Carson River Conference hailed as success; 250 attend
Like many other residents near the Carson River, John and Catherine Amundson of Minden were evacuated from their home during the New Year’s Flood of ’97. And like dozens of others who attended the Carson River Conference in Carson City, the Amundsons were there to see how they could help.
“This is exploratory,” John Amundson said. “I’m checking to see if there’s potential for the Leadership Douglas County program to help on the river.”
Hailed as an extraordinary success by organizers, the Carson conference drew 250 participants, more than twice as many as expected.
State Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, noted the broad interest the conference generated.
“Almost everyone is represented here, (including) real estate people, elected officials and the agricultural and business communities,” Jacobsen said. “The Carson River is the life blood of our region. People are becoming more aware of it, but the only way we’re going to solve the problems is together – upstream, mid-stream and downstream. For years, it’s been a dog-eat-dog affair. Now it’s either cooperate or suffer the consequences.”
Carson City residents Dave Loomis, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, and Bashir Sulahria, who works for the Bureau of Land Management, said they had heard many of the same people saying the same things about the river before. Loomis and Sulahria said they spoke simply as interested, private citizens and not for the agencies that employ them.
“There was a positive spin to things today – people were talking, not shouting,” Sulahria said. “And there was agreement that the river has to be protected, its corridor set aside.”
Douglas County Commissioner Kelly Kite echoed Sulahria’s words. Kite, too, was encouraged by the conference.
“There was a time when we felt like we were alone out there,” Kite said. “The Carson Water Subconservancy District depleted its budget trying to restore the river to what it was before the flood. It’s better than it was a year ago, but there’s still more to be done. We have to keep the problems of the Carson River in front of everyone, we can’t allow it to be forgotten.”
Kite’s concern that the river’s problems will be forgotten is shared by the conference organizers, who include natural resources planners and managers with the University of Nevada system.
Interest in disaster prevention is always high after a catastrophe, mental health experts report, but as time passes, people forget. Their sense of immediacy weakens and the appetite to tackle the hard problems associated with preventing similar disasters fades.
“Right now, we’re benefiting from El Nino – he’s kept flooding on our minds,” said University of California Davis geologist Jeff Mount. Mount, a conference speaker, referred to this past winter’s warm, wet weather pattern.
Naomi Duerr, of the Nevada Division of Water Planning, said she believes a lot of good can come from the conference. As a featured speaker, Duerr detailed work her department is doing to develop a flood management plan as part of the state’s water plan – the first in more than 25 years.
Part of her work includes exchanging information with community planners.
“The state Flood Management Program was funded (by the Legislature) with three people,” Duerr said. “Its purpose is to implement the National Flood Insurance program and to help people deal with flood issues. We can help with planning and project grants for communities – get them money and technical assistance.”
Gardnerville resident Lou DeBottari, whose Mountain Gate Lodge was lost to the raging waters of the West Walker River during the ’97 New Year’s floods, said Highway 395 at his former home and business site in the Walker Canyon, though now rebuilt, will again be flooded and destroyed.
“If you really want this to work, elected officials are going to have to have a vision of the flood plains and they’re going to have to turn down some requests to build there,” DeBottari said. “Something can still be done on the Carson and Walker rivers, but planners will have to work from scientific data rather than the seats of their pants.”
After the conference, Sherman Swanson, who teaches in the Department of Environmental and Resource Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno, said all the (various) interests that could possibly stop a solution must come to the table and became engaged in creating sustainable solutions for the Carson River.
He said actual work to incorporate suggestions gathered at the conference will begin April 27 at a follow-up workshop.
“The solutions have to be economically, ecologically and socially sustainable,” Swanson said. “We have a sense of the priorities, but the devil is going to be in the details.”
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