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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 ;

Agencies play a waiting game

By Christy Lattin, LVN Community News Editor
Lahontan Valley News 1/6/09

Water flows through the Truckee Canal last week at 350 cubic feet per second. Maximum flow for the canal is 750 cfs which will be reached only after structural modifications are completed.

For the various government agencies involved with the Fernley flood of 2008, it’s become a waiting game — waiting for money, waiting for plans, waiting for each other and waiting for water.
Both the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District and the city of Fernley are waiting for sizable reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency more than one year after the cold flood waters soaked 590 homes on Fernley’s east side on Jan. 5.

The city of Fernley faced approximately $1 million in direct costs associated with the flood, said Bonnie Duke, city treasurer. The biggest portion of the cost was for repairing streets and sidewalks, pumping water from homes and distributing supplies in the days following the flood.
FEMA reimbursed the city about $500,000 so far, but the city would like to receive another $200,000.

Duke said she hopes to receive the money within the next three months. “Bottom line, half a million dollars came out of the city’s coffers,” Duke said, adding the money was taken from a grant-matching fund the city established for aiding community projects. “We’re lucky we had that other fund sitting there.”

TCID completed the emergency repair and the permanent earthen repair in January and submitted the necessary paperwork for the reimbursement, but they too are awaiting several hundred thousand dollars to cover 75 percent of the costs they incurred related to the flood.

Kate Rutan, executive secretary for TCID, said FEMA separated the repairs into five separate projects. The first two projects, the emergency and permanent earthen repairs, are completed and paperwork has been submitted for reimbursement. The remaining three projects include cleaning drains and pipe systems in the affected areas of Fernley. TCID can seek reimbursement once the projects are complete.

TCID is also waiting on a report from the Bureau of Reclamation before it can proceed on its plan to install a concrete wall in the north face of the Truckee Canal along the 11-mile stretch of the Fernley Reach. The district submitted a one-page proposal for the barrier project to BOR in October and received a five-page response.

Kenneth Parr, BOR Carson City Area Manager, said the Denver BOR office is working on alternative solutions to rehabilitate the canal. He hopes the report will be complete later this month.
When BOR’s alternatives report is complete, both BOR and TCID will work together to choose the best solution. Parr said TCID will be responsible for developing engineered plans for the barrier.
“If (TCID) has the staff to do it, they should do it,” Parr said. “If they don’t have the time or staff to do those plans, they can request the Bureau to do it and reimburse us for that, or go and seek a contractor.”

Dave Overvold, project manager at TCID, said he believes the barrier can be installed during the irrigation season once approved, and he gave a hopeful time frame of completing the project by the end of 2010.

In the meantime, area farmers will continue to wait for water. Lahontan Valley farmers in the Carson division received 80 percent of their water allocation last year while farmers in the Truckee division received 90 percent of their water allocation. The water forecast, though, is not promising.
The water supply conditions released by TCID on Monday states the forecast for the Carson River spring runoff is only 51 percent of average. Overvold said Lake Tahoe is almost empty, which means minimal diversions from the Truckee River. Historically, 25 percent of the water to Lahontan Reservoir comes from the Truckee River, Overvold said.

For entire article, please visit website below.

Water officials target repairs

By Merry Thomas • Fallon Star Press • November 7, 2008

If Truckee-Carson Irrigation District officials have their way, they will replace a 10-mile segment of the Fernley canal with a new, concrete barrier this winter, according to TCID Project Director David Overvold.

"We would like to build it this winter, using our own forces," Overvold said. TCID has submitted a proposal to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engineers and the plan is being reviewed this week by BOR engineers from Denver and Sacramento, he explained.

TCID has proposed to build a 12-foot deep, one-foot wide concrete trench along 10 miles of the canal ban, and Overvold said he is certain that locals could do the work. All they need is a nod from BOR officials. A restored canal will mean water flows can be restored to capacity, at 750 to 800 cubic feet per second, rather than the 350 cfs allowed since the breach in January.

TCID to ask developers to improve the Truckee Canal

Christy Lattin, Lahontan Valley News
September 5, 2008

Developers planning to build homes or commercial property in the shadow of the Truckee Canal in Fernley may soon face added requirements from the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. The TCID policy committee and board of directors meet Monday morning to develop a written policy for development along the Fernley Reach of the Truckee Canal.

Dave Overvold, TCID project manager, said the board wants to require developers to install an impermeable barrier in the section of the Truckee Canal above their development. The barrier will be a vertical concrete wall on the north bank of the canal.

Currently, developers building homes north and downhill of the Truckee Canal are required to widen the canal bank. However, after the Jan. 5 canal breach which flooded 590 homes in Fernley, the Bureau of Reclamation instituted stringent requirements for TCID before more water could be sent down the canal. The BOR owns the Newlands Project, including the Truckee Canal, but TCID operates and maintains the project.

After the flood, BOR stepped in to shut down the canal, which diverts water from the Truckee River and channels it through the Truckee Canal to Lahontan Reservoir. The federal agency limited the amount of water flowing in the Truckee Canal and established several benchmarks for TCID to meet before the flows were increased.

Now, the canal flows at a rate no more than 350 cubic feet per second, about half the maximum capacity of the canal. BOR stated it will not allow flows to increase to 750 cfs or full capacity until permanent structural modifications are made. BOR has stated it expects the permanent fixes to take several years to complete.

"If a future developer comes in and builds next to the canal, he should be made to pay some amount of money to offset the costs (of building the concrete wall)," said Cal Eilrich, former president of the Fernley Builders Association and former board member of the Builders Association of Northern Nevada. He questioned the method of building segments of the wall which may not be continuous.

"How can you piecemeal this?" he asked. Eilrich also pointed out that residential development has essentially stalled in Fernley due to the real estate downturn and it could be another five years before a big development breaks ground.

Hundreds of vacant homes remain in inventory now, Eilrich said, with 900 finished lots that have yet to be developed. Tentative maps for some developments have already been approved without the new requirements, but Eilrich wondered if TCID would seek to institute those before building begins.

Eilrich is a current Fernley councilman but he has made it clear he was speaking strictly as a former developer. He agrees the canal needs to be reinforced, but he sees it more of a public works project than an irrigation district project. He pointed out that some of worst damage from the January flood occurred a half-mile downstream from the canal breech, and that a concrete wall upstream wouldn't have helped unless it extended the entire length of the Fernley Reach.

"This is an issue that affects all citizens who live in Fernley," he said.

The TCID Policy Committee will meet Monday at 8 a.m. at the TCID board room, 2666 Harrigan Road. The TCID Board of Directors will meet at 9 a.m. to review and/or approve the policy. For the complete agendas, visit www.tcid.org.

Builders have stricter requirements under Truckee Canal plan

ASSOCIATED PRESS • September 6, 2008
Developers would face new requirements if they build homes or commercial buildings near the aging Truckee Canal in Fernley under a proposal being considered by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District.

The district board wants to require developers to install an impermeable barrier in any section of the Truckee Canal above new development. Dave Overvold, TCID project manager, said the barrier would be a vertical concrete wall on the canal's north bank.

A Jan. 5 breach of the canal flooded about 600 Fernley homes. The 31-mile canal, operated and maintained by the irrigation district, sends water from the Truckee River to Fallon-area farmers. Currently, developers building homes north and downhill of the Truckee Canal are required to widen the canal bank.

Fernley City Councilman Cal Eilrich, former president of the Fernley Builders Association, said he agrees the canal needs to be reinforced, but sees it as more of a public works project than an irrigation district project. He noted that some of worst damage from the January flood occurred a half-mile downstream from the canal breech, and that a concrete wall upstream wouldn't have helped unless it extended the entire length of the canal through Fernley.

"This is an issue that affects all citizens who live in Fernley," said Eilrich, who stressed he was speaking only as a former developer.

"If a future developer comes in and builds next to the canal, he should be made to pay some amount of money to offset the costs (of building the concrete wall)," Eilrich told the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard newspaper. Eilrich also noted residential development has essentially stalled in Fernley due to the real estate downturn and it could be another five years before a big development breaks ground.

Farmers, TCID and BOR unify to repair the V-line Canal

By Rachel Dahl • Fallon Star Press • June 20, 2008
Source: www.rgj.com

With the characteristic community spirit that built the Newlands Project in 1903, Fallon farmers pitched in all week to help patch a gaping hole in the V-line canal left when the Lewis Spill failed last Wednesday, June 11, affecting nearly 2,500 farmers and 30,000 acres of crops.

These farmers are running low on sleep and high on grit while plowing through hundreds of gallons of fuel each day determined to finish the repairs in the V-line Canal as quickly as possible to get water flowing through the valley and save what they can of their crops.

Fallon dairyman Pete Olsen, who sent some of his heavy equipment to the Lewis Spill repair site, isone of the farmers helping. He and his two brothers farm several hundreds of acres south of Fallon which have been impacted by the wash-out that forced the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District to shut down water deliveries through the V-line, the L-line and most of the A-line canals.

"We have over 120 acres of corn that needed water days ago," he said. In addition to their farm, Olsen said several of his neighbors have crops that are desperate for water and may not survive much longer without receiving the precious irrigation water.

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Long-term canal repairs to cost millions

By Jeff DeLong, www.rgj.com • June 10, 2008

Trappers are removing rodents that helped cause last winter's breach of an irrigation canal east of Reno, but a long-term solution to the problem will take years and cost millions, a federal official told a panel of Nevada lawmakers Monday.

Kenneth Parr, a deputy area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, briefed a legislative committee on the status of the Truckee Canal, which broke Jan. 4 and flooded nearly 600 Fernley homes.

Experts concluded that muskrats and beavers burrowing into the canal's earthern embankment weakened it and caused its collapse, Parr told the Legislative Committee to Oversee the Western Regional Water Commission.

To help prevent a recurrence, the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District recently started a program to trap rodents along an 11-mile stretch of the canal where it flows through Fernley, Parr said.

"It's to prevent the problem of the animals going in there and creating that burrowing ... issue in the canal," Parr said.

The trapping effort, Parr said, represents only a short-term solution to protecting the Fernley area from dangers posed by burrowing rodents.

A longer-term solution will be the construction of a concrete rodent barrier on the canal's north embankment along the 11-mile section, Parr said. Experts have begun analyzing the project, and while no precise estimate is available, it likely will cost in the millions of dollars, he said.

"We believe the canal, especially in the Fernley area, will require substantial structural improvements," Parr said. "It will be many years to get this done, and it will be extremely expensive."

The 32-mile-long canal, owned by the Bureau of Reclamation but operated and maintained by the irrigation district, carries water from the Truckee River to Fernley and Fallon.

Repairs to the breached portion were completed in mid-February and the flow of water steadily ramped up since late March to the current level of 350 cubic feet per second.

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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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