Drainage work a costly proposition

Water from Pinenut Creek fills a basin south of East Valley Road in late March.

Water from Pinenut Creek fills a basin south of East Valley Road in late March.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

There are millions of dollars in drainage work needed across Douglas County after last winter.

Estimates of work down in Topaz Ranch Estates just to recover from the winter are at $6-7 million in a community that raises around $250,000 a year to maintain its 26 miles of roads.

Engineering studies of Buckeye Creek estimate it could cost $44 million to not quite fix the issue. Key to that project is a retention basin in the conservation easement next to Grandview Estates just near East Valley Road.

A proposal to remove the conservation easement on almost 19 acres at Fish Springs and East Valley, much further south, would cost $415,00 for the property, which is often refilled by Pine Nut Creek. The smallest basin proposed by an engineering study prepared for the county could cost $7.6 million.

A dam at the top of the drainage would run $24.1 million, assuming the numbers don’t increase due to inflation between now and whenever that proposal arrives.

That County Engineer Jeremy Hutchings felt comfortable dubbing it the Hutchings High Dam at a public meeting is an indication of how likely it is to actually be built.

As he observed, dams are really expensive, and the county has a hard time putting together enough money to maintain its roads.

One of the things that attracts people to Douglas County is also the thing that makes any sort of construction a gamble. With mountains all around, a big winter like the last one could deliver a bunch of water downhill before we’re even vaguely prepared.

We’re coming off the second record water year in the last half-dozen. Most of the intervening years leaned toward the dry side, which tends to lull residents into complacency. Whether we as a county decide to tackle flooding, it’s important for residents to remember that water had a lot to do with why the county looks the way it does.


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