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County Authorizes Funds to Improve Conditions at Swan Lake (Subscriber Content)


Overlooking the flooded Swan Lake. Image: Bob Conrad

Washoe County commissioners on Tuesday approved $2.5 million to reduce storm and floodwater impacts and remove water from Swan Lake. Funds will be used to continue operation and maintenance of existing barrier and pumping systems, pay for aeration systems that will remove water, pay for potential enhancements if the area experiences another wet winter, and begin studies for long-term options.

Although natural evaporation takes place, above-normal precipitation during the 2018-19 water year caused levels to rebound to one foot above levels at the same time as last year, according to a county staff report submitted to commissioners.

Swan Lake flooding through the years. Source: Washoe County

Swan Lake is currently about 1 1/2 feet below its highest recorded level in 2017 and more than 4 feet below the top of the current protection level.

“While the existing barrier systems currently and safely provides substantial protections, it is recognized that significant additional protection efforts would likely be required should lake levels rise above an elevation of 4,926 (feet above sea level),” the report said.

“If we see another year like this past year, the projection would be that the water would be up somewhere close to 4,926,” said Dwayne Smith, county director of engineering and capital projects. “I’m not concerned that the protections we have in place won’t work. I’m very confident in those.

“But I will tell you it will cost a lot of response, a lot of monitoring and a lot of people because it’s our commitment to the public to make sure we’re containing the lake within the lake.”

Smith said he expects work to begin in mid October because water levels then are typically lowest.

Long term mitigation efforts are also in progress. Washoe County is working with a consultant to affirm the methodologies used for the current federal flood plain elevations of Swan and Silver lakes and updating the flood insurance rate map for Swan Lake.

Swan Lake graphic: Washoe County.
Swan Lake graphic: Washoe County.
Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.