Valley not ready for big flood
December 18, 2015
While there are lots of people crossing their fingers for a big winter this year, Carson Valley might not be as prepared for a drought buster as it has been in the past.
Douglas County Emergency Manager Tod Carlini told members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee last week that the governor restored funding to clear the Carson River of debris.
"It's not much, but it's something," he said.
The clearing and snagging fund got $250,000 a year until 2009 when the state scooped it up to help balance the budget.
That money is used by the conservation districts to clear the river of debris.
"There has been no maintenance on the river, which has a lot of vegetation and downed trees, in addition to sand and gravel," Carlini said.
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It has been a decade since Carson Valley experienced serious river flooding after a warm winter storm melted off snow in the mountains and sent water cascading into the drainage systems.
Bridges on Genoa, Muller, Mottsville and Centerville lanes were all closed by the New Year's Eve Flood of 2005.
Then water master Julian Larrouy said that if the temperature had been 20 degrees colder, the Valley could have seen a repeat of the New Year's Flood of '97.
Carlini said that the flash floods and mud flows of the last two summers cost the county road fund $3 million.
While the last two big floods occurred around New Year's, Carlini said river flooding could occur at any time during the winter or spring.
Debris from last summer's Washington fire in Alpine County could be washed into the East Fork of the Carson River and fill up drainage ditches quickly, reducing their carrying capacity in a flood.
Complicating the issue is new construction in areas that were affected by the 1997 flood, including the new Douglas County Community & Senior Center.
The center is high enough to avoid getting wet, but could be cut off from the rest of the area, as could the Gardnerville Walmart.
In the flood of 1997, both Lutheran and Riverview bridges were closed cutting the Gardnerville Ranchos off from the rest of the Valley. Cradlebaugh and all of the western bridges were also closed due to river flooding in 1997.
Forecasters are predicting a wet winter this year because the last four have been so dry. The flood of 1997 was not during an El Niño year. However, Western Nevada droughts tend to end in floods, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Chris Smallcomb told a previous committee meeting.