Drainage vs. conservation in East Valley

Pinenut Creek was still flowing on Aug. 3.

Pinenut Creek was still flowing on Aug. 3.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

One of the biggest conservation easements in Carson Valley changed hands not four days before planning commissioners voted to recommend extinguishing a smaller easement for a potential drainage basin.

The Bently Family consummated a $1 million deal with Wheeler Conservation Ranch for the 1,120-acre Kirman Field on Oct. 6.

The property located on either side of the Carson River as it leaves the Valley is subject to a conservation easement purchased using $1.5 million in state Question 1 money in 2005.

There are scores of conservation easements across Carson Valley, most of which aren’t nearly as large as the Bently property. At least two of them are located along creeks draining the Pine Nuts that caused flooding last winter.

Last week, County Engineer Jeremy Hutchings presented a proposal to extinguish a conservation easement on a piece of property up for purchase by Douglas County in the Pinenut Creek drainage.

That 18.89-acre property near East Valley and Fish Springs roads would be used to build a 15-foot detention basin, according to Hutchings.

A conservation easement over the property was implemented when the Redhawk subdivision was approved. The space was a condition of approval for the neighboring planned development.

Hutchings and Douglas County Deputy District Attorney AJ Hames expressed concern that the easement could prevent the county from building a basin.

Planning commissioners voted 5-2 to recommend the action to Douglas County commissioners, who still have to approve the purchase.

Planning Commissioner Dave Nelson said he wouldn’t vote to remove a conservation easement.

Residents at last week’s meeting expressed concern that approving removal of the conservation easement could put every similar easement across the county at risk.

The Redhawk Basin is estimated to cost $7.6 million to build, with two larger basins downstream costing another $26.8 million to build. All three basins would account for almost half of the $78 million price tag for the Pine Nut Creek drainage, with another $24.1 million for a proposed dam at the top of Fish Springs.

Former Douglas County Community Development Director Mimi Moss and planner Hope Sullivan expressed concern at the lack of notice involved in the decision during public comment.

Both cited a potential much larger basin located near Grandview Estates on the Buckeye Creek Drainage.

That retention basin would require the removal of 3.74 million cubic yards of material in order to reduce the flow on Buckeye Creek to around 800 cubic feet per second.

Sullivan said Monday that the process to change a planned development requires the county to send notices to neighbors.

The sudden interest in drainage was prompted by the record winter where portions of East Valley received up to 30 inches of snow during a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 Tonopah low.

The goal of the drainage projects would be to reduce the flows in both the Buckeye and Pine Nut Drainages. Hutchings said last week one of the mysteries is why Pine Nut appears to produce more water than the larger Buckeye watershed. At the bottom of both drainages lies the big former Dangberg Pond that prompted concern in March after heavy rains melted off the low elevation snow.

Planning commissioners also recommended 5-2 a planned unit development for an 80-unit project on 80 acres between Saratoga Springs and the North Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Residents opposed the project on land owned by the Bently Family. The property is zoned for one home per acre, but the proposal would include 26 acres reserved as open space.

Like the East Valley, the project named Warm Springs is also below a dam, that contains the county treatment plant’s effluent pond.

The project still requires approval by Douglas County commissioners.


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