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OPINION: County Commissioners Neglect Needs of Lemmon Valley Residents


By Stephen Wolgast, candidate for Washoe County Commission district 2

We see irresponsible, destructive development all over the county. But nowhere more obviously egregious than Lemmon Valley.

All the elements come together here: misleading engineering reports, out-of-state developers, non-compliance with the master plans, and arbitrary judgement. You need look no further than the RGJ article “Reno knew Lemmon Valley would flood” to grasp the scope of the malfeasance.

Lemmon Valley is a closed basin: water escapes only by evaporation, and the deep rock is largely impenetrable.

Stephen Wolgast, candidate for district 2.

Swan Lake covers the lowest portion and acts as a catch basin. Flooding occurs when too much water enters Swan Lake causing it to flood the properties of nearby residents. The water comes from two sources: storm-water runoff from the slopes around the basin, and waste water from a water treatment plant that pumps effluent into Swan Lake.

So, new developments pose a dual flood threat. Paving for roads and foundations for homes are impervious to rain and drainage so that the covered soil does not absorb and retain water. This increases rain runoff.

The new homes are on city water which is pumped in and leaves the homes in sewer lines to the water treatment plant and then into Swan Lake. Note that the 50-year old water treatment plant is below the water line and protected by dirt berms and storm pumps.

The most recent scandal centers around a development called Lemmon Valley Heights (watch the video above) which will be built at the base of the slopes near Lemmon Valley Drive and Deodar.

Parts of it will have 1/10 acre lots in an area planned for 1-acre lots. This high density means that roughly 63% of the ground will be impervious where it is now completely open. More problematic is the estimated 62 acre-feet of waste water that the 206 new homes will supply to the treatment plant. This is the equivalent of a 100-yearr rainstorm.

So, the plan is to deliver effluent into the flood basin at a rate equivalent to a record storm averaged out over a year. The effect of the effluent on flooding does not appear in the hydrology report ordered by the developer.

The developer is offering a form of mitigation, catch basins, as part of the development. These are likely to be ineffective. In the local geology, once a basin is full it remains full except for evaporation. So, if the developer adds 73 acre-feet of catch basins these will be 84% filled by a 100-year storm.

A second, smaller storm in the same season might be 23 acre-feet which would cause 10 acre-feet to overflow.

These points were all made in the appeal made to the county commission on April 24. The county’s legal counsel, Assistant District Attorney Paul Lipparelli, suggested that the appellants (Lemmon Valley Recovery Committee) did not have legal standing since their properties were more than 500 feet from the new development.

This is true, they are on the other side of the lake, but they suffer the flooding no matter where the water source is located.

In the end, Commissioner Bob Lucey proposed a motion that the appellants did not have legal standing since they were more than 500 feet away. Further, he said “they were not aggrieved in any manner, way, shape, or form.”


His motion carried: Lucey,  Marsha Berkbigler, and Kitty Jung voted “for” and Herman “opposed” the measure.

The county commission as composed does not faithfully represent the interests of residents, homeowners, or taxpayers.

Vote for change in November.

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