The Truckee River Flood Management Project (Flood Project) is designed to provide a variety of public safety, economic, recreational, and environmental benefits to the Truckee Meadows region.
The Truckee River Flood Management Project (Flood Project) is designed to provide a variety of public safety, economic, recreational, and environmental benefits to the Truckee Meadows region. Its primary goal is to create a more resilient community by reducing flood damage resulting from large flood events, such as the flood that occurred in 1997. Additionally, the Flood Project incorporates certain recreational and ecosystem restoration features within the footprint of the flood protection infrastructure.
The Truckee River Flood Management Authority (TRFMA) hopes to achieve these goals by:
- Building levees, wide berms, and floodwalls to protect businesses
- Excavating floodplain terraces to improve floodwater storage and conveyance
- Restoring ecosystem functions and creating habitat for native species
- Acquiring and protecting flood-prone lands from development
- Relocating businesses and elevating homes out of the floodplain
- Enhancing recreational access and amenities along the river
- Replacing bridges to increase river channel capacity
| Project Benefits
There is a great need for flood protection in the Truckee Meadows because approximately every 10 years, the Truckee River overflows its banks, causing damage to residences, businesses, and infrastructure. Significant flooding occurred most recently in 1986, 1997 (the flood of record), and 2005. In 2017, high flows almost overtopped the riverbanks. The TRFMA members (Washoe County, City of Reno, and City of Sparks) have determined that the Flood Project provides significant benefits to the community by:
- Preventing the loss of life and property
- Avoiding adverse economic impacts due to the disruption of commerce, transportation, communication, and other essential services
- Safeguarding the public health
- Improving water quality
- Providing opportunities to create habitat for native species and enhance recreational access and amenities along the Truckee River
Once completed, the Flood Project will reduce flood damages from a 100-year event throughout the Truckee Meadows – economic benefits have been estimated at $2 billion.
| Project Elements
The Flood Project has evolved over decades of study, consideration, and community involvement. The current plan represents the outcomes of countless meetings, community input, and local and federal planning. The Flood Project extends approximately 33 miles along the Truckee River, from downtown Reno (near Jones Street) to the town of Wadsworth, Nevada (near Pyramid Lake). Major elements of the Flood Project are summarized below, grouped according to project reach. Detailed information is available in the Flood Project Map Book (draft, May 2023).
- Downtown & West Reno Reach: The Truckee River upstream of the
I-580 Bridge is characterized by a series of existing bridges, floodwalls, and berms crossing and confining the river channel. Flood Project elements in this reach consist mostly of proposed bridge replacements and demolitions, and include elements of floodwalls, levees, and bank protection.
- The Meadows Reach: This reach extends from I-580 downstream to Vista Narrows just east of Sparks. Floods in this reach cause major damage; flood protection measures in this reach will provide significant economic benefits to the region. Flood Project elements in this reach include levees, floodwalls, berms, floodplain terraces, bank stabilization, and riparian restoration.
- The Downstream Reach: This reach extends from Vista Narrows to downstream of Wadsworth. Flood Project elements in this reach consist of ecosystem restoration and mitigation of downstream impacts.
| Investment in Ecosystem Restoration
TRFMA has partnered with The Nature Conservancy and numerous other local, state, and federal agencies and non-profit organizations to restore the lower Truckee River ecosystem (from Vista to Pyramid Lake). To date, the partners have invested more than $28 million to create more than 450 acres of habitat and restore more than 8 miles of the lower Truckee River. An estimated 216 jobs were created as a result of this work (full-time equivalents).
The agency has contributed about $2.1 million in sales tax funds for land acquisition, planning, and construction. In addition, TRFMA contributed $4.775 million in grant funds to implement ecosystem restoration projects via Assembly Bill No. 5 (AB-5), passed by the Nevada State Legislature in 2007. This investment may result in significant returns for TRFMA. The ecosystem restoration work could potentially satisfy a portion of the environmental mitigation required to obtain permits and construct the Flood Project.
If you would like to learn more about our Truckee River ecosystem restoration projects please follow the link.
| Funding Sources
Funding for TRFMA and the Flood Project comes from a 1/8-cent infrastructure sales tax authorized by NRS Chapter 377B (Tax for Infrastructure) and imposed by Washoe County in December 1998 under Ordinance 1048 (Washoe County Code 20.914). The initial Infrastructure Tax Plan was adopted by the Washoe County Commission in 1998 for the financing of a regional emergency dispatch facility, a public safety training facility, and the Flood Project.
TRFMA is committed to building a cost-effective flood project to benefit the community. The current project is designed to provide 100-year level of flood protection for the Truckee Meadows (thereby maintaining compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program). The latest Flood Project designs prioritize building levees and wide berms rather than floodwalls, which are more expensive to build and challenging to maintain. TRFMA is using its existing sales tax funds to build the Flood Project locally, without federal assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).
Over the years, TRFMA pursued federal funding from the Corps to offset the cost of the Flood Project. In 2014, Congress authorized the National Economic Development (NED) Plan recommended by the Corps, which was designed to provide 50-year flood protection to the community. This plan has been rejected by TRFMA and local decision makers because the level of flood protection provided is not sufficient to alleviate regional flooding concerns. Implementation of the NED Plan would lead to flooding in south Reno, and the cost of required mitigation exceeds the federal funds authorized for construction. The NED remains authorized but at this time there is no clear path for collaboration.
There was also an attempt made by the Nevada Legislature to increase funding levels using a combination of fees and new taxes; however, the proposed Washoe County ballot initiative was defeated in November 2018.
The large scale and detailed scope of the Flood Project requires a phased construction approach. Work is ongoing and some elements have already been completed. The following is a general phasing schedule for Flood Project implementation:
- Vista Narrows Floodplain Terracing Project (currently in permitting phase) Planned Construction: 2024 – 2025 followed by 3-year vegetation establishment period
- Wadsworth Bridge Mitigation Project (currently in design/permitting phase) Construction: 2023 or 2024
- Meadows Reach Design Phase: Fall 2024 – 2025
- Grand Sierra Resort Berm & Levee Construction: 2024 – 2025
- Reno-Tahoe International Airport Berm & Terracing Construction:
2024 – 2025
- Truckee Meadows Water Authority Levee Construction: 2026
- Additional Levee Construction, North Bank Glendale Ave to
Rock Blvd: 2026
- Construction of Mill/McCarran Levees, Terracing, Channel & Riparian Restoration: 2027 – 2028
- North Bank Levee and Floodwall Construction – McCarran Blvd to Vista Blvd: 2029 – 2030
Note: Construction of Downtown & West Reno Flood Project elements will be prioritized based on future opportunities to partner with other entities and leverage funding.