Flooding could extend into summer
Experts from the National Guard to Conservation and Natural Resources and Emergency Management say there’s so much snow in the mountains around western Nevada if we get more storms and a warm spring, flooding is inevitable.
But Gov. Brian Sandoval, chairing a briefing on the potential flooding, said the state is doing everything possible to minimize the damage that could come.
He said he’s confident the state and local officials have the necessary resources including enough revenue and have made the preparations they can.
“It’s important we let people know we are prepared for what’s coming,” he said. “But it’s important the public know there is the potential of flooding for an extended period of time.”
Col. Cory Schulz of the Nevada National Guard said the potential is there to have flooding into May, June and July because there’s just so much water in the snowpack.
Estimates are when the Sierra snows melt, up to six feet of water will come down the mountains into the valleys in Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Churchill counties.
“This will be saturation flooding,” he said, noting the ground is already soaked.
Since February, the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District has reduced Lahontan Reservoir’s storage and built an emergency weir and spillway off the V-line canal to send water into the desert toward Sheckler Reservoir. The water has reached newly constructed culverts on U.S. 95 south of Fallon and has spread out toward Carson Lake. TCID has also increased the flow of the Carson River below the Lahontan dam to 2,600 cubic feet per second.
“I am amazed at the orderly movement of water and how the water is moving around and spreading out,” said Ernie Schank, director of the TCID Board of Directors, who flew over the valley during the weekend.
He said the Sheckler area has spread out with an expansive amount of water that is moving south down the west side of the valley and then under U.S. 95 to irrigate the Carson Lake pasture.
Eventually, TCID expects the water to move east with the Sierra Nevada snow runoff and April rainstorms. As of the weekend, the area between Carson Lake and U.S. 50 was dry.
“I could not see any water within a half mile of the highway,” he said of the federal two-lane route between Pasture Road and Macari Lane.
He said “The Big Ditch” that will eventually carry water from Carson Lake to the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge is beginning to fill with water.
An adjacent waterway next to the recently constructed U.S. 50 culvert was also cleaned of debris and vegetation.
“This has given us more movement of water,” Schank said.
Caleb Cage, head of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management, said Nevada has already received two emergency disaster declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is looking at potentially a third application this spring.
Sandoval petitioned the federal government for those declarations and thanked the Trump administration for its prompt, positive response to the state’s situation during January and February flooding. Cage said three Nevada counties — Douglas, Lyon and Churchill — have independently declared emergencies ahead of the spring melt.