Gov. Sandoval Tours Fallon's New Emergency Spillway
Fallon is a town that relies on water for its economy, and they have plenty of it, this year. Lake Lahontan holds 300,000 acre feet of water. 101,000 acre feet have already been released from the reservoir to make room for inflow, which could exceed 500,000 acre feet of spring runoff.
The first two months of 2017 brought too much of a good thing. Fallon is a town that relies on water for its economy, and they have plenty of it, this year. Lake Lahontan holds 300,000 acre feet of water. 101,000 acre feet have already been released from the reservoir to make room for inflow, which could exceed 500,000 acre feet of spring runoff.
"Essentially, they're going to have to empty Lahontan twice to be able to accommodate the water," Governor Brian Sandoval said.
Draining so much water is possible because of the V Line Emergency Spillway, which allows water to drain into the desert, away from Fallon. The $600,000 spillway opened in mid-March, after less than two weeks of construction. Sandoval got a first-hand look at the flood prevention project, Friday.
"It makes me proud and it shows that public service and the government can come together to protect everybody," Sandoval said.
Planning started in February, after Lake Lahontan's volume increased by 60,000 acre feet in six days. Multiple agencies knew they had to act quickly or Fallon would face potential flooding. The project was completed just one month later.
"It's an incredible feat in the climate of regulation and all of those kinds of things but truly something done on an emergency basis," Rusty Jardine, District Manager of Truckee-Carson Irrigation District said.
"I just feel like we did it the way we do in Fallon," Pete Olsen, Churchill County Commission Chairman said. "People see what needed to be done and everybody saw the danger. The town was in peril. The city of Fallon potentially could've been flooded and the risk was great and the need for speed was there and we moved with all the speed we could."
Water has to flow out of the dam at 2,800 cubic feet per second. About one-third of that flows through the spillway. Without it, the reservoir could spill over the dam and the Carson River could overflow into homes and property in Fallon.
"We have to be able to put this water out and create space in Lahontan to do so and protect ourselves against that sustained runoff," Jardine said.
Sandoval says several local, state and federal agencies worked together with a sense of urgency to protect people's safety and property.
"We don't want to wait until somebody loses a house or the community gets flooded," Sandoval said. "So, I'm pleased with what's happening out here and it's going to send the water to a place where it'll be safe."
The water will spread out in the desert, flowing southeast towards Highway 95, about 15 miles away. The Nevada Department of Transportation installed a total of 12 culverts, in four sections, in a 2.5 mile stretch of the highway to accommodate the water. The total cost was $1.3 million.
"Had NDOT not done that, the highway could've been closed for weeks, if not months," Sandoval said.
Water will eventually flow under the highway, into Carson Lake. Another section of culverts will also be installed on Highway 50, allowing water to cross that road as it makes its way to the Carson Sink.
Olsen says everything that could be done to prevent flooding in Fallon has been done, with no stones left unturned. The rest is up to Mother Nature. While the spillway could solve the situation, the threat of flood could persist throughout the summer.
"This is a four or five month rolling crisis, emergency, where we never know from week to week. We're watching the weather," Olsen said.