Flood control a pricey proposition

Flood waters pour past the Town of Minden Maintenance Yard during a second round of flooding in March.

Flood waters pour past the Town of Minden Maintenance Yard during a second round of flooding in March.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

An animation of a 100-year flood on Buckeye Creek showed water spreading out across Carson Valley but couldn't quite capture the drama of the flooding that closed Buckeye Road during two of last winter’s bigger flood events.

Stormwater Program Manager Courtney Walker told commissioners on July 20 that the huge amount of low elevation snow over three months made it difficult to determine the peak discharge.

There is a manual U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge on Buckeye Creek, but that reading was not available.

Walker said a future project would be to install gauges.

“This winter was an anomaly,” she said. “There was so much low elevation snow. It wasn’t just one storm, but a combination over the course of the winter.”

A flood mitigation study was conducted by JE Fuller and paid for through the Federal Emergency Management Administration grant through the Carson River Subconservancy.

While the study was free to the county, flood control in the basin to reduce the flow to a fifth of its 100-year maximum could cost around $44 million.

But as JE Fuller geomorphologist Mike Kellogg pointed out, the study focused on Buckeye Creek.

Among the study’s goals were to avoid using a jurisdictional dam and keeping a retention basin below grade that can handle a large volume of water and sediment.

“We wanted to make this work without a jurisdictional dam,” Kellogg said.

The Buckeye Creek drainage consists of 80 square miles with a 100-year flow of around 3,940 cubic feet per second.

A retention basin on open space near Grandview Estates in the East Valley would be the best solution to reducing flow in the Buckeye Creek basin down to around 800 cfs, according to the study.

“We used a bunch of factors in determining the best site, including who it’s owned by and whether it’s ever going to be feasible that the county could obtain an easement or if it is county owned,” Walker said. “We also wanted to see which parcels would give us the most bang for our buck, and land acquisition is a big factor. We don’t want to do design on a piece of land that we know we’ll never be able to acquire.”

Building the basin would require removal of 3.74 million cubic yards of material.

Kellogg said most of the cost was the excavation and hauling off of material in the basin.

County commissioners said the price tag makes the project particularly daunting.

“This is funding we don’t have,” Commission Chairman Mark Gardner said. “My fear is that we’re competing with a lot of other jurisdictions around the country. My anticipation is getting federal funds for this are a lot closer to none than slim.”

Commissioner Sharla Hales said the study may help in determining future land use.

“Most of the land that is flooded if we don’t do the basin is ag land,” she said. “This is good information and gives us an idea if someone were to ask to develop that land.”

A high-hazard dam backs up the big Dangberg Pond just east of East Valley Road. At one point in March, an alert for possible flooding as a result of the pond filling up was issued by the county.

Carson Valley is home to more than 500 miles of canals, ditches and sloughs which convey water to its fields. Those waterways often end up serving as flood control channels.


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