Retired Carson City engineer Robb Fellows recognized for watershed work

Robb Fellows receiving the Andy Aldax Carson River Watershed Award with CWSD Board Chair Stacey Giomi on Jan. 18.

Robb Fellows receiving the Andy Aldax Carson River Watershed Award with CWSD Board Chair Stacey Giomi on Jan. 18.

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Carson City Public Works Director Darren Schulz said his now-retired colleague, Robb Fellows, knows how every drop of water travels through the community.

“A drop of rain would fall somewhere in Carson, and you could ask Robb, and he could tell you how that drop of water would travel to get to the river,” Schulz told the Appeal. “He knows how water flows through this city like no one else.”

Fellows, who was Carson City’s chief stormwater engineer and floodplain manager before retiring this year, was named the 2023 winner of the Andy Aldax Carson River Watershed Award.

Presented during a ceremony on Jan. 18, the award is given by the Carson Water Subconservancy District and, according to a press release, recognizes “individuals or organization who demonstrate a 10-plus year commitment to implementing projects that improve and sustain the Carson River watershed.”

Created in 2007, the award honors the legacy of the late Andy Aldax, a farmer from Carson Valley who was a 53-year member of CWSD’s board and an advocate for agriculture and watershed conservation.

“I’m really honored. I had no idea my colleagues nominated me for it, but then I was selected,” Fellows told the Appeal. “I never thought I would be the one to get the award.”
Schulz said Fellows is beyond deserving. He said the fact that the city withstood several inches of rain earlier this winter is a testament to Fellows’ great work.

“He has helped to oversee tremendous strides in our stormwater system,” Schulz said.
During more than 20 years with Carson City Public Works, Fellows oversaw the capital city’s 18 sub-watersheds and worked with regional partners on the Carson River Watershed Regional Floodplain Management Plan.

That plan, adopted in 2008 and revised in 2018, includes Alpine County in California and Douglas, Lyon, Storey and Churchill counties in Nevada, as well as Carson City.

“Through his guidance and participation in the CRC (Carson River Coalition), Carson City has become an important role model for other counties on how implementation of the RFMP can be achieved,” said a press release about the award.

Fellows’ career entailed spearheading a $4.5-million investment in storm water improvements along S. Carson Street; expanding Vicee Canyon detention basins following the 2004 Waterfall Fire; managing about $1.5 million in flood insurance rate map (FIRM) updates for the Carson River, Eagle Valley, Goni Wash, Voltaire Canyon and Clear Creek; coordinating FEMA’s Community Rating System, which provided a 20 percent discount to flood insurance premiums for Carson residents; and updating city stormwater ordinances to include a drainage manual and low impact development standards.

Fellows, retired as of Jan. 12, said he’s enjoying his free time.

“I keep thinking I need to do something, but I don’t” he joked.

He remembers his years working with CWSD and other watershed partners fondly.

“When you go back and think about all the various things we’ve been up to, there are a lot of projects going on in the watershed,” he said. “As an engineer, you want to make a difference. You want to solve problems and make things better.”

He added that “every mapping project is the closest you can be to reality—how water is going to move through that area, who is in danger and who is not.”

Looking forward, Fellows pointed to more detention basins planned in the foothills around Carson, the remapping of Clear Creek and other projects.

“Things are just going to get better,” he said.

He also believes the Carson River watershed is improving regionally.

“Other counties are really starting to look at their communities and getting things figured out for themselves,” he said. “I only see that things will get better for the whole watershed.”
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