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Flows Allowed To Increase Again In Nevada Canal That Breached In January

Source: KOLO TV-8
May 19, 2008

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has authorized another increase in flows in an irrigation canal that breached on January 5 and flooded hundreds of homes in Fernley, 30 miles east of Reno.

Bureau officials on Friday allowed the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District to increase flows in the 31-mile Truckee Canal from 250 cubic feet per second to 350 cfs - about one-half of the canal's typical maximum flow.

Bureau officials say the move was approved after the irrigation district implemented a special rodent control program and took earlier corrective and safety steps.

In March, a team of scientific experts concluded in a report for the bureau that burrowing rodents caused the century-old canal to fail and damage nearly 600 homes in Fernley.

Bureau officials have said any boost in flows beyond 350 cfs will require significant modifications of the canal, something the bureau does not anticipate this year or possibly even next.

The canal takes water from the Truckee River near Fernley to farms and ranches around Fallon, 60 miles east of Reno.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Reno Water Officials Approve Repairs to Quake-Damaged Flume

May 8, 2008

RENO, Nev. (AP) - The Truckee Meadows Water Authority has approved $2.2 million in emergency funding to make repairs to an earthquake damaged water flume.

Officials say the money is needed to build a temporary pumping system to get more Truckee River water into the Chalk Bluff water treatment plant as well as to begin repairs to the Highland Ditch flume.

A 200-foot-long section of the flume was damaged by a rock slide during the magnitude 4.7 earthquake April 25.

The damage comes at a time the area is approaching its peak summer months for water demand.

Officials say the situation is complicated by the recent failure of two newly purchased pumps at the utility's smaller Glendale water treatment plant.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Water supply safe despite flume break

Source: Reno Gazette Journal
By Steve Timko
April 27, 2008

The 150 feet to 200 feet of Highland Ditch flume that collapsed in Friday night's earthquake is the major source of water to the Chalk Bluff water treatment plant, but officials don't expect Truckee Meadows water supplies to be disrupted.

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority should have flume No. 14 fixed in about 60 days before the heaviest demand for water kicks in during the hotter part of summer, said Pat Nielson, TMWA manager for distribution and operations. A backup pump was used to divert water to Chalk Bluff, one of two water treatment plants in for the water authority.

"At this point in time, we'll meet all demand without any problems," Nielson said.

But Nielson cautioned the damage from the 11:40 p.m. earthquake is still being assessed and the estimate for fixing the flume -- which carries 55 million gallons of water a day from the Truckee River near Verdi to the Chalk Bluff plant at McCarran Boulevard and West Fourth Street -- could be optimistic as the damage is assessed.

"It depends how much of the mountainside we need to stabilize," Nielson said.

If it's still not fixed by July or August, he said, "it could cause some problems."

A Mogul area drainage ditch and a cement abutment built near Cliff View Drive homes kept the water from doing anything more than damaging landscaping, Nielson said. There would be no repeat of this year's Fernley flood when a Truckee-Carson Irrigation District ditch broke and flooded homes.

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Disaster prompts review of canals

By SCOTT SONNER • Associated Press • April 7, 2008

The failure of an earthen embankment on a century-old irrigation canal that flooded this growing town has federal water managers concerned about the safety of nearly 8,000 miles of similar aging canals across the West.

The January breach of the Truckee Canal flooded nearly 600 homes, making Fernley a state and federal disaster area.

"As a result of this, we are taking a look at our canals with a little more scrutiny," said Jeffrey McCracken, regional spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento.

The review is no small task. The bureau owns 7,911 miles of canals in 17 Western states, the vast majority of them managed and operated by local irrigation and water districts.

And the review is made more urgent by the change in demographics across much of the West from rural to urban. Hundreds of Fernley homes sit along the Truckee Canal, which just a decade ago primarily ran through farm fields.

"Fernley is the perfect example. The canal has been here 100 years, and all the sudden 500 homes get constructed next to it," McCracken told the Associated Press.

Crews started digging the Truckee Canal in 1903 with mules and steam shovels. In 1960, Fernley's population was only 654; today, the town serves as a bedroom community of Reno, 30 miles to the west, and the population is about 20,000.

That change will control the priority of the canal surveys. "We will focus initially on canals in those urbanized areas. There's a lot in the Phoenix area," McCracken said. "The other real old one out West is up in the Klamath Basin" in Northern California and southern Oregon.

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Fernley residents seek to control canal water flow

Lahontan Valley News
April 4, 2008

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Lawyers for scores of residents flooded when an irrigation canal failed in January said Thursday they are seeking a federal court order to restrict water flows in the canal to prevent another flood.
They also said in an amended motion filed in U.S. District Court in Reno on Wednesday that the canal break was caused by poor maintenance and greedy water managers trying to maximize water storage for farmers, not burrowing rodents, as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation concluded.
"Rodents had nothing to do with the flood," said Robert Hager, one of the Reno lawyers representing about 175 flood victims in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.
"It's an easy excuse to blame it on animals that are unable to say `It is not our fault,' and it appears to minimize their culpability," he said at a news conference.
Hager and Lee Hotchkin filed the motion seeking an emergency injunction that would limit flows in the 32-mile canal to one-third of the maximum legal operating level, 250 cubic feet per second.

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Snowpack fine for now, but more winter weather needed to increase water levels

Posted: 2/17/2008

January produced a real winter for the region, but more storms will be needed for the season to end with enough snow in the mountains.

The Sierra snowpack, which provides the water needed in the arid valleys of Western Nevada and the cities of Reno, Sparks and Carson City, remains at above-average levels but the cushion isn't a big one.

Last week, the snowpack in the Lake Tahoe Basin sat at 117 percent of average for the date. The Truckee River Basin's snowpack was measured at 101 percent.

That's good news after a slow start to the winter. In late December, the snowpack measured less than half of what it should have been. Then came the back-to-back storms of January, which deposited nearly 20 feet of snow near Donner Summit and beefed up the snowpack to healthy levels.

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Snowpack levels healthy, but Lake Lahontan low

While winter precipitation has reached a healthy level, Lahontan Reservoir remains low due to the breach in the Truckee Canal that is preventing diversions from the Truckee River.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service released its February 2008 water supply outlook report Friday, which forecasts the Carson River to flow 110 percent above normal at Fort Churchill from April to July, the months when the runoff from the higher-elevation snowpack feeds the river.

The snow-water content in the Carson River Basin skyrocketed in early January, climbing from 57 percent on Jan. 1 to 113 percent of average by Jan. 7. The February report states January's precipitation was 146 percent of average - much higher than last year's average of only 49 percent.

"We're in excellent shape now with the snowpack coming back," said Dan Greenlee, water supply specialist with NRCS. "January was just incredibly, phenomenally wet. It helped us recoup on that."

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Reno-area levees safe, officials say

Posted: 2/4/2008

More than 150 miles of irrigation ditches, all built more than a century ago, snake through heavily developed portions of the Truckee Meadows.

Along the Truckee River, aging levees and flood walls hold back raging waters during the floods that regularly hit the area. They've stood the test so far, but community leaders are anxious to replace them with new structures designed to stringent post-Hurricane Katrina standards.

Four weeks after an irrigation canal levee breached during a heavy storm, flooding neighborhoods in Fernley, officials say a similar mishap in the Truckee Meadows -- while possible -- is not likely.

Reno ditches called safe. For one thing, officials said, there are some big differences between the canal that breached in Fernley and the ditches in the Reno area.

The Truckee Canal, reaching 31 miles from the Truckee River to Fallon, can carry irrigation water year-round. At the time the breach occurred -- during one of the most powerful storms to hit the area in 50 years -- the canal was running at 678 cubic feet per second, nearly 70 percent of capacity, said Ernie Schank, president of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District.

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Milestone reached in Truckee River deal

Posted: 1/24/2008

The government has released a final environmental study on a comprehensive management plan for the Truckee River, a key milestone in 17 years of negotiations over the river’s future.

The U.S. Department of Interior and California Department of Water Resources report concludes there will be no significant adverse impacts from the Truckee River Operating Agreement.
Instead, the agreement crafted by the federal government, Nevada and California, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority and others could significantly help the river’s water quality and fish, the report found.
The agreement also would triple the amount of water storage for Reno-Sparks during times of drought and enhance recreational opportunities on the river and its reservoirs.
“This is a huge step for everyone involved,” said Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “It resolves many of the water issues on the Truckee River and they have been very contentious. We’ve been working very hard to get to this point.”

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Nevada population boom made flood worse

Posted: 1/11/2008
SPECIAL REPORT | The Jan. 5, 2008 canal breach and its aftermath

FERNLEY, Nev. (AP) — In 1903, when a 31-mile canal was dug to move water from the Truckee River to the melon and alfalfa fields around Fallon, earthern embankments made a lot of sense.

The dirt canal construction was cheaper than lining the entire route with concrete, and no one in northern Nevada much minded if it and other canals like it in the Newlands Reclamation Project occasionally failed. Floodwaters would flow into pastures and surrounding desert and soak back into the water table.

Today, what once was the rural agricultural town of Fernley is now a growing bedroom community of about 20,000 residents that has been declared a disaster area after storm-swollen water tore a hole in the 50-foot-wide and 9-foot-deep canal and inundated hundreds of homes.

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