Pipeline Project Expected to Reduce Swan Lake Floodwater

Image: Bob Conrad.

New fields of alfalfa may take root in the near future north of the Reno-Stead Airport. Officials yesterday approved a plan to pipe Swan Lake water about four miles to create new agricultural fields in the North Valleys.

The land is vacant and is used as a buffer zone between residences and the Reno Air Races.

The pipeline was approved to reduce the perpetually flooded Swan Lake. The project is expected to reduce Swan Lake by 6,000-acre-feet within three to five years, according to Reno Public Works Director John Flansberg, who provided a rough estimate of the timeline.

“Due to three above-average water years … the lakes continue to have elevated water levels which result in surrounding properties being more susceptible to flooding with subsequent wet winters,” according to city staff.

“It’s past time to take action.”

The water will be treated because the lake is allowed a certain level of effluent from the Reno-Stead water treatment plant, which has been surrounded by floodwaters. Officials said that the treated effluent would be similar to what is used to irrigate area golf courses.

A resident brought in jars of gross, muddy water to show the county and city officials what Swan Lake looks like.

“I’d like to see anyone go jump in the water,” Denise Ross said. “After you do, I will.”

Flansberg urged action on the item as one of a range of possible solutions for Swan Lake’s flooding problems.

The project a government partnership. Washoe County owns the land, the airport is needed to grant permission to use the land, but the City of Reno needs the property to pipe the effluent.

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Reno Public Works Director John Flansberg. Image: Bob Conrad.

Flansberg said that the city would hire consultants to assist with the project. The pipeline project is expected to cost up to $3 million. Reno approved $3 million to pay for the pipeline.

Washoe County commissioners approved $2.5 million from the sales of water rights to fund future projects such as cordoning the lake, possible home buyouts, and other approaches to address flood issues in Lemmon Valley.

The county has spent more than $7 million the county has spent on trying to manage floodwaters.

Despite what may be a solution to the flooded Swan Lake in Lemmon Valley, some residents are opposed to the project. They said the pipeline would continue to support development in the North Valleys.

Naomi Duerr
Councilmember
Naomi Duerr.

The decision comes on the heels of the Reno City Council refusing a moratorium on development in Lemmon Valley. Instead, the council approved a set of measures that will reduce stormwater runoff, increase the sewer plant’s capacity — with no additional water added to the lake — and reduce Swan Lake water levels.

“We did not adopt a building moratorium … as that did not seem to be the best path to getting action on the critical items to either restore Swan Lake or restore people to their lives,” Councilmember Naomi Duerr said. “I do appreciate the moratorium discussion as it put a spotlight on the North Valleys’ issues and let residents in the larger community know how important these issues are. It’s past time to take action.”

Residents sued the city over the flooding and recently prevailed in court. Reno City Attorney Karl Hall, however, urged the council to appeal the ruling.

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CORRECTION: The $2.5 million from Washoe County will not be used for the city’s pipeline, as originally reported. It will be used for future improvements in Lemmon Valley. The city is funding the $3 million for the pipeline.

“The $2.5M are county funds from an October 2016 water rights sale, that has been earmarked for specific Washoe County flood-mitigation measures, that will be presented on August 27 to our Board of County Commissioners,” said county spokesperson Amy Ventetoulo.

Bob Conrad
About Bob Conrad 1123 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.