Fixing the river
Appeal Staff Writer
Damage to the Carson River from the flooding and heavy rains that occurred over New Year’s weekend could cost some ranchers and farmers their fair allotment of water if repairs are not made soon.
Because of debris in the river, erosion on the banks, damage to diversion structures and clogged irrigation ditches, river flow could go where it’s not supposed to, costing some ranchers or farmers their water.
Rancher Tom Minor, whose family has owned a 1,000-acre Dayton cattle operation since the 1920s, said repairs need to be made soon.
“You can’t get water on your fields because your diversions are washed out and your ditches are washed out,” he said. “We start irrigating in the spring, so we have to get it fixed before then.”
But Paul Kolp, district manager for the Dayton Valley Conservation District, is adamant that scenario won’t play out.
“The subconservancy, the Dayton Valley Conservation District and the state engineers are going to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Both Minor and Kolp said there was considerable damage to infrastructure.
“There are ditches, diversions and miles of fencing that need replacing or fixing,” Minor said. “There’s also debris on the fields. But the major thing is the washouts along the river. There are some really big corners that are just about gone.”
Kolp noted erosion on the riverbanks and debris in the river could create even more damage.
“There’s quite a bit of debris above the Dayton bridge,” he said. “If we were to get a high flow, we might lose the bridge.”
The essential needs are for removal of debris from the river and irrigation ditches, bank stabilization and water quality improvement projects, Kolp said. Irrigation season starts around April 1.
“The first thing we want to do is get there before high water and make the river navigable and allow the farmers to get water,” he said. “After that, everything else will be analyzed.”
This week Kolp escorted experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to various locations along the river in Dayton to point out the worst areas.
Most of the damage was down river, said Tom Hoffert, public works operations manager for Carson City. He said damage to the river would not affect the city’s municipal water service.
Hoffert said Mexican Dam and the Mexican Ditch near the Silver Saddle Ranch in Carson City suffered damage.
“We lost a couple of access roads to the Mexican Ditch,” he said. “There’s damage to the dam itself, and down at the end of Fifth Street the Riverview Park has a lot of land loss.”
He said the Mexican Ditch and Dam Co. is seeking funding for repairs.
In Carson Valley, the biggest problem in the rivers was debris, in particular gravel, large trees and other wood debris, said Paul Pugsely, of the Carson Valley Conservation District.
“Where the river escaped its banks there is a lot of debris in the fields,” he said. “And when it escapes into the fields, it crosses irrigation ditches and fills those up with debris.” He said there was also some damage to the West Fork dam.
Ed James, general manager for the Carson Water Subconservancy District, said his main focus is locating money.
“What we’re doing is trying to help find funding sources to repair this,” he said. “We’re looking at several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage up and down the river. We’ve requested FEMA help.”
For the work that must be done soon, James said the subconservancy is providing assistance.
“We’re also providing some emergency funding,” he said. “We have a lot of snags in the river; trees that fell over. If we don’t get those out when the spring thaw comes, there’ll be more damage.”
Minor said he didn’t expect much help from the government.
“We hope that we can get some help from state and federal, but I would assume the private sector will have to take care of it,” he said. “We have to look around to see what’s out there and what’s available to help.”
Minor said both the Carson River Subconservancy and the Dayton Valley Conservation District were working on locating funding for river repairs.
A member of both boards, Minor said the subconservancy sometimes has matching funds available to help with river projects.
“After the ’97 flood there was a lot of federal help that came in, but I just don’t think this event is going to generate the same concern,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll get much help.”
— Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.