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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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Firms hired to determine how to divide flood project's costs

Posted: 1/23/2008

Washoe County commissioners have approved nearly $1 million to study how to raise up to $300 million from Washoe and Storey counties property owners for the Truckee River flood control project.

The commission Tuesday approved a $975,000 study with the FCS Group of Redmond, Wash., and CH2MHILL of Reno to analyze property owners' shares for the flood project. For the $800 million "living river" flood project, the Army Corps of Engineers is expected to pay half the costs. Of the local share of $400 million, the county expects to raise $100 million from a one-eighth-cent sales tax and needs to find $300 million more. Sales tax money is paying for the study.

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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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Storm not a threat to Martis Dam

Sierra Sun staff report
January 10, 2008

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday that the Martis Creek Dam poses no current danger to downstream communities.

“This last storm had little impact on the dam because most of the precipitation fell as snow rather than rain,” said Veronica Petrovsky, a senior project manager with the Corps. “Consequently, there was very little increase in the depth of water behind the dam, so there is very little pressure on the dam and little or no danger to nearby residents due to flooding,” she added.

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Agencies outline fix to Fernley canal after flooding

Christy Lattin, Bonanza News Service
January 9, 2008

FERNLEY - "We have had a difficult weekend." That was how Ernie Schank, board president of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, began Monday's board meeting.

The board viewed a slideshow showing the damage to the Truckee Canal above Fernley, which broke in the early morning hours on Saturday, sending water down a small hill and into several subdivisions.

Walt Winder, operations and maintenance foreman with TCID, said he was on scene at 5:30 a.m. At that time, the hole in the canal was only 20 feet wide at the top.

The break in the canal wall was patched by about 3:15 p.m. Saturday, with the fill coming from a state dirt pit conveniently located adjacent to the canal.
TCID officials are in constant contact with Bureau of Reclamation officials to determine how to make a permanent fix to the canal. Engineers and a geologist from the bureau, which oversees the Newlands Project, were on scene Sunday and Monday to assess the situation. TCID held a conference call with bureau officials from all across the West on Monday afternoon to determine the next step.

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TCID seeks permanent fix for Truckee Canal

Lahontan Valley News
January 6, 2008

The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District is looking to construct a permanent fix early this week for the breach in the Truckee Canal that caused widespread flooding in Fernley Saturday, district President Ernie Schank said Sunday afternoon.
The break in the earthen canal was plugged as of 3:15 p.m. Saturday and a pipe installed by evening to evacuate any residual canal water from the site, he said. The width of the break in the canal was measured Sunday morning and found to be 40 feet long. TCID crews were also on site Sunday to shore up and monitor the repaired area.
A geologist and engineers from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which overseas the Newlands Project, were in the area Sunday to assess the situation and provide technical supervision for a permanent repair, for which construction will begin this week, Schank said.

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Levee breaks as storms pummel West Coast

By MARTIN GRIFFITH, Associated Press Writer:
1 hour, 3 minutes ago

FERNLEY, Nev. - A ruptured levee sent a frigid "wall of water" from a rain-swollen canal into this high desert town early Saturday, flooding hundreds of homes and forcing the rescue of more than a dozen people by helicopter and boat.

To the west, a dangerous layer of heavy snow covered the Northern California mountains as rain and wind from the third storm in as many days hit the West Coast. The storms have been blamed for at least three deaths, and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in California, Oregon and Washington were without power Saturday.

No injuries were reported in the flood in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno, after a section of the Truckee Canal up to 150 feet long broke soon after 4 a.m. As many as 3,500 people were temporarily stranded and more than 100 had gathered Saturday afternoon at a shelter set up at a high school.

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Flooding damages 300-400 Fernley homes

Break in Truckee Canal was 50 feet long
Source: Lahontan Valley News
January 5, 2008, 1:41 PM

FERNLEY, Nev. (AP) - A canal levee ruptured early Saturday after heavy rainfall, pouring more than 3 feet of near-freezing water into hundreds of homes and stranding 3,500 people across a square mile in their desert agricultural town, authorities said.

A section of the Truckee Canal up to 50 feet long broke around 4 a.m. in Fernley, about 33 miles east of Reno, officials said. No injuries were reported.

Fernley Mayor Todd Cutler said he had reports of damage to at least 300 to 400 homes.
"I think the damages are going to be discovered more and more as we go on through the day," Cutler said.

Truckee River water flowing into the canal was diverted upstream and water in the canal was receding by noon, said Ernie Schank, president of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District.

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Truckee River Sedimentation Study (1993)

Written By
Brad R. Hall, William A. Thomas
Hydraulics Laboratory, US Army Corps of Engineers
Waterways Experiment Station

Technical Report HL-93-13
September 1993

The U.S. Army Engineer Sacramento District (CESPK) is formulating a local flood protection project along the Truckee River at Reno, Nevada. The District is completing a Sediment Engineering Investigation (SEI) in conjunction with the project design to assess existing and project condition sedimentation processes of the Truckee River. This report is part of the SEI and provides an assessment of the existing sedimentation conditions of the study reach. A sediment budget and associated channel changes for both average annual and design flood conditions are developed in this report.

The Truckee River study reach is located near Reno, Nevada and extends from the Vista gage at approximately River Mile (RM) 43.9 to just upstream of the Booth Street bridge at RM 53.0. A map of the study area is shown on Figure 1. A number of inflow points occur along the study reach including urban inflows, irrigation diversion wasteways, and tributary drainages. Two major tributaries provide additional discharge; Steamboat Creek at RM 45.5 and the North Fork Truckee drain at RM 44.8. The Truckee River watershed upstream of the study reach includes the Lake Tahoe watershed and portions of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and Nevada. The Truckee River watershed area at the upstream end of the study reach is approximately 1,067 square miles. The majority of the Truckee River runoff originates in the Sierra Nevada mountains and flows through the study reach. Downstream of the study reach, the Truckee River flows east-northeast until it empties into Pyramid Lake, 43 miles downstream of the Vista gage. Pyramid Lake is a terminal lake for the river basin which has no outlet to the ocean.

The Truckee River is a perennial stream characterized by pool and riffle channel morphology. Several bridge crossings and water diversion structures are found in the study reach. Man made channel modifications, especially within the upper 3 miles of the study reach, have limited the amount of channel migration. Bed material size decreases through the reach, and the channel bed is armored at base flow discharge. The flood plain and back water storage areas have been encroached upon by areas of urban construction and earth fill in recent years.

Truckee River Flood (2005), Reno, NV

This video -- taken by Michael Shorts -- shows the floods of New Year's Eve, 2005 in Reno, NV.

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