Restoration project deemed a success |

Restoration project deemed a success

by Amy Alonzo
Carson River Project Director at The Nature Conservancy Duane Petite stands in an area at River Fork Ranch where water was knee deep two weeks ago. Re-design of the flood plain here worked to keep flooding downstream to a minimum.
Brad Coman |

While most Carson Valley residents were bracing for the floodwaters in early January, Duane Petite was looking forward to seeing how River Fork Ranch weathered the storm.

A 10-year flood restoration project was recently completed on the Genoa-area ranch. The 805-acre working cattle ranch and nature preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy.

“When it flooded (in January), it did exactly what we hoped it would,” said Petite, Carson River Project director for the Nature Conservancy. “We want it to flood. That’s our goal.”

Five major waterways are found on the property — east and west Brockliss sloughs, Home Slough and the east and west forks of the Carson River.

In years prior to the conservancy owning the land, some of the waterways were dug deeper, with giant berms of dirt running alongside them. Along the West Fork of the Carson River and the East Fork of the Brockliss Slough, 15-20 foot-tall, ¾ mile-long berms of dirt “impaired the floodplain for functioning normally,” Petite said.

A recently completed 10-year, $1.4 million project removed more than 100,000 cubic-yards of dirt from the floodplain. Dirt was moved out of the floodplain to the Bently Ranch and a site near the intersection of highways 395 and 88.

“Those businesses are built on top of some of our dirt,” Petite said.

January’s wet weather was “the first pretty big flood since we did that work and the ranch flooded like nature intended,” Petite said.

The floodplains adjoining the waterways were filled with 1-2 feet of slow-moving water, he said. The restored floodplain helped protect downstream residences, recharge the aquifer and refill the wetlands and riparian areas on the property.

Petite said visitors to the property this spring and summer can expect to see robust populations of birds and wildlife.

“We are coming out of a five-year drought. It’s been really hard on wildlife,” he said. “It won’t be lush — it’s Nevada. But it will be lush compared to what it has been … We’re going to see a remarkable difference with wildlife in the spring.”