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Flood Management Authority disputes city staff, mayor’s comments about flood project

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The Truckee River Flood Management Authority’s Executive Director, George Robison, said comments made at Wednesday’s Reno City Council meeting about river improvement projects were inaccurate. City of Reno staff member Amy Pennington said the Flood Management Authority is requiring a flood wall along Riverside Drive. 

Robison said that’s not true.

“We want to correct the record on the council meeting,” he told This Is Reno. “First of all, the Truckee River Flood Management Authority has no authority to actually require Reno to build a flood wall, nor were we advocating them to have to build a flood wall. That was another entity that was doing that, and that was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

Pennington’s presentation to the council on Riverside Drive park designs drew comments and questions from the mayor and council members. It is one of three projects the council approved. Pennington did not respond to This Is Reno by the time of publication.

During the meeting, Schieve implied that the city would hold up permits on the flood wall project if it is not involved in its design. But the city is guiding the design, not the flood project, Robison said, adding that the Flood Management Authority’s proposed flood wall design is the least invasive option. 

“It was insinuated that what we were proposing was very invasive to the community and the neighborhood, and the design that we have been looking at most recently is a very minimalist design,” he said. That design is to be in accordance with a legal agreement. 

“We were trying to do … a minimalist approach, and do as little as possible to that area because that area is an area that should not be messed with,” he added.

Pennington told council members, however, that the city wanted to make other changes, such as painting light poles and installing new dark-sky-friendly lights rather than the bulbed lights currently on Riverside Drive.

“We were going to actually try to help the city and fund the city to build a flood wall if they so wanted to.”

“If we’re not involved in that in this time, we could be not at the table and end up with them building something that … takes away all these improvements,” she said. 

Robison said the Flood Management Authority is not doing the construction but is instead funding the project.

“We have been working with city staff on the design for at least a year, so I have no idea why they are talking about wanting to have input when they are basically at the control center,” he said. “We are designing this together. We are working together.”

“We are not trying to independently build a flood wall,” he added. “We were going to actually try to help the city and fund the city to build a flood wall if they so wanted to.”

The city is using federal COVID relief funds for the project designs and has hired a consultant. 

“We have funded part of the design, and another entity has funded part of the design, and that design is in draft form right now, so the city has now just commissioned another design which is much more invasive,” Robison said. The council approved designs that will require more earthmoving. 

The costs for the flood wall, lighting, design and a project next to the National Automobile Museum are expected to be $2.1 million.

Robison said he was perplexed by the discussion.

“I don’t think the city staff informed the electeds properly on what was going on, and so [council members and the mayor] were reacting to, making statements about and voting on something without proper information,” Robison said. 

During Pennington’s presentation, Schieve accused the Flood Management Authority of doing nothing in the community. Schieve said that even if the Flood Management Authority requires a flood wall, she’ll “believe it when she sees it” because the authority “hasn’t done a damn thing.” 

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve.

Schieve, reached on Saturday, said she apologized to Robison for her remarks and is “trying to track down answers.”

“George sent me an email outlining all the work they have accomplished,” she told This Is Reno. “While I apologized for offending him, I reiterated that my remarks were specifically about the levy project, which has been under discussion for almost two decades.”

Robison told This Is Reno the Flood Management Authority has major projects in the works, including a $17 million agreement with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. He said the project would restore the floodplain in east Sparks.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.

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