Ranchos offers to pay 5 percent levee damage
With a snowpack in the Sierra Nevada more than 200 percent of average and the Gardnerville Ranchos levee system in a complete state of disarray, Douglas County heads gathered at the Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District’s monthly meeting Wednesday evening to attempt to attain support from the GRGID board in fixing the battered levees.
After a lengthy discussion between director of emergency operation Dick Mirgon, the engineer in charge of preliminary designs for county repairs, Joe Ruman, commissioners Steve Weissinger and Jacques Etchegoyhen, and the GRGID board, the board voted three to one to give the county 5 percent of the costs for rebuilding the Ranchos levee system.
State and local governments must pay for 25 percent of the costs of repairs to a disaster area while the federal government will kick in the other 75 percent.
Trustee Vic Hyden was absent from the meeting and treasurer Beverly Page voted against the motion which requires the GRGID board to pay up to $50,000 of the estimated $1 million estimated cost to fix the breached levee. The county must then come up with the other $200,000 to appease FEMA.
Ruman said the two areas of the levee that blew out were the fifth green area of the Carson Valley Golf Course, and the area below the Washoe Tribe.
“Eighteen hundred feet of levee are gone,” said Ruman.
Ruman said the flood experienced in early January was greater than a 100-year flood event. He said the system of levees in the Ranchos was only designed for about a 10- to 25-year event.
“It stayed contained for up to 15,000 cubic feet per second, about a 50-year event,” said Ruman, illustrating that the levee performed above what it designed to do, but it still wasn’t enough.
Ruman said the plan calls for construction of the same levee system that was in place before the flooding.
“Why are you only going to put in another 10-year flood diversion?” asked Minden attorney Scott Brooke.
Mirgon said that if they put a massive levee in the Ranchos, then it will cause the river to flood in other places, making the county liable.
“Our whole goal is to put it back the way it was,” said Mirgon, saying that they could make it harder than it was so the levee won’t break under the stress of flood waters, but he admitted funding for that venture would be hard to acquire.
Mirgon said the lower Ranchos was developed in 1963, six years before the county’s first master plan.
“They never should have been built,” said Etchegoyhen. “But we have to live with it.”
“I’ve always been told you either do something right or don’t do it at all,” said GRGID trustee Al Wagner, who then asked Mirgon if he thought constructing the same levee is a good deal.
“I think it’s a reasonable deal,” said Mirgon. “Is it a good deal? Probably not. A levee like this could potentially fail again, leaving homes unprotected.”
Mirgon said that in reality, the levee will be better than it was because there is more technology available today leading to better construction.
Mirgon said that if the county wanted to make the levee any different than it was in the past, numerous studies would be required that could take years.
“The snowpack is 209 percent of normal as of today,” said Mirgon at the Wednesday meeting. “The only way we can offer you any protection is doing this.”
Mirgon said that if all goes as planned, and, he admitted there is little chance of that happening, then he hopes to see work begin on the levee within two to four weeks.
“We hope to have the project completed by spring runoff,” said Mirgon. “Everybody’s participating in this. Everyone’s doing their share. We are a unified community. We want to say to the people of Douglas County, we had a problem and we fixed it.”
“It’s a moral issue,” said Ranchos resident Jimmie Fields to his trustees. “We should do this.”
Ranchos resident Glenn Logan, whose home suffered major damage due to the flooding, said there should have been a dam constructed upstream from the area.
“If we would have spent money on upstream storage,” said Logan, “we wouldn’t have this problem. It would have cost lots but it would have solved many problems.”
As far as when the county commission will approve funding from the Ranchos, County Manager Dan Holler said that won’t happen because the county has already committed to doing the project so it will be done regardless of what the GRGID board decided.
He said what’s holding them back now from beginning the project is the acquisition of rights from the Washoe Tribe.
As far as when Holler thought construction would begin on the battered levees, he couldn’t estimate a date but he said, “The sooner the better.”