Spring thaw could bring flooding
Damage during the 2005 New Years flood has degraded riverbanks and deposited gravel along the East and West forks of the Carson River, compromising its ability to handle spring runoff.
A break in the weather and melting snows in the Sierra could come at any time in the next 60 days and that could mean more flooding, said Douglas County commissioner Kelly Kite.
Communications Director Dick Mirgon, said Tuesday that Mother Nature is in control.
“Typically we see a low flow this time of year, but when it comes to the river it’s a guessing game,” he said.
To complicate matters, the course a flood will take once it’s over the banks is as unpredictable as the weather, Mirgon said.
“No two floods have been identical in this county,” he said. “People said the 1997 flood wasn’t as bad as 1986, but it only seemed that way because the flood went in a different direction.
“The flood of 97 was the highest in recorded history in Douglas County,” he said.
Spring floodwaters could cut into the banks along 100 yards of riverbank near the fifth Green of the Carson Valley Golf Course, flooding Highway 395 and the lowlands to the east, or possibly the lower Ranchos to the west, Mirgon said.
In addition to the golf course, banks near the Virginia Diversion, Cottonwood diversion, Hussman Ranch and Brockliss Slough on the Thunderbird Ranch need to be improved, according to Paul Pugsley, watershed coordinator for the Carson Valley Conservation District.
Fixing the problems, which entails removing gravel deposits left by the flooding and reinforcing some banks, will cost an estimated $160,000. That money will come from a combination of Question One, AB 190 grant funds and the county, Mirgon said.
Kite urged the commission to fund the project now and wait for reimbursement rather than holding out for promised funding from other sources at last weeks commissioner meeting.
“The easiest part of a flood is the event,” he said. “The cleanup and paperwork are more complicated. I want to make sure a bunch of people don’t get flooded out because we waited for someone else to pay for it.
“The contractors will want to be paid and I want to make sure they do,” he said.
Based on an inspection and briefing with FEMA representatives last week, federal officials could fund 75 percent of the effort on the Cottonwood and Virginia diversions because both are on public lands.
The fifth green of the golf course is private land and that poses a problem for FEMA funding, Pugsley said.
“We could go through an exercise to show the work needed could impact Barton, a downstream hospital,” he said. “But my intent is to remove that material before the argument is made.”
“We need to fix the river so we can get past the spring runoff,” said Douglas County Commissioner Doug Johnson. “We have major issues that need to be addressed now. We’ll work out the money later.”
Commissioners authorized the filing of an application with the Nevada Division of State Lands, the amount not to exceed $70,000 in Question 1 funding for the Hussman Ranch and Brockliss Slough projects. The balance will be funded using a combination of FEMA, Question 1 and state grants.
The county may have to handle reimbursement issue, but at the end of the day, the county’s portion of the funding should be minimal, according to Lisa Granahan, assistant to County Manager Dan Holler.
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The river’s flow has dropped after a high of 280 feet per cubic second a week ago, to 180 cfs, according Julian Larrouy, watermaster of the East Fork of the Carson River.
“When it comes to Carson River meltoff, I don’t think we’ll see anything out of the ordinary this spring,” he said. “I don’t expect much over a normal year, but it’s a guessing game. That’s for sure.”
Rains in December and January saturated the ground and that means water is filling streams and rivers, but most of the snowpack is stored at elevations over 8,000 feet and that should melt slowly, Larrouy said.