir’s capacity is slightly under 300,000 acre-feet. Tedford said the first step focused on appointing an incident commander, former sheriff and current assistant fire chief Bill Lawry. Tedford, who said Lawry has years of experience as an IC, developed a plan to work with other agencies by forming a community committee with Tedford and Olsen and both Rusty Jardine and Ernie Schank from TCID.

Tedford extolled the work of the committee.

“This community did not flood,” said the mayor. “Not one person did that but the community did that with hundreds of volunteers.”

To help ease the amount of runoff in the river and V-line canal, TCID, Churchill County Road Department and an out-of-state construction firm built an emergency weir on the V-line canal east of Diversion Dam. The excess water flowed into the desert and followed a natural course to the Schurz Highway and then east. Because of the continuing efforts to send water into the desert and to lower the level of the reservoir, government officials decided to have a community day with fun activities and vendors in the park capped by an evening concert with Blair Crimmins and the Hookers.

Tedford congratulated Olsen for leading the fight to prevent flooding in the valley.

While central Nevada escaped serious flooding, Olsen reminded the people gathered at Oats Park about the hardships those in Houston, Florida and the Caribbean are facing because of the damage and flooding caused by three powerful hurricanes and urged attendees to donate to as special fund set up for the victims by both the city and county. Olsen said Churchill County residents need to keep the hurricane victims in their prayers.

Olsen said he was proud of the efforts conducted in the Lahontan Valley during a six-month process and how people faced the challenges and helped one another. While some gave more time than others, Olsen said it became a team effort.

Olsen commended organizations and specific individuals. He said Lawry did a good job in organizing the different entities and had them focused in one direction. Without the help of state agencies, Olsen said the task to prevent flooding would’ve been much more difficult. He said the Nevada Department of Transportation provided a boost by installing culverts under U.S. highways 50 and 95 at strategic points where released water could flow to Carson Lake and eventually to the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge.

One of the major accomplishments came in February when the county received permission from the state to clean out debris and vegetation from the Carson River. Olsen also thanked the various county agencies who had a big role in the flood mitigation along with TCID. He commended the volunteers from the Farmers Brigade, area farmers and ranchers who donated their time on heavy equipment to dig a channel 20-feet wide and 15-feet deep from Carson Lake to the refuge.

For several weeks around the clock, Olsen said the Farmers Brigade volunteers spent a considerable amount of time away from home, so he thanked the spouses and children for their understanding.

“I am very proud of my community,” Olsen said.

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