How do you like that ‘eyesore’ of WNCC detention basin now? |

How do you like that ‘eyesore’ of WNCC detention basin now?

John DiMambRo

Where are they now? What are they saying now? Who are “they?” “They” are the vocal minority who made it a point (as in pointed finger) at last year’s fall Planning Commission meeting to complain nonsensically about Carson City Public Works’ idea to dig a detention basin on the grounds that neighbor Western Nevada Community College and the Wellington Crescent and Bush Ranch Estates.

This past Saturday, as Carson City tore a page out of Noah’s chapter on facing the flood, that same detention basin which some residents used as a metaphoric urinal for their fire-ready-aim remarks, was filled with more than 25 feet of water – more than half of its 50-foot depth in a coffee filter-shaped pool. Twenty feet of water – make that 8,000 yards of mud covered by nearly 30,000 yards of water.

Instead of mud and water, it could have been someone’s patio porch and living room furniture, if not an entire battered home swept from its foundations by the unforgiving torrent.

Last year, some residents spewed their own sediment (not to be confused with sentiment) from their mouths as they pointed to the basin being dangerous – a “… huge gaping hole …” that is “… ugly to look at …” – one that would dwell too closely to their property lines. My own opinion is that their concerns were bent more towards cosmetic vanity than personal safety and convenience.

Andrew Burnham, Public Works director, and Larry Werner, city engineer, deserve much credit for the proactive strategic planning that undeniably saved Carson City homes and property from maximal damage.

The first sign of proactive planning is the detention basin itself – one that was hollowed out to hold 400,000 yards of matter. With the flames of the Waterfall fire still burning images in the eyes of many, our city’s Public Works committee looked ahead. They worked feverishly and smartly with experts from the US Geological Survey, FEMA, and the US Forest Service, among others, listening to their advisories to consider the long term affects of the torched mountainside and its absence of trees and vegetation to hold the soil in place to naturally levy sediment flow and water rushes – a stabilizing period that will take an estimated three to five years.

The city pondered many “what if” scenarios, the biggest one being the all-time classic, “What if nothing ever happens?” Well, I guess we don’t have to wonder about that one anymore. But ignorance among insistent complainers doesn’t die easily, especially since some people are born with it.

That said, the city will probably encounter some resentment about the $1 million costs for the removal of the mud and water from the basin. And to those muddied thoughts, I say, that $1 million is nothing – nothing at all near the costs of the damages that could have happened had that basin not been there.

I wasn’t a fan of how the city handled the big snowfall of 2004. No need to get into that now. But their prevention and clean-up efforts on Saturday deserve a deafening applause. They started their emergency preparations on Thursday upon hearing the weather forecast using the now federal-required Incident Command System on how to manage emergency incidents.

On Friday, they started their placement of what would be 70,000 sandbags in vital locations, in addition to the 100,000 sandbags that were already positioned after the Waterfall fire. More than 230 people, including 104 inmates and several volunteers were on 12-hour shifts. More than 70 pieces of equipment and trucks surveyed the city’s mud-piled, and debris-strewn streets, removing the piles and pools as they moved along on New Year’s Eve.

Public Works is now de-briefing their action points relating to the flood, and have made a commitment to study those action points and improve even more for the next probable incident. Communication on where people can locate sandbags is one of those processes they have cited for improvement.

It might be a good idea to consider another detention basin on the east side of town to catch the dead-end rushes of water and mud, which will require sophisticated flow control mapping. But these are improvements that could not be possible without the commendable strategies and planning put forth by our friends at Public Works.

A wonderful exhibition of our city’s smarts, and the care of our closely knit community was once again displayed for other city’s to take note and learn.

n John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at