Progress Finally Happening for Flood Control - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Progress Finally Happening for Flood Control

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When it rains, and rains hard, the industrial area of east Sparks is the area Jay Aldean worries about most. The home to hundreds of businesses stretching out to the airport is usually the first to flood. It's just the lay of the land: low-lying flat land, the bottom of the valley, with little drainage alongside a sometimes raging Truckee River that collects storm water and brings it all there.

Aldean, who's executive director of the Truckee River Flood Management Authority, pointed out the mass of rooftops east of Greg Street and south of I-80, calling it, "The lowest point in the valley, and when a whole bunch of water, a big storm comes down, it accumulates here." Sparks City Manager Shaun Carey added, "and it can't go down the drain in Sparks, and so it backs up. And when it backs up, it fills an acre of land every 3 seconds."

He's seen it happen time and time again, and you certainly don't have to go back far to read the stories. Just a little over a year ago, streets there were closed and thousands of sandbags placed. On New Years' Eve 2005, the water flooded 900 properties there. Roads were closed and covered with floating sewage. And there was the terrible scene in 1997. Carey remembers it as "a 117-year flood, the biggest one on record. If you were standing here on that day the water would be up to your necktie."

City Councilman Ed Lawson had a business in east Sparks, hit hard by floods: "We lost a lot of trucks. We lost a lot of equipment in the building. You know, the losses were certainly in the millions."

In 1997, the Truckee Meadows was totally submerged. The floodwaters in '97 came up to over 6 feet high. Some companies in east Sparks were flooded out…some were driven out of business. Engineers were hired to come up with a solution. Finally, the long-awaited construction began…today (Tuesday) was the groundbreaking of the North Truckee Drain Project. Flood Management Authority Director Jay Aldean calls it, "A re-alignment project, to move the storm water discharge into the Truckee River further downstream in Steamboat, so we don't have as many losses here."

Losses here in east Sparks, mean a loss of business and jobs. The huge culvert they're now building just east of Greg Street will give future floodwaters an escape channel. Aldean thinks this $43 million project for Sparks will go a long way in protecting the city's industrial area. He says the drain project alone will reduce flooding by just a foot… but that is one important foot. Councilman Lawson told me, "My shop would've only had 2 and a half feet of water in it. Now we're talking a little better, so when we get the rest of the flood project done, maybe there will be no water."

That's the goal, but there's more work ahead: a levee and a flood wall near the Indian Colony, and a new Virginia Street bridge for downtown Reno...altogether carrying a grand total of $446 million.

-written by John Potter

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