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Martis Dam risks still being studied

Remote control gates high priority for flood control
By Greyson Howard
February 7, 2008

Reservoir levels
20,400 acre-feet: Maximum flood control capacity
5,000 acre-feet: Water storage level
800 acre-feet: Fall 2007 level
786 acre-feet: Current level

Field work has temporarily halted on the Martis Dam until the snow melts, but the Army Corps of Engineers is still working to assess the risk the dam poses.

Located three miles east of Truckee in the Martis Valley, the 36-year-old earthen-fill dam has been categorized as an “extremely high risk” by the Corps for seepage issues. Geologists blame the coarse glacial soil for the seepage that could destabilize the dam, making it one of the six riskiest dams in the nation.

The dam’s ranking comes not only from the probability of failure, but also the consequences downstream, which in this case is the flooding of the Truckee River Canyon and a large part of Reno, said Ronn Rose with the Dam Safety Assurance Program last fall.

But as investigations continue, water levels are being kept at a minimum, so the dam poses no immediate threat, said the Corps’ Project Manager Veronica Petrovsky. According to a situation report issued at the beginning of the month, only 786 acre-feet of water are in the reservoir, or about 4 percent of the gross pool.

“Right now we are working on automation for the flood gates so we can remotely operate them,” Petrovsky said. “Now somebody has to do it manually at the dam for flood control so inclement weather or deep snow precludes us from getting to the gates — this will increase the level of safety. We’re excited about getting that in place.”

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