Work to begin on Cottonwood diversion dam |

Work to begin on Cottonwood diversion dam

Linda Hiller

Within the next week, actual work on the Cottonwood diversion dam and levee should begin, according to Dan Kaffer, Western Natural Resource, Conservation and Development area coordinator.

Ranchers have been waiting with patience to hear the first roar of a bulldozer on the river, and it looks like their wait may finally be coming to an end.

The Cottonwood dam is on the property of Dave and Kathi Hussman, who own and operate the Hussman Ranch. They will be needing the water to irrigate the grain they grow for their livestock by mid-April.

The Hussmans, who were out of town last week, said that since the contract for the river repair work had been awarded last Friday (Feb. 21), they expected work to begin on Monday (Feb. 24).

“Here it is Friday again, and there are machines out there, but no work yet,” said David, who took matters into his own hands after the Jan. 1 flood, hiring “a guy with a backhoe” to come and clean out the Cottonwood Slough so he could at least get water to his sheep and cattle.

Hussman said he initially diverted water using the Virginia Canal, and dropped it onto his property. After that eventually failed, hiring the backhoe was the best solution, he said.

“The good thing is, people in agriculture are pretty patient by necessity,” Kathi said. “We always have to deal with weather and animals, and if we got too impatient, we’d be miserable.”

The Cottonwood diversion supplies irrigation and livestock water to several other nearby ranches in addition to the Hussmans.

Fixing it was deemed “critical” by Douglas County commissioners and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation District because the structure also protects Minden and Gardnerville from flooding.

Additionally, the diversion serves as a grade stabilization structure for a 19-foot drop in the river bed, the loss of which could result in the undermining of the upstream Dresslerville bridge and associated levees, according to Kaffer.

Work is expected to take 17 days and cost around $89,000. Douglas County is sponsoring the project and local sources will pay 25 percent of the cost, Kaffer said. The NRCS will pay the remaining 75 percent of the cost under the federal Emergency Watershed Protection program. Steelhead Constructors in Redding, Calif., will be doing the contracted work.

Upstream, repair work is also slated to begin – again, within the next week – on repairing the riverbank and levee damaged by the flood. This project is estimated to cost $114,000 and should take about 20 days. Steelhead Constructors was awarded this contract, along with Eagle’s Peak Construction from Reno.

According to the Kaffer, bids are currently being solicited for the Spring Gulch project in Constructors Canyon at Wellington, where the West Fork of the Walker River washed out an access road and is threatening a major irrigation canal for Smith Valley.

While ranchers like the Hussmans may be patiently awaiting these crucial river and irrigation system repairs, they are not ignoring the possibility of more flooding during the spring runoff.

“Every day that goes by without working on the river,” David said, “we take a chance that we could flood in the spring if the river rises again.”