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Current and potential restoration projects

Lake Tahoe Restoration Act would improve water clarity, protect against wildfires

Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer joined Nevada's two senators to introduce the proposed Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which would authorize $415 million over 10 years to improve the lake's water clarity and protect the basin from wildfire. 

The bill, co-sponsored by Democrat Harry Reid and Republican John Ensign of Nevada, proposes funding for a range of projects, including watershed restoration and storm-water management, two key factors in maintaining the lake's renowned water clarity.

In addition, the bill would set aside $136 million for fuels-reduction projects to help protect the Tahoe basin and its landowners from fires, and for removal of invasive species.

The legislation is a follow-up to a 2000 law that provided $453.8 million to maintain the environmental health of the Tahoe basin.

Truckee River Symposium 2011, Sept. 27-29, 2011

Save the Date! September 27-29, 2011 at DRI.The purpose of this symposium is to communicate, investigate and evaluate science along the river.

Discussions will provide an understanding of Truckee River's important role in supporting northern Nevada and eastern California, while serving as a valuable resource to others who utilize the river. One element of this program is to provide all groups who work within the watershed a comprehensive understanding of what their colleagues are doing, and to bring critical Truckee River issues to the table for discussion. Drought, water quality, water resources, technical considerations and ecological elements will be discussed, with a mix of research, environmental, management and recreational perspectives included.

Truckee River Project Aims to Restore Habitat, Tahoe Clarity

Onetime Nevada Brothel Could Become Conservationists’ Oasis

Published: December 14, 2009

SPARKS, Nev. — Watching bulldozers pour crushed rocks to force the Truckee River into a more natural serpentine pattern, Mickey Hazelwood, project director for the Nature Conservancy, mused that like many acts of salvation, this one has its roots deep in sin.

For decades, this high-desert site eight miles east of Reno was best known as the home of the Mustang Ranch, the first licensed brothel in the United States. From thin to plump, dwarflike to Amazonian, women hired to suit a range of tastes would line up for inspection by clients in pink stucco buildings tucked into a cottonwood grove 300 yards from the river’s bank.

The brothel reopened a few miles downriver in 2006, after the land was confiscated by the Internal Revenue Service and the name and buildings were sold to the highest bidder. Working 12-hour shifts at their new complex, part of which was airlifted from the old site, the women still greet customers in knee socks, push-up bras and other intimate wear.

The old property, meanwhile, is undergoing a transformation. Workers are restoring it to floodplain, undoing the damage wrought when federal engineers straightened the Truckee River a half century ago.

For most of its recorded history, the Truckee meandered lazily 110 miles from mountainous Lake Tahoe through Reno, once a floodplain, to the great basin in Nevada. Dense forests grew at its banks, and 20-pound cutthroat trout swam its length.

But as rivers tend to do, the Truckee would flood. In Reno, where the population had been steadily growing since 1900, and passed 50,000 by 1950, the effects could be devastating. So in the next decade, the Army Corps of Engineers moved to control flooding by straightening and widening the river. The unintended result was that the Truckee deepened in its own channel, and the entire water table dropped along its banks.

Within years, the lower Truckee lost a majority of its native plants as well as dependent birds and wildlife. Only ancient cottonwoods with deep roots survived. Invasive weeds took over, and the river became an eyesore. More threatening to local residents, water quality declined.

Without the plants and with increased surface area, the river was also heating up. Its capacity to absorb treated waste water from the city declined and threatened to choke Reno’s growth. As city officials grew worried, the Nature Conservancy began peddling an ambitious plan that included moving the river back to its old beds, exterminating invasive weeds and replanting forest and other native plants along the Truckee’s banks.

In 2000, the $20 million effort to restore an 8 ½-mile stretch of the river began. The old Mustang Ranch is the final piece; bulldozers arrived at the site this month to begin forcing this stretch of the river back into a path constructed to mimic its old curving pattern.

Legalized prostitution, as it turns out, has made this parcel particularly promising to conservationists because it essentially kept development at bay, improving the chances of restoring the flora and fauna.

For entire article, please visit website below.

Truckee River flows through new channel east of Sparks

By Jeff DeLong • jdelong@rgj.com • December 3, 2009

On Wednesday, crews diverted the river's waters from the human-built, straight-shot "ditch" where they have flowed for decades into a new, more natural meandering channel mirroring nature's design.

"We're actually forcing it over today," said Mickey Hazelwood, Truckee River project director for the Nature Conservancy, which is heading up the restoration project.

"We're trying to make the Truckee what it once was," Hazelwood said.

Since July, heavy equipment has been at work along a more than milelong section of the river near the former site of the Mustang Ranch, Nevada's first licensed bordello.

Much of the lower Truckee was straightened and channelized decades ago during federal flood control projects or for agriculture. The result was a degraded river system vulnerable to erosion and unsuitable for fish and wildlife.

The restored stretch of river includes natural meanders where flood waters can slow and spread naturally over the floodplain, nourishing the land and improving fish and wildlife habitat.

Diversion of the river into its new channel is a pivotal point for a $7.8 million project that will continue for several years as native vegetation is nurtured by experts.

"It's always a milestone event getting the flows into that new, sinuous channel," Hazelwood said. "That's a river, not a ditch. It looks more like the Truckee River used to look."

The Mustang restoration, along with similar improvements completed, under way or planned along the lower Truckee, are welcome and needed, said Dan Mosley, water quality manager for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

"They could do this all the way down to Pyramid Lake, and it would be real good, especially for the fish," Mosley said.

The Mustang restoration follows similar projects completed downstream at the historic McCarran Ranch and further down river at the 102 Ranch. A similar project targeted the site of an old mobile home park in Lockwood, just east of Sparks.

Nearly 9 miles of the lower Truckee have been restored, Hazelwood said. Experts are in the process of figuring out how much more work needs to be done along a river where 50 miles have been "highly impacted" by past human actions, Hazelwood said.

"We need to do more," he said. "I can tell you we have a lot more work to do to call this a long-term success."

(due to the new policy by RGJ of pulling internet articles into archives within two weeks of printing, this article is shown in entirety.)

Sparks: Pioneer Dam effort on hold, cost up $212,000

More than $212,000 in unanticipated costs tied to rebuilding Pioneer Dam is prompting tongue-lashings at both Sparks city administrators and the federal government.
BY DAVID JACOBS • djacobs@rgj.com • November 27, 2009

The extra funding is needed because Sparks did not obtain all of the permits from the federal government before the city awarded a construction contract earlier this year, officials said. Now with winter arriving, the project is being mothballed.

"The difficulty I have is that we are stewards of taxpayers' money," Councilman Ron Schmitt said. "Now with errors on the staff's part, we have a $212,000 deficiency."

Sparks Public Works Director Wayne Seidel told city leaders that Sparks had awarded the Pioneer Dam contract in anticipation of the permits being issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We learned a lesson as far as don't count your chickens before they hatch," Seidel told the city council in a briefing this week.

He had anticipated support from the fish and wildlife service. "It improves fish passage, and that structure is old. There are efficiencies that we are gaining by doing the project," he said.

Mayor Geno Martini blames the Fish and Wildlife Service. He traced it back to the city's whitewater park, also on the Truckee River, that opened last spring. The agency said the whitewater park at Rock Park was inconsistent with long-term goals to restore the Truckee River and return threatened fish to its waters.

"This is a personal vendetta against the city of Sparks with U.S. Fish and (Wildlife) because they didn't want the whitewater park, and we finally got it through," Martini told city leaders this week. "They never wanted that water park, and this is paybacks. I'm thoroughly convinced of that.

"Through a normal process, this permit would have been issued, and it should have been issued, and they held it up on purpose, put it on somebody's desk, and it went to the bottom of the pile," Martini said of the Pioneer Dam project. "That's what's aggravated me more than anything...They held it up knowing full well that we needed to do this."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday disputed the mayor's claims. "We don't have a personal vendetta against the city," said Bob Williams, the federal agency's Nevada state supervisor. "I view the statement of the mayor as one of those standing for the people and wanting to make a statement," Williams said. "We have no personal vendetta. We will continue to work with the city and the (Army) Corps of Engineers and permit a project that is good for fish and good for the city."

The Pioneer Dam dispute is not linked to the whitewater park "other than the consultation process is the same" with permits required for both, Williams said.

"It's the same people going through the same process, and one might say that they (Sparks) should have known what we were going to need...They didn't learn from the first (whitewater park) lesson. Hopefully, they'll learn from this one."

"We have tried to express to the city, not only through the whitewater park, but also the Pioneer (dam) project, our general concern for in-river work that would be adverse to our recovery program for Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui," Williams said. "That is our responsibility under the endangered species act, to try to maintain and support habitat that would support these two federally endangered species."

The agency is working with the Corps of Engineers in an issuing a biological opinion on the Pioneer Dam project.

"We are still waiting for an adequate mitigation plan from the city that the Corps would use to show how this project is going to minimize and mitigate the in-river work that could potentially be adverse to Lahontan cutthroat trout," Williams said.

The $212,020 approved this week to Peavine Construction will pay costs to mothball the Pioneer Dam project until next summer, if permits are granted. Money will come from what was described to City Council as "opportunity funds." They originate from storm-drain funding obtained from ratepayers.

"A new term," said Schmitt, a council member since 2001. "I've never heard of 'opportunity funds.' We've got a slush fund of opportunities. I've got a whole bunch of opportunities to use that money, but I've never been told we have that slush fund."

"...If we know the federal government has issues, we need to be a little more diligent to make sure we don't create the mistakes," Schmitt said .

He joined council members Ron Smith, Julia Ratti and Mike Carrigan in supporting the additional funds for Pioneer Dam.

"I'm going to approve it because you put a contractor in a bad position," Schmitt said. "I would guess to say that if a contractor went out there and did a job without a permit, we would probably be pretty hard on that contractor. Would we not?"

Flood control to begin in Storey County

By Jeff DeLong • jdelong@rgj.com • June 17, 2009

The idea is to ensure planned flood-control improvements in the Reno-Sparks area don't raise the flood risk at Rainbow Bend in Storey County by sending more water downstream, officials said.

"We've got to build that protection, and we've got to do it on our own dime," said Naomi Duerr, director of the Truckee River Flood Project.

The $1.5 million project is one of several efforts being pursued by local government in advance of the $1.5 billion Truckee River Flood Project, largely federally funded. Another early project, construction of a $5.8 million levee and flood wall on the river just east of U.S. 395, should be finished this summer. The levee, the first structure to be built as part of the flood project, will protect a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Reno-Sparks Indian Colony land. Grading for Wal-Mart's access area started last week.

At Rainbow Bend, work involves building a half-mile-long walkway south of the river. The walkway, 18 inches to 2 feet high, could be completed this year and provide protection for the riverbank neighborhood, said Jay Aldean, deputy flood director. Subsequent work at Rainbow Bend in the larger federal project will include erection of a small flood wall, not visible from homes in the area, on the river's south bank.

Portions of the northern riverbank would be terraced to help floodwaters spread out during floods

For entire article, please visit website.

Whitewater park part of Rock Park renaissance

By Martina Beatty • mbeatty@rgj.com • June 7, 2009

Despite a steady rain, about 45 people wore coats and brought umbrellas to join public officials on Saturday to formally celebrate the opening of Sparks' new whitewater park on the Truckee River at Rock Park.

"This is another great day for Sparks," Mayor Geno Martini said. "Everybody talks about quality of life -- well, this improves our quality of life. It's a beautiful thing."

The 31-year-old Rock Park, on Rock Boulevard between Mill Street and Glendale Avenue, has had its ups and downs over the years, Washoe County Commissioner Robert Larkin told the crowd. "Rock Park went from a great park to a not so great park, to now a spectacular park," Larkin said.

Martini extended thanks to state senators Bill Raggio, R-Reno, Maurice Washington, R-Sparks and Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, whom Martini credited as instrumental in helping to secure funding via two state Senate bill appropriations for the $1.25 million project. "They really went to bat for us," Martini said.

He also noted that cooperation from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, which allowed use of its easement as a construction staging area, saved the city money.

When Reno's $1.5 million whitewater park was completed in 2003, tourism and city officials already were moving forward on a Sparks whitewater park. In 2004, Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority board member Glenn Carano said the Reno whitewater park was "the first phase of continuing down the river."

For entire article, please visit website.

$400K invasive species program to begin in mid-March

Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Associated Press

RENO, Nev. — Scientists are preparing to wage an all-out war against another threat to Lake Tahoe's famed pure waters: Asian clams.

The quarter-sized critters have turned up in numerous locations along Tahoe's southeast shore and prompted concern that they could pave the way for even more destructive invasive species such as quagga or zebra mussels. Scuba divers will be used in a $400,000 project designed to test ways to remove the clams. The effort, jointly funded by the federal government, Nevada and California, is scheduled to begin in mid-March.

"This needs to be done. We have to get our hands around the Asian clam problem," Tahoe Regional Planning Agency spokesman Dennis Oliver told the Reno Gazette-Journal. Native to Japan, China and Korea, the clams first turned up in the U.S. in the 1930s and at Tahoe in 2001.

The clams are suspected of releasing nutrients that fueled an algae bloom around Marla Bay on Tahoe's east s hore last summer. Algae growth threatens to turn Tahoe's blue waters green. But scientists are more concerned that the clams could promote an invasion by quagga or zebra mussels - mollusks already spreading across lakes and reservoirs across much of the U.S.

Decaying clam shells could boost calcium levels that permit mussels to become established, scientists say, and trigger major problems in the lake's ecosystem. Mussels could clog water intakes, attach to docks, litter pristine beaches and spread down the Truckee River, the Reno area's major water source, scientists say.

Those fears make the Asian clam a "serious threat" that can't be ignored, said Steve Chilton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For entire article, please visit website.

Officials focus on flood-control sites

By Jeff DeLong, Reno Gazette-Journal, February 14, 2009

Reno's most historic bridge and the former site of Northern Nevada's most infamous brothel were the focus of actions Friday by officials trying to cope with regular flooding of the Truckee River.

A coalition of local officials pushing for completion of the long-awaited Truckee River flood project took action on the future of both landmarks.

The Flood Project Coordinating Committee agreed to spend $2 million for design and environmental permitting for the tear-down and replacement of the Virginia Street Bridge -- a project ultimately expected to cost about $20 million.

The committee, composed of officials from Reno, Sparks, Washoe County and the University of Nevada, Reno, also approved a $7.2 million river restoration project at the former site of the Mustang Ranch brothel east of Sparks.

Both projects have the potential to qualify for some funding from the federal economic stimulus package, officials said. They have been given status as accelerated efforts up front of the overall flood project, expected to cost between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion.

For entire article, please visit website.

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