Lyon County seeks ‘biggest bang for buck’ on Dayton storm drainage, bridge

Dayton resident Bob Scholes, left, addresses concerns he has about the South Dayton Valley Area drainage master plan at Wednesday’s Lyon County Commission meeting in Dayton.

Dayton resident Bob Scholes, left, addresses concerns he has about the South Dayton Valley Area drainage master plan at Wednesday’s Lyon County Commission meeting in Dayton.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

The Lyon County Commission on Wednesday approved two storm drainage master plans for the Dayton Valley and directed county staff to begin planning the road network and secure funding to build a second bridge over the Carson River.
County staff and engineering experts Damon McAlister and Chuck Reno of Farr West Engineering provided a presentation before approximately 50 residents at the Central Lyon County Fire Administrative Office in Dayton. Some questioned the timeline, feasibility or cost of the work or impacts from storm drainage issues surrounding the Carson River and beginning construction on the bridge. The planning project and final plans were paid for through Federal Emergency Management Agency funding of $3 million.
The drainage master plan report, prepared for Lyon and Storey counties and the Carson Water Subconservancy District by hydrology and engineering design company JE Fuller based in Tempe, Ariz., reviews flooding and sedimentation hazards, hydraulic modeling and alternatives to mitigate local dangers along Dayton and Silver City in Lyon and Virginia City and Gold Hill in Storey for the North Dayton Valley. The report outlines floodplain mapping conducted along Six Mile Canyon, Gold Canyon Creek and the Carson River with flood insurance study data going back to 1998. The South Dayton Valley study spanned portions of Lyon County, Carson City and Douglas County, focusing on Eldorado Canyon, which contains the only watercourse in the study area with FEMA regulatory floodplains.
Lyon and Storey counties worked together for the North Dayton Valley drainage master plan in 2018 with cost estimates between $34.9 million to $44 million. The following year, a second FEMA grant was secured for the South Dayton Valley area plan at an estimate of $55 million.
McAlister said from the county’s perspective, planning and prioritizing capital costs of improvements in stormwater mitigation and reducing hazards was a matter of determining the “biggest bang for the buck” in certain areas.
Resident John Gavin asked about the costs and the potential for a storm drainage tax to help the county raise the necessary funds to back the project.
“I have good neighbors impacted more than me,” Gavin said. “I don’t have kids in school, I pay property taxes for school taxes, but I never paid one penny to Lyon County for storm drainage. I don’t want more taxes on one side. We ought to be thinking long-term.”
Page said he is exploring tangible options with county comptroller Josh Foli, including a special assessment per parcel, to help individuals and businesses.
McAlister, principal engineer, explained there are options for improvements and determining the best options to mitigate risks and reduce hazards to pedestrians, vehicles and buildings in the event of future significant rainstorms or flooding. But Page added there are retention ponds to help with water runoff in places – some owned by the county or private property owners – that easily become undone.
“Once you have a significant rainstorm, and it doesn’t have to be a flood, it can fill back in very quickly,” Page said. “But we have a large number of people who ride ATVs. They destroy basins without realizing that’s what they’re doing. That’s what we’re dealing with, and we Band-aid it along until we get it built.”
Dayton has experienced significant flooding or weather events to which the county has responded and made improvements as needed. In January 2017, the valley experienced a weekend storm that impacted River Road, Six Mile Canyon Road and Grosh Avenue, and the Lyon Emergency Coordinator Center partially was activated to assist. In February 2019, flash flooding occurred in the Ranchos area. County crews worked to remove snow, debris and standing water and focused on the U.S. 50 corridor to keep Mound House, Silver Springs and Mason Valley clear.
Lyon County community development director Andrew Haskin continued the discussion about placing a second bridge in Dayton. The county conducted a study in 2008 considering the Cardelli Road/Sutro Road option to provide the public with greater access. By 2010, when staff developed its master plan, the Chaves Road option became an alternative, with another study held in 2018.
During the 2020 master plan update, the Cardelli/Sutro option was removed from the transportation plan, and the commissioners requested staff members in February this year to present their findings on both options, Haskin said.
Identifying the location of the second bridge ultimately provides the first steps in focusing county resources and how to find appropriate funding.
The Cardelli/Sutro option would have included a 1,300-foot bridge connecting south to north of Cardelli road, requiring the county to acquire 70 additional feet of right of way and 50 extra feet of right of way along Sutro. The spare length is due to the floodway running along Carson River, Haskin said. Eighteen homes would need to be purchased or acquired due to eminent domain and demolished, and Zillow estimates project the cost at $10.25 million, Haskin said.
But Commissioner Robert Jacobson, representing district 4, asked whether the new bridge ultimately would be used simply as an emergency exit and a few others or for the general public, to which Page replied, “Yes and yes and maybe.”
“Initially, if we had the money today and starting construction, more than likely it would be an emergency exit for the residents living out there,” Page said. “We’re not able to tell truck traffic not to able to go down there.”
Page said the master plan identifies the equivalent of a Reno-Sparks’ McCarran Boulevard loop capable of handling heavier traffic to be established in Dayton, although it’s not likely to be constructed during his career.
The Chaves bridge option is a 300-foot bridge at the end of Dayton Valley Road. The estimated cost in 2018 was $6 million, a figure that has not been updated since then, staff members said Wednesday. The right of way goes mainly through Bureau of Land Management and proposed developments with certain sections of the roadway to be paid for by the developers since the project was included in the master plan. Haskin said it is possible to combine portions of the bridge project with the South Dayton Valley drainage improvements.
Resident Mike Starkey, who spent 37 years in the fire service, said the local area has been at risk with one access through one bridge.
“A wind-driven fire will take out houses here,” Starkey said. “Witness what happened last year by Bishop (Calif.). If we get fire here with only bridge, it’s going to overwhelm existing forces. At the rate they’re building here, I think the bridge needs to go in before any further development happens.”
Starkey’s comment raised additional questions about the board’s ability to control the rate of development and maintaining a proper infrastructure that would help limit’s Dayton traffic before the bridge is built.
Page said the county’s population or housing bubble would have to reach a critical mass for the commissioners to take action on slowing growth.
“From a legal perspective, the board has a hard time if a person owns a property and it’s zoned correctly,” he said.
The board approved both drainage plans unanimously, with Page informing the commissioners staff would provide progress reports as projects proceed.
Board chairman Ken Gray, representing District 3, a Dayton resident, told the Appeal Thursday he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting, saying there will be an impact still to come when the bridge project begins.
“When you look back now at the cost of the bridge, $14 million, that seems like a bargain now,” Gray said. “You’ve got to start at some point and make the best financial decision with the information. I think we’ve made more progress now than we ever have.”


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