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Minden supports levee repairs

Sheila Gardner

Each day without precipitation has a positive effect on the Sierra’s looming snowpack, but emergency communications director Dick Mirgon isn’t ready to relax.

“I’ve got my vacation plans in one hand and my resignation in the other,” he joked at last week’s Minden Town Board meeting. “It depends on the weather.”

The town board eased Mirgon’s burden somewhat by pledging $50,000 to Douglas County for repairs along the Carson River following the devastating New Year’s flood.

“We’re asking you to support the county in a three-pronged approach,” said Mirgon.

“The county takes the position that the river belongs to the state and the state should pay the 25 percent matching funds with the rest coming from Natural Resources Conservation Service,” said Mirgon.

Mirgon told the town board the county’s first position is that a lot of problems would have been avoided had the ranchers been able to go in the river to make repairs on their own, but they were prevented by the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The second approach will be to make up the 25 percent by in-kind labor.

“If all else fails, and we have to come up with the cash, we’re asking each town and general improvement district affected by the river to come up with $50,000.”

He estimated damage to the river at $10 million and is asking communities affected by the flood – Minden, Gardnerville and the Ranchos – to each contribute $50,000 to help the county come up with their 25 percent of the cost. That money will be used to fund the $1 million estimated repairs for the breached levee in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

The Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District has agreed to the cost, but Gardnerville is asking Mirgon to show the direct benefit to the town.

“We would like your support,” Mirgon said. “If we have to come back and show you a benefit, it would be that you are protecting the citizens you serve. The reality is we have to do the repairs. Without putting the river back, we may have areas in jeopardy that never were in jeopardy before.”

Mirgon said the county was planning to ask the governor to allow Army, Navy and Air Force national reserve units to spend their summer practice tours working on the river. He’s also enlisting the aid of Gail Durham, former NRCS resource specialist who has opened her own consulting firm, to help find funding.

“Every path we can find money, we’re traveling down,” Mirgon said.

Mirgon said 24 places along the Carson River need repair. “We’re looking at starting a lot in a week or two that should have been started six weeks ago,” he said.

He said a mountain of red tape has to be overcome before the work can proceed.

“By case law, the river is owned by the state, but we’re ready to tell the state, ‘If you’re not willing to step up to the plate, turn the river over to us,'” said Mirgon. “A lot of ranchers are willing to maintain it. We don’t want people feuding over it. We want it to be the community’s because it serves all of us.”

Mirgon said the Minden community of Westwood which borders the Carson River “was literally feet away” from flooding.

“What saved the town of Minden was the levee failing,” he said. “Westwood could have been under two to three feet of water. There is no doubt in my mind that there was a threat to the town,” Mirgon said.

He said the dry February and March were having a positive impact on the potential spring runoff.

“There is definitely a threat,” he said. “We watch the weather every day, but it looks better now than it did 30 days ago.”

“Should the state appropriations not happen in a timely matter or not at all, a certain amount of work needs to be done in the river to protect Minden,” said town board member Ross Chichester. “Anything can happen. I think $50,000 is a reasonable commitment from a small town.”