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North Valleys Get More Flood Barriers In Anticipation of Winter Storms

By Bob Conrad
HESCO barriers still line Lemmon Drive from last winter's storms. Image: Bob Conrad.
HESCO barriers still line Lemmon Drive from last winter's storms. Image: Bob Conrad.

HESCO barriers still line Lemmon Drive from last winter’s storms. Image: Bob Conrad.

Last winter’s flood waters stubbornly remain in parts of the North Valleys. With no outlet, the water has nowhere to go, and evaporation this past summer helped but was not enough to see flood waters significantly recede.

Some residents are still displaced by the flooding.

Washoe County announced at last week’s board of commissioners meeting that, because of this, another investment into HESCO flood barriers to prevent further damage this winter. While some residents in affected areas, such as Lemmon Valley, remain non-plussed by the county’s responses to the flooding, the county is championing its work, which had topped a $4 million price tag.

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey.

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey.

“The county has done a tremendous amount of work in the North Valleys and have provided resources needed,” said Washoe County Commission Chair Bob Lucey. “We realize the HESCO barriers are an inconvenience, but this is not harmful, it has helped attempt to restore a life they once had, based on the current challenges.”

Lucey added that the county continues to try to prevent further problems with berms and barriers.

“We should move forward with the home purchase program with FEMA, which moves individuals into new areas, because this flooding will inevitably happen again, we will continually be challenged with terminal basins in Washoe County,” he explained.

Four miles of the barriers are already surrounding affected areas, as well as water pumping. The county held a community winter-preparation outreach day in November to provide residents with resources.

The following was provided to the county at last week’s meeting.

Winter preparations. Washoe County currently maintains four miles of HESCO flood barriers, water pumps and regularly maintains ditches in the area. Washoe County is spending approximately $70,000 per month maintaining the temporary flood protection measures. In addition, county staff have provided resources and continue to inform residents how to best prepare for the upcoming 2017/18 winter and spring precipitation seasons.

FEMA Grant. To address the longer-term flood impacts, staff has been in discussions with the affected area residents to gauge interest in participating in the FEMA hazard mitigation grant program (HMGP). The FEMA grant could be used to acquire homes that are located within the area impacted by the 2017 Presidentially declared February flood. The grant would allow for the acquisition and demolition or relocation of residential structures to a site outside of the FEMA flood plain and the underlying property would then be converted to a deed-restricted open space. Staff proposed to continue to work with interested residents in this voluntary program to help them complete the application before FEMA’s deadline of February of 2018. Purchase of any home would be voluntary, would require the homeowner to agree to the terms of the program, and is at the approval of FEMA.

Additional HESCO barrier. Staff presented the Commission with a proposal to purchase additional HESCO barrier to maintain flood protections currently in place. Washoe County is working with regional partners to continually monitor the conditions in the North Valleys area. Recent observations show an increase of lake levels over the past month due to rainfall, reduced evaporation rates approaching the fall and winter season, and ground in the region being saturated causing precipitation to run off the ground instead of absorbing into it. In response, Washoe County staff has begun construction work on a new berm at the end of Pompe Way to continue protection efforts. The berm construction will require the removal of a small portion of HESCO barrier on Pompe Way to provide access to the area for this construction. Staff requested up to $300,000 of contingency funds to purchase the additional barrier to connect the new berm and existing HESCO barrier. This new portion of protection will allow those residents on Pompe Way without access to their homes, to potentially move back in, and will assure protections to the remainder of the neighborhood to the west.

The County Commission unanimously approved to move forward with all of the proposed actions, including to continue with the winter preparations currently in place, continue the process to help residents apply for the FEMA grant program for possible purchase of specific residences, and the contingency funds to purchase the additional HESCO barrier to complete the berm construction.


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