Officials at Carson City meeting preparing for ‘once in a lifetime’ runoff

The Carson River is seen at the Cradlebaugh Bridge as it flows under U.S. 395 in Minden in January.

The Carson River is seen at the Cradlebaugh Bridge as it flows under U.S. 395 in Minden in January.

Ideas for spreading the influx of water that will likely hit the region this spring were discussed Wednesday at a floodplain management workshop.

“We may be looking at a runoff we see only once in a lifetime or once in a century,” said Ed James, general manager, Carson Water Subconservancy District, which hosted the event.

Whether the flooding is historic will be determined by the weather in the next couple of months, Tim Bardsley, senior service hydrologist, Reno National Weather Service, told an audience of about 75 people in the Sierra Room at the Carson City Community Center.

“We don’t know what the next six to eight weeks are going to be like and that will determine whether we have big problems or minor problems,” said Bardsley.

Right now, the forecast looks dry, and an atmospheric river expected next week will likely be west of here, but could drop more snow if it moves closer.

Drier weather plus higher temperatures is good news, said Bardsley, and would reduce some of the snowpack.

The snowpack as of March 1 is 217 percent of normal, said Jeff Anderson, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“In January we had one winter’s worth of snow,” he said.

Flows in the Carson River are 317 to 390 percent of normal, depending on where it’s measured. Lyon County Manager Jeff Page announced he’s asking the Board of Commissioners to declare a county wide state of emergency at the March 16 County Commission Meeting.

The National Weather Service has advised the County should be prepared for flooding from April through July on the Carson River and April through August on the Walker River.

“The Fort Churchill gauge has already measured a normal water year’s worth of flow,” said Bardsley. “There’s a lot of water in the system.”

That’s led to the earliest release of water from Lahontan Reservoir, started Feb. 17, and the construction of a weir to add capacity to the system and divert water onto federal land south of Sheckler Reservoir and the Carson Lake area.

“Basically we have two times the amount of water in the reservoir coming our way so we need to swap out the water in the reservoir twice,” said Steve Endacott, emergency management director, City of Fallon.

The construction of the weir is underway. The Nevada Department of Transportation is closing U.S. 95 south of Fallon through March 17 to install culverts to deal with the water expected to run off there from a release scheduled this weekend.

Another measure Churchill County took was to dredge about four miles of the Carson River in Fallon, cleaning out beaver dams and other debris.

“We were able to triple capacity of the river,” said Endacott.

Steve Lewis, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE), led what he called a brainstorming session to take ideas on where the region’s excess water might be stored.

The ideas included investigating Kirman Tract, Nature Conservancy’s River Fork Ranch and Dangberg Ranch reservoirs in Douglas County and Adrian Valley in Lyon County to longer term solutions such as meadow restoration in the Alpine watershed and floodplain protection throughout the region.

“It’s a big goal and a later solution,” said John Cobourn, water resource specialist, UNCE, referring to floodplain protection. “It’s not going to happen this year, but it’s a concept we want to get out to the public. It’s a big, long-term project.”


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