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Water users craft Truckee Canal White Paper

Lahontan Valley News, December 5, 2009
LVN Correspondent

ENLARGE FALLON - In an effort to restore complete water flows in the Truckee Canal and to facilitate its repair, a group of water users banded together to research, draft and publish the Truckee Canal White Paper.

A “white paper,” often used for political or technical subjects, is an authoritative report used to address topical issues, inform readers and help people make decisions about that topic.

“We wanted to educate the general public so they would all have factual information,” said Bill Shepard, a member of the working group that wrote the paper. “The idea was the paper would be researched and nothing was printed that was controversial or one-sided — it just presented the facts.”

Shepard approached the Truckee Carson Irrigation District's board in March to discuss writing a white paper to show residents of Fernley and Fallon — along with elected officials — the benefits the canal brings to both communities. While the TCID board saw the merit in the white paper, they felt the report needed to come from an outside source.

TCID holds the operations and management contract to operate the Newlands Irrigation Project, which includes the Truckee Canal that diverts water from the Truckee River to the Lahontan Reservoir for use in the Lahontan Valley.

The Truckee Canal breached during the early morning hours of Jan. 5, 2008, in Fernley, sending a torrent of water into residential neighborhoods and flooding 590 homes.

In the aftermath of the catastrophe, the Bureau of Reclamation — the agency which owns the Newlands Project — mandated flows in the Truckee Canal be cut in half until the canal is permanently repaired. However, the decreased water flows are dramatically affecting the agricultural communities in both Lyon and Churchill counties, which rely upon water from both the small Carson River and the larger Truckee River.

“The canal is an asset which has stabilized the erratic flows of the Carson River and made the agriculture industry something that is fairly constant and steady in the economic scheme of the communities of Fallon and Fernley,” said TCID Board President Ernie Schank.

The Lahontan Valley Environmental Alliance, whose mission is to protect the natural resources and the economic vitality in the valley, formed a working group and helped guide the creation of the paper. The working group included LVEA Executive Director Erica Behimer, LVEA Chairwoman Jeanette Dahl, private water users Shepard and group chairwoman Sonya Johnson and TCID board member Bob Oakden.

Shepard said the group met once or twice a month and the paper went through 54 revisions. Research assistance was provided by numerous entities including TCID, Churchill County, the city of Fallon and Naval Air Station Fallon. All entities received drafts and their corrections were incorporated, Shepard said, adding the final draft was reviewed by six attorneys.

While the final figures are not yet available, Shepard estimated the cost of the white paper totals over $8,000. Behimer confirmed that both Churchill County and the city of Fallon contributed $2,000 to the project, and Shepard said thousands of dollars were donated by farmers and ranchers in the valley.

The group printed 5,000 hard copies of the paper, which is actually an attractive 16-page glossy magazine, and is in the process of distributing them. Each of Nevada's congressional representatives received a copy, along with state legislators and elected officials in Lyon and Churchill counties. Schank personally presented the white paper to Michael Conner, the Commissioner of Reclamation, at the recent National Water Resources meeting.

Schank said he is pleased with the final product and the fact that everything is footnoted and referenced, and that it takes the “politics” out of the Truckee Canal.

“I believe the white paper helps a reader understand just how important an asset the Truckee Canal is to each resident of the Fallon and Fernley areas,” Schank said.

Shepard said the group that wrote the paper won't see the direct results of the paper, but he hopes the unbiased facts in the paper help garner support for farmers who wish to see the canal permanently repaired in a more timely fashion.

“We want to repair it,” Shepard said. “We've paid for anything that's ever been done in the project, and we want to repair it.”

Construction of Derby Dam on the Truckee River and the Truckee Canal began on the project in 1903 with a loan from the federal government. A letter from the BOR in 1997 states TCID — which operates on fees collected from water users — fully repaid the cost of the canal and dam construction.

“The Newlands Project's, whose first phase was the building of Derby Dam and the Truckee Canal, construction costs have been repaid by the water right owners and continues to be an asset to the U.S. Treasury by the income tax revenues from the agriculture, other agricultural-related industries, and the people that are here as a result of the project being built,” Schank said.

Schank also hopes the paper can spur the federal government into expediting the repair schedule so flows in the canal can return to normal. TCID submitted a proposed permanent fix for the Truckee Canal to the BOR in October 2008, nine months after the canal breached. TCID's two-page proposal included costs and how the district could accomplish the work.

“BOR sent a letter poking holes in our plan and insisted it was premature,” Schank said. “It seems they forgot they were the ones who suggested such a remedy. That is what led to some in the community suggesting the writing of the white paper.

“Now the BOR is spending $2.5 million, which was in an appropriations bill earlier this spring, which earmarked that the money be spent in evaluating and preparing a plan for repairs. The drilling work has been completed. We are told the cores will be evaluated and an engineered plan formulated by the BOR.

An Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement will have to be formulated and the process is most likely two to three years.”

Kenneth Parr, BOR Carson City Area Manager, could not be reached for comment about the repair timeline, but he told the audience at TCID's March water users meeting the study would take three years to complete.

Shepard said he was proud of all the people and agencies that helped make the white paper a reality, a sentiment reiterated by Schank.

“It is a good example of many people coming together with an idea and, with some hard work, presenting to the public a united front as to the importance of the Truckee Canal to the communities of the Newlands Project,” Schank said. “I thank all those who were involved, and give hats off to the LVEA for providing the leadership by doing what they were formed to do: protect environmental assets of the Fallon and Fernley communities.”

The Truckee Canal White Paper can be found at the following locations:

· Churchill County Library

· Churchill County Museum

· Churchill County Administrative Building

· LVEA office

· Fernley City Hall

· Fernley Public Library

· LVEA Website: www.lvea.org ;

New government sought to manage Truckee River flood control

By Susan Voyles • svoyles@rgj.com • February 10, 2009

The Truckee River flood control project will be overseen by a new entity created under a joint powers agreement, giving Reno, Sparks and Washoe County elected officials shared control over a project that could cost up to $1.6 billion.

Elected officials at a joint meeting Monday consented to create the new entity by agreement. The Truckee Meadows Water Authority is an example of a joint powers entity, in which local governments gave up powers to create the new water utility.

The new entity would be able to sell bonds and charge fees for flood management services.

If set up similarly to the flood project coordinating committee, Reno, Sparks, Washoe County and the University of Nevada, Reno each would have two members.

"I don't want to go forward with the largest public works project in Washoe County with a model we are not experienced with," said county Commissioner Robert Larkin, chairman of the flood control steering committee. "It would be like building a bicycle as we are learning to ride it."

The other option would have been to create a flood control district that, under state law, would be under the control of the Washoe County Commission.

If the new entity were sued, the partners would have to cover any liabilities, such as damage awards, the partnership could not cover, said Greg Salter, a deputy district attorney.

For entire article, please visit website.

Water officials target repairs

By Merry Thomas • Fallon Star Press • November 7, 2008

If Truckee-Carson Irrigation District officials have their way, they will replace a 10-mile segment of the Fernley canal with a new, concrete barrier this winter, according to TCID Project Director David Overvold.

"We would like to build it this winter, using our own forces," Overvold said. TCID has submitted a proposal to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engineers and the plan is being reviewed this week by BOR engineers from Denver and Sacramento, he explained.

TCID has proposed to build a 12-foot deep, one-foot wide concrete trench along 10 miles of the canal ban, and Overvold said he is certain that locals could do the work. All they need is a nod from BOR officials. A restored canal will mean water flows can be restored to capacity, at 750 to 800 cubic feet per second, rather than the 350 cfs allowed since the breach in January.

Erosion properties tested on pile burn footprints

Project is the first of its kind in the Tahoe Basin
By Nick Cruit, Sierra Sun, 10/28/08

Drea Traeumer of Em Consulting performs a dye test while Micheal Ukraine, Rachel Arst, and Tim Delaney of Integrated Environmental Restoration Services collect data at a prescribed burn site on Dollar Hill in Tahoe City. The research crew is studying the effects of prescribed burns on erosion and sediment runoff into Lake Tahoe.
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunA team of scientists meticulously monitored water flowing down a dusty rill Monday as they conducted experiments in the scorched remains of a recently burned pile of brush near Lake Tahoe.

As part of the first-ever in-depth experiments to determine how prescribed forest burning affects soil erosion in the Tahoe Basin, the team from Integrated Environmental Restoration Services and Em Consulting tested charred craters left by last week’s pile burns near Chinquapin Condominiums in Tahoe City.

Though the test spot is no bigger than the rain shadow left by a car, the impact of their data will effect how decisions are made throughout the Tahoe Basin.

Having already monitored baseline conditions before Calfire’s prescribed burn project, Em Consulting Hydrologist Drea Traeumer and Integrated Environmental scientists teamed up to run rain and rill simulators directly on the footprint of the burned piles.

While the effects of fuels reduction programs on soil properties cause tension around Lake Tahoe, Integrated Environmental rain simulators hope to shed light on the potential for erosion problems caused by water flow.

“We are happy to cooperate with the project,” said North Tahoe Fire Protection District Forest Fuels Program Manager Stewart McMorrow, who helped oversee the prescribed pile burns last week. “It’s important to know what the true effects of pile burning are.”

Discussing a slow environmental process like erosion often causes conflict because it is not easily seen. Hoping to provide “facts, not opinions,” the Integrated Environmental project is a step towards educated management level environmental decisions.

“There’s a lot of dialogue from people who think they know what’s going to happen,” said Kevin Drake Monitoring Manager for Integrated Environmental. “We’re coming up with a body of data to have dialogue with concrete information.”

Data taken from the post-burn tests is only the beginning of a complicated process.

For entire article, please visit website below.

A Paradox of Nature: Designing rain gardens to be dry

By Kevin Beuttell, Stormwater E-Magazine, October 2008

Despite the proven environmental benefits of rain gardens, many people are reluctant to use them because they can be unattractive. But a close examination of the relationships between hydrology and vegetation in rain gardens suggests a solution for improving their looks and their function. Rather than think of rain gardens primarily as wet environments, we should design them as dry environments that experience only brief wet periods. This shift in thinking increases opportunities for ornamental planting without sacrificing environmental performance.

Rain gardens are one of the most frequently cited and promising strategies for managing stormwater responsibly, and because of the ubiquitous presence of impervious surfaces, these systems can be used on virtually any type of site. Rain gardens come in many forms (and go by many names, such as bioswale, bioretention, and bioinfiltration), but for the purposes of this article, the term “rain garden” is essentially meant to describe a shallow depressional area designed to use the natural capacities of soil and vegetation to retain, cleanse, and infiltrate stormwater.

The Pros of the Rain Garden
Infiltration-based stormwater management strategies, such as rain gardens, are crucial to downstream ecological health. Every parcel of land interacts with water. If water infiltrates, it can be used as a resource to nourish plants and replenish aquifers. When water runs off driveways, roads, and compacted soils, however, it becomes a liability, carrying sediments and pollutants downstream. The USEPA states that nonpoint sources, such as stormwater runoff from an urbanized landscape, are the leading causes of urban stream water-quality problems. To help, many designers are looking toward landscape solutions to water-quality and flooding problems, altering land surface functions to manipulate the way in which the land captures and absorbs stormwater.

Many other stormwater management techniques address only a portion of the problems caused by stormwater runoff. Rain gardens, however, have the potential to solve all the problems of stormwater runoff before they occur. Like other infiltration-based strategies, rain gardens mitigate the hazardous stormwater runoff aspects of development by decreasing peak flows responsible for storm surges and flooding. They reduce pollutant discharges, minimize streambank erosion, replenish groundwater, and restore base flows and aquatic habitats. Rain gardens can also offer real development cost savings by eliminating expensive belowground stormwater infrastructure in favor of combining stormwater management with ornamental landscapes.

Rain gardens can also help with temperature pollution problems. In a completely natural setting, water enters a stream or other water body almost entirely through groundwater that provides steady flows at low temperatures. But when development introduces impervious surfaces, higher temperatures often result as the runoff washes over those warmer surfaces. Higher temperatures, in turn, cause the loss of a diverse system of aquatic biota in receiving streams, ponds, and rivers that are sensitive to the warmer water.

Because of effects like these, traditional urban stormwater management has always viewed water as a burden on the landscape. Water is typically taken away through channels and pipes as quickly as possible to avoid flooding on site. But water and ecological quality can be improved when water is allowed to infiltrate, using it as a resource where it falls.

The (Perceived) Cons of the Rain Garden
Attractive and functional rain gardens are the exception, not the rule. Most rain garden installations do not include those elements that are culturally accepted as beautiful, like lush green lawns, flowering vegetation throughout the growing season, clean lines, and a maintained appearance. As a result, people see these landscapes as cluttered, unkempt, and unmanaged. Perceptions are just as important as environmental performance. If rain gardens are not perceived as attractive, cared-for environments, they will not be adopted during the design phase or managed after installation. Although preferences vary from person to person, a common theme for all is an appearance that communicates care to the viewer.

People design and manage landscapes as a reflection of who they are and how they want to be perceived. Too often, rain gardens planted with water-loving species appear unkempt and abandoned. Individual plants are often stressed and weak, particularly in areas that experience hot and dry summers. The negative perception of their ornamental character is an obstacle to their use in both new and retrofit development projects. Because many rain gardens do not come close to the ornamental quality of more traditional garden landscapes (especially from the perspective of the general public, who may be largely unaware of the environmental benefits), they are not a viable option in visually prominent areas of a site such as in parking lots or at site and building entrances. In high-visibility areas, environmental performance alone is not enough. Because one cannot see the ecological functioning of the root systems, water infiltrating through soil, and wildlife’s benefits from the landscape, it is difficult to include an ecological assessment in our judgment of landscape’s appearance. So rain gardens are not used, or are relegated to areas of the site where their messy appearance will not offend.

For entire article, please visit website.

Advances in Porous Pavement, Different types of materials and continuing research offer more options.

By Tara Hun-Dorris, Stormwater Magazine, March-April 2005

Pavements are an intrinsic, seldom-thought-about part of life, particularly in urban areas. However, for developers, industrial facilities, and municipalities addressing stormwater and associated water-quality guidelines and regulations, pavement stays very much at the forefront of planning issues. “Pavements are the most ubiquitous structures built by man. They occupy twice the area of buildings. Two-thirds of all the rain that falls on potentially impervious surfaces in urban watersheds is falling on pavement,” says Bruce Ferguson, professor and director of the School of Environmental Design at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Porous pavements, designed to allow air and water to pass through, are today just a small fraction of all pavement installations. However, their popularity is steadily increasing on a percentage basis, and they have been installed in all regions of the United States, Ferguson says. “This is potentially the most important development in urban watersheds since the invention of the automobile. The automobile is causing us to build all these pavements and have all these oils that we spill. If we can transfer the environmental function of the pavement, we’ve done two-thirds of the work.”

If used properly, porous pavements can facilitate biodegradation of the oils from cars and trucks, help rainwater infiltrate soil, decrease urban heating, replenish groundwater, allow tree roots to breathe, and reduce total runoff, including the magnitude and frequency of flash flooding. Stormwater, particularly urban runoff and snowmelt, is the wastewater of the 21st century, according to John Sansalone, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge. As reuse becomes more necessary, runoff will eventually be seen as a valuable commodity, he explains. This makes porous pavements, with their potential to revolutionize stormwater management, an important technology for the future.

Ferguson has been studying porous pavements for more than a decade. In his book, Porous Pavements (2005), Ferguson identifies nine categories of porous pavement: decks, open-celled paving grids, open-graded aggregate, open-jointed paving blocks, plastic geocells, porous asphalt, pervious concrete, porous turf, and soft paving.

For entire article, including many success stories from varied climates, please visit website.

Washoe OKs seeking bids for levee along Truckee in Reno

Washoe OKs seeking bids for levee along Truckee in Reno
October 15, 2008

After getting side-tracked this spring, Washoe County commissioners Tuesday approved seeking bids to construct the first major levee for the Truckee River flood control project on Indian land north of the Grand Sierra Resort. Bids sought in May were rejected after re-designs and negotiations continued on a financial agreement among Wal-Mart, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and the flood project.

Earmarked for flood control are $1.72 million in county sales taxes to build the levee that will help prevent flooding of the new store, the Grand Sierra and Reno-Tahoe International Airport. In May, the project was estimated at $5.8 million.

Parr selected as BOR area manager

September 8, 2008

Donald Glaser, Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region, announces the selection of Kenneth Parr as the Area Manager for Reclamation's Lahontan Basin Area Office.

Parr oversees Reclamation facilities throughout northern Nevada and eastern California. His responsibilities include management of the Newlands, Truckee River Storage, Washoe, and Humboldt Projects focusing on a variety of water resources issues.

"With Kenneth's experience and his commitment to working through tough issues with many different groups, stakeholders, and community members, he provides a seamless leadership transition for this area office." said Glaser. "His dedication to seeking fair and equitable solutions for everyone is an asset to both the community and Reclamation."

Since the retirement of Betsy Rieke in June 2008, Parr has been the Acting Area Manager of the Lahontan Basin Area Office in Carson City. Prior to filling that void, Parr had been the office's Deputy Area Manager since August 2006. He joined that office as the Supervisory Natural Resource Specialist in 2002.

His Reclamation career started in 1995 at the Rapid City Field Office in South Dakota. Prior to working for Reclamation, Kenneth worked for Indian Tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Utah, Wyoming, and South Dakota as a Wildlife Biologist from 1980 to 1995. Parr earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Science from Utah State University at Logan in 1980. Kenneth's home town is Enfield, Conn.

End of water wars

North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Editorial.
September 5, 2008

Tomorrow is a historic day in the annuals of Western states water rights.The Truckee River Operating Agreement — in progress for more than 20 years and the result of 100 years of water rights controversy — will be officially signed in a ceremony Saturday morning at Reno’s Wingfield Park.

The Truckee River flows out of Lake Tahoe in California, crosses the Nevada border near Farad, and ends in Pyramid Lake. The river, claimed by California and Nevada, has been used for recreation, water supply, hydroelectric power, irrigation, fish habitat and wetlands,among other uses.

Its water was literally fought over in the 1920s when a drought caused Lake Tahoe to fall below its natural rim. Downstream water users cut a canal into the rim to drain more water, causing angry threats and beginning the legal battles over its water. Through the years, the fight has resulted in several legal decrees establishing usage of the river’s water. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe became involved when the cui-ui fish, its historical food source, became an endangered species.

The 1990 Truckee-Carson-Pyramid Lake Water Rights Settlement Act began the process to come up with a new agreement. Years and years of negotiations, research and meetings resulted in the TROA. Lake Tahoe stakeholders spent endless hours making sure the lake’s particular interests are covered, even to such items as how much water is recovered from snowmaking.

Once enacted, the TROA will replace the 1935 Truckee River Agreement, which has managed the bistate river and established rates of flow, water storage and the conditions under which Lake Tahoe could be pumped.

Now, the decades of controversy and work are culminating in this historic signing. Signing for the mandatory parties are Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Secretary of the Interior; Ronald Tempas, of the U.S. Justice Department; Mike Chrisman, California Secretary of Resources; for Nevada, Alan Biaggi, Director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Mervin Wright Jr. of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; and Mike Carrigan, chair of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

Saturday won’t be the actual end of the process — federal courts in California and Nevada must now approve it. But there is an end in sight for the embattled Truckee River.

The TROA will 1) allocate the waters of the Truckee River, Carson River, and Lake Tahoe basins between California and Nevada; 2) enhance conditions for threatened and endangered fish species; 3) increase drought protection for the Reno-Sparks area; 4) improve river water quality downstream from Sparks; 5) enhance instream flows and recreational opportunities; 6) settle long standing litigation over water rights to the Truckee River; and 7) lift a 1972 moratorium on water rights applications in the affected region.

And, hopefully, cease the battle over water.

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