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Truckee River hydroelectric plants set records

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority produced more power at its Truckee River hydroelectric plants than at any other time in its decade-long history.

And for the first time, the utility generated more electricity than it used in its task to provide water to roughly 93,000 homes and businesses across the greater Reno-Sparks area.

"We actually had a surplus. It was a record year," said Pat Neilson, manager of distribution and generation for the utility.

During the fiscal year ending June 30, the water authority's three hydroelectric plants generated 45,863 megawatts. That's compared to an average of between 41,000 and 42,000 megawatts, Neilson said.

Electricity produced by the utility's plants is sold for use on NV Energy's power grid. One megawatt is sufficient electricity to power about 750 homes for an hour.

Bureau Of Reclamation initiates studies for final Truckee Canal fix

Reno Gazette-Journal-12/8/10

By Betty Aleck

Following a presentation by officials from the Bureau of Reclamation, City of Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman wrapped up a non-action discussion by saying that the citizens of Fernley won't know until July of 2012 what approach the BOR will take on repairing the Truckee Canal.

In the early morning hours on Jan. 5, 2008, a 40-foot section of the Truckee Canal breached, which impacted hundreds of residents whose homes were in a nearby flood zone.

Making it rain: Scientists hope to boost precipitation in Tahoe

By inserting chemical compositions into clouds, Scientists with the Reno-based Desert Research Institute are planning to stimulate precipitation in Lake Tahoe during the winter in the hopes of increasing the snow pack. A heavier snow pack will supply more water during spring run-off and prevent the Truckee River Watershed from drying up in the autumn.

The scientific technique — called cloud seeding — is becoming more prevalent as it can spur a 5-10 percent increase in annual precipitation at a targeted area, according to DRI research scientist Arlen Huggins.

“Cloud seeding can be extremely beneficial, especially in the drought-stricken west,” Huggins said during a a recent presentation at the University of California, Davis, Tahoe Environmental Research Center at Sierra Nevada College.

Effects of La Niña on Tahoe/Truckee Snow Uncertain for Upcoming Winter

While other parts of the United States may be in for some extreme temperatures this winter due to La Niña weather patterns, the effects on Tahoe are uncertain.

La Niña is associated with cooler-than-normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and can bring extreme temperatures and precipitation.

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the Northwest may experience a wetter and colder winter than normal, and the Southwest and South may experience a drier and warmer winter than normal, Lake Tahoe falls into the “equal chances” category.

Lake Tahoe area cloud seeding short of cash

With winter approaching and governments struggling through fiscal difficulty, researchers are in search of money needed to squeeze a little extra moisture from snowstorms. The Desert Research Institute in September secured a promise of up to $100,000 from the Western Regional Water Commission to fund a cloud-seeding program for the Lake Tahoe area. In late October, the DRI plans to seek a larger contribution from the Truckee River Fund, which is administered by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

It's part of an effort to continue a 25-year-old program nearly killed when the 2009 Legislature pulled state funding that was going to the DRI. A last-minute pitch to water purveyors saved the program last winter, and now officials are trying to line up the money needed during the winter of 2010-11.

Water users craft Truckee Canal White Paper

Lahontan Valley News, December 5, 2009
LVN Correspondent

ENLARGE FALLON - In an effort to restore complete water flows in the Truckee Canal and to facilitate its repair, a group of water users banded together to research, draft and publish the Truckee Canal White Paper.

A “white paper,” often used for political or technical subjects, is an authoritative report used to address topical issues, inform readers and help people make decisions about that topic.

“We wanted to educate the general public so they would all have factual information,” said Bill Shepard, a member of the working group that wrote the paper. “The idea was the paper would be researched and nothing was printed that was controversial or one-sided — it just presented the facts.”

Shepard approached the Truckee Carson Irrigation District's board in March to discuss writing a white paper to show residents of Fernley and Fallon — along with elected officials — the benefits the canal brings to both communities. While the TCID board saw the merit in the white paper, they felt the report needed to come from an outside source.

TCID holds the operations and management contract to operate the Newlands Irrigation Project, which includes the Truckee Canal that diverts water from the Truckee River to the Lahontan Reservoir for use in the Lahontan Valley.

The Truckee Canal breached during the early morning hours of Jan. 5, 2008, in Fernley, sending a torrent of water into residential neighborhoods and flooding 590 homes.

In the aftermath of the catastrophe, the Bureau of Reclamation — the agency which owns the Newlands Project — mandated flows in the Truckee Canal be cut in half until the canal is permanently repaired. However, the decreased water flows are dramatically affecting the agricultural communities in both Lyon and Churchill counties, which rely upon water from both the small Carson River and the larger Truckee River.

“The canal is an asset which has stabilized the erratic flows of the Carson River and made the agriculture industry something that is fairly constant and steady in the economic scheme of the communities of Fallon and Fernley,” said TCID Board President Ernie Schank.

The Lahontan Valley Environmental Alliance, whose mission is to protect the natural resources and the economic vitality in the valley, formed a working group and helped guide the creation of the paper. The working group included LVEA Executive Director Erica Behimer, LVEA Chairwoman Jeanette Dahl, private water users Shepard and group chairwoman Sonya Johnson and TCID board member Bob Oakden.

Shepard said the group met once or twice a month and the paper went through 54 revisions. Research assistance was provided by numerous entities including TCID, Churchill County, the city of Fallon and Naval Air Station Fallon. All entities received drafts and their corrections were incorporated, Shepard said, adding the final draft was reviewed by six attorneys.

While the final figures are not yet available, Shepard estimated the cost of the white paper totals over $8,000. Behimer confirmed that both Churchill County and the city of Fallon contributed $2,000 to the project, and Shepard said thousands of dollars were donated by farmers and ranchers in the valley.

The group printed 5,000 hard copies of the paper, which is actually an attractive 16-page glossy magazine, and is in the process of distributing them. Each of Nevada's congressional representatives received a copy, along with state legislators and elected officials in Lyon and Churchill counties. Schank personally presented the white paper to Michael Conner, the Commissioner of Reclamation, at the recent National Water Resources meeting.

Schank said he is pleased with the final product and the fact that everything is footnoted and referenced, and that it takes the “politics” out of the Truckee Canal.

“I believe the white paper helps a reader understand just how important an asset the Truckee Canal is to each resident of the Fallon and Fernley areas,” Schank said.

Shepard said the group that wrote the paper won't see the direct results of the paper, but he hopes the unbiased facts in the paper help garner support for farmers who wish to see the canal permanently repaired in a more timely fashion.

“We want to repair it,” Shepard said. “We've paid for anything that's ever been done in the project, and we want to repair it.”

Construction of Derby Dam on the Truckee River and the Truckee Canal began on the project in 1903 with a loan from the federal government. A letter from the BOR in 1997 states TCID — which operates on fees collected from water users — fully repaid the cost of the canal and dam construction.

“The Newlands Project's, whose first phase was the building of Derby Dam and the Truckee Canal, construction costs have been repaid by the water right owners and continues to be an asset to the U.S. Treasury by the income tax revenues from the agriculture, other agricultural-related industries, and the people that are here as a result of the project being built,” Schank said.

Schank also hopes the paper can spur the federal government into expediting the repair schedule so flows in the canal can return to normal. TCID submitted a proposed permanent fix for the Truckee Canal to the BOR in October 2008, nine months after the canal breached. TCID's two-page proposal included costs and how the district could accomplish the work.

“BOR sent a letter poking holes in our plan and insisted it was premature,” Schank said. “It seems they forgot they were the ones who suggested such a remedy. That is what led to some in the community suggesting the writing of the white paper.

“Now the BOR is spending $2.5 million, which was in an appropriations bill earlier this spring, which earmarked that the money be spent in evaluating and preparing a plan for repairs. The drilling work has been completed. We are told the cores will be evaluated and an engineered plan formulated by the BOR.

An Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement will have to be formulated and the process is most likely two to three years.”

Kenneth Parr, BOR Carson City Area Manager, could not be reached for comment about the repair timeline, but he told the audience at TCID's March water users meeting the study would take three years to complete.

Shepard said he was proud of all the people and agencies that helped make the white paper a reality, a sentiment reiterated by Schank.

“It is a good example of many people coming together with an idea and, with some hard work, presenting to the public a united front as to the importance of the Truckee Canal to the communities of the Newlands Project,” Schank said. “I thank all those who were involved, and give hats off to the LVEA for providing the leadership by doing what they were formed to do: protect environmental assets of the Fallon and Fernley communities.”

The Truckee Canal White Paper can be found at the following locations:

· Churchill County Library

· Churchill County Museum

· Churchill County Administrative Building

· LVEA office

· Fernley City Hall

· Fernley Public Library

· LVEA Website: www.lvea.org ;

New Washoe water plan would allow extra day of watering

By Jeff DeLong • jdelong@rgj.com • November 16, 2009

If approved by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority board on Dec. 16, the three-day-per-week watering schedule could be in place as soon as the coming spring.

Agency research shows customers restricted to only two days of watering per week "really pour the water on" but that irrigation practices are more moderate over a three-day period.

"We don't think there will be any more water used," said Mark Foree, the utility's general manager.

Leath Hayden, a 35-year Reno resident, said she supports expansion of residential watering. The two-day rule forces her to hand water the flowers at her Scholl Drive home, and she suspects that ends up using more water than if she could use her sprinkler system an extra day.

"I think it would be great," said Hayden, 62. "Our lawn and flowers could do better. I think it would make a difference."

Keystone Avenue resident Liam Campbell doesn't see the need for the change. He's already laid gravel on what used to be much of his front lawn as a means to conserve water.

"I think the two-day (limit) is a good example," said Campbell, 63. "It seems to be plenty. Like anything else in life, do it in moderation."

The twice weekly watering restriction was included in a 1996 settlement agreement with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Tribe in litigation over Truckee River water. It required the limit remain in place until at least 90 percent of flat-rate customers were converted to metered service.

Of the 44,600 residential customers that were on flat-rate service in 1995, more than 98 percent now have meters, billing customers according to the amount of water used.

With that goal exceeded and studies showing an extra day of residential watering would not result in increased use of water overall, the switch appears justified, Foree said.

"Our customers for a number of years have asked us to add another day. It seems to be something that is desired by the community," he said.
The plan concludes there are adequate water supplies to serve the greater Reno-Sparks area from now until 2030, when Washoe County's population is expected to increase from 440,000 residents to 570,500.

"With our water supply, the combination of all our resources, we have sufficient (water) to take us beyond this planning period," said John Erwin, director of natural resources, planning and management for the water authority. "The projections are there are sufficient water resources. It appears we are on track."

The new plan also continues to prepare for a drought up to nine years in duration. Utility officials said backup water supplies could continue to meet demand during a drought that long, and that a nine-year drought is likely only once in 375 years.

In 2006 and 2009, utility experts teamed with scientists with the Desert Research Institute to determine whether climate change should be factored into water management decisions. Results varied and did not indicate the need for a change in water management practices in the Reno-Tahoe area, the report said.

"Thus far, it's just kind of watch for any future trends and adjust if we have to," Foree said of climate change.

Established in 2001 with the purchase of the water system formerly owned by Sierra Pacific Resources, the utility is jointly managed by the cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County and serves about 93,000 homes and businesses.

Lake Tahoe's diminishing water level impacting flow of Truckee River

By Annie Flanzraich and Greyson Howard
North Lake Tahoe BonanzaShare on Facebook Email Print Comment Recommend
LAKE TAHOE — After a few days of flirting with its natural rim, Lake Tahoe's water level has stayed below the mark since last week.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the lake dropped to 6222.95 feet and has stayed at about that level since Tuesday afternoon.

“Unfortunately we are where we were back before the storm,” said Chad Blanchard, chief hydrologist with the US District Court Water Masters Office, of the recent October storm that dropped as much as 5 inches of rain in the area.

It marks the second time the water level has fallen below 6,223 feet in almost five years.

“We have three consecutive below-average winters — you could argue we are in a drought cycle right now, but we are definitely in a dry spell,” Bill Hauck, Truckee Meadows Water Authority senior water supply coordinator, told the Sun the last time the water level fell on Oct. 13.

Truckee River implications
This means things are pretty lean on the Truckee River, Blanchard said.

For agricultural and residential needs, water authorities try to maintain a rate of between 500 and 300 cubic feet per second flowing through Floriston on the Truckee River, depending on the time of year, known as the Floriston Rate.

As of Tuesday, only 95 cubic feet per second flowed through Floriston, Blanchard said, up from 71 on Monday with the addition of some Tahoe Meadows Water Authority water from Boca Reservoir.

“We're down to flood control water in Prosser, and Stampede is all fish water,” Blanchard said. Flood control means the reservoir's only ability now is to take in more water in case of a flood event, and fish water refers to water designated to help the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, so neither can contribute to the Floriston Rate flow.

The good news, Blanchard said, is this time of year, agricultural irrigation is pretty much done, and residential demand has dropped without people watering lawns as much with water from the Truckee, meaning the low flow doesn't put Reno-Sparks area users in peril.

“All we can do is wait for storms, for precipitation. It would be good to get a little rain first to get water in the reservoirs before snow,” Blanchard said.

If there is another dry winter, however, the Truckee could drop below the Floriston Rate again (after things presumably pick up in the spring) before peak demand drops off next summer, potentially meaning drought restrictions, Blanchard said.

Low levels
The last time Lake Tahoe dipped below its natural rim, which sits at 6,223 feet, before this year was January 2005.

The lowest the lake's level has been is 6,220 feet in 1992, and the highest it has been was in 1907 at 6,231 feet, according to Tahoe Meadows Water Authority records.

The second-worst drought in Tahoe's recorded history lasted from 1928 to 1935, and wasn't topped until the drought of 1987 to 1994.

After the drought ended in mid-1995, Tahoe saw its most dramatic rise, going from 6,221 feet in Oct. 1994 to almost 6,227 in July on 1995, according to Tahoe Meadows Water Authority records.

Tahoe Meadows research shows it takes roughly two or three years of non-drought precipitation on average to refill the lake after a drought period.

Blanchard said it wouldn't be unprecedented for a major winter to be able to re-fill Tahoe, but it's very unlikely.

Lake Tahoe drops below rim for first time in five years

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Lake Tahoe drops below rim for first time in five years
Local hydrologists expect that storms this week will help the lake's level — but not significantly
By Annie Flanzraich
Tahoe Daily Tribune

LAKE TAHOE — Lake Tahoe dropped below its natural rim this week for the first time in five years as a result of a three-year dry spell.

“We have three consecutive below-average winters — you could argue we are in a drought cycle right now, but we are definitely in a dry spell,” said Bill Hauck, Truckee Meadows Water Authority senior water supply coordinator.

On Tuesday, the lake hit 6,222.93 feet before getting a boost to 6,223.05 due to this week's rainstorms. It was October 2004 the last time the lake dipped below its natural rim, which sits at 6,223 feet.

Local hydrologists expect that storms this week will help the lake's level — but not significantly.

“One single storm is not going to bring it up dramatically because the soil conditions are so dry and it's a short-duration storm,” said Chad Blanchard, chief hydrologist with the U.S. District Court Water Masters Office in Reno. “But anything that will help, we'll take it.”

The lake is forecasted to rise about a tenth of a foot due to the storm, Blanchard said. A tenth of a foot of water in Lake Tahoe is equivalent to about 12,000 acre feet or enough water to fill a third of Boca Reservoir.

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Locals Prepare For High Waters

KOLO-TV Mar 4, 2009
By Auburn Hutton

RENO - One mention of heavy rain in our area, and thoughts about flooding always come to mind.

Residents of Fernley learned the hard way last winter, that it's not always easy to predict when a flood will occur. Local emergency managers say there are no flood watches or warnings currently, but nonetheless, locals aren't taking any chances.

The Truckee River is known for overflowing about every ten years. The most recent major floods were in 1997, and then again in 2006. While we're still not due for a large flood until the year 2016, some people are already getting prepared.

Jad Fricke maintains the building at the Edison Industrial Park in East Reno. Sand is already piled up in his parking lot and a boat is sitting on standby. He says he's seen the area flood three times, so when rain comes in large doses, the Truckee becomes his worst enemy. "When it gets to be a foot below that ledge, I get a little concerned," said Fricke.

Crews who take care of the Last Chance Ditch in Southwest Reno are also busy clearing out space for heavy water flows. A flood there last winter left up to six feet of water in people's yards and basements. They say the clean-up is just preventative, in case the storm sticks around.

Washoe County Emergency Manager, Aaron Kenneston, is reviewing flood plans, and answering questions from local disaster response managers who are concerned about the rain. But Kenneston says a flood is still a long ways away. The Truckee's downtown water level has peaked at under six feet. Flood monitoring only begins when it reaches 11 feet. But still, Kenneston says predictions about storms are not always perfect.

"Clearly, the Fernley flood, that was a classic example. We were ready for flooding in the Reno-Sparks area, and it happened in Fernley. In those cases, that's why they call it a crisis," said Kenneston.

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