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 damages resulting from a large flood event such as what happened in 1997. Additionally, the Flood Project incorporates certain recreational and ecosystem restoration features within the footprint of the flood protection infrastructure.
To learn more about each element of the project open the tabs below.
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 damages resulting from large flood events. 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 and homes
- 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
The current Flood Project Plan has evolved over decades of study, consideration, and community involvement. The current flood project plan represents the outcomes of countless meetings, community input and local and federal planning. At this time, 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 Plan are described below, grouped according to project reach (upstream to downstream). The Project can be divided into three river reaches along the Truckee River:
- Downtown Reno Reach: This reach extends from Jones Street to US 395. Activities in this reach are dominated by proposed bridge replacements and demolitions but also include elements of floodwalls, levees, and bank protection. The Virginia Street Bridge replacement is one large project that has already been done in part using Flood Project funds.
- The Meadows Reach: This reach extends from US 395 to Vista Narrows just east of Sparks. The activities in this reach are dominated by levee, berm, and floodwall projects along with miles of terracing and considerable bank protection. Most of the economic damage from floods and economic benefit from protection occurs in this reach as well as the highest costs to design and build. The North Truckee Drain in Sparks and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Levee in Reno are two completed projects along this reach that were completed partially using Flood Project funds. Considerable investments were also made to purchase flood prone land to prevent future development and to use it for future levee, recreational and floodplain restoration work. This reach is the location of the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) National Economic Development (NED) Plan as well as TRFMA’s Locally Preferred plan with the Corps.
- The Downstream Reach: This reach extends from Vista Narrows past Wadsworth. Several (5) floodplain restoration projects have already been done on this reach, partially funded by Flood Project funds. Future projects may involve protecting a limited number of properties from slightly greater flooding caused by the project in the Reno area as well as possible future channel or floodplain restoration projects.
The current project is projected without US Army Corps of Engineers participation thus several elements have been modified and streamlined especially within the Meadows Reach compared with past plans. The goals and flood protection remain the same between this plan and what is currently projected to be built. The difference is in the “means” more levees and wide berms and less floodwalls to reduce costs and improve environmental and aesthetic value. To understand the differences, compare the past Flood Protection Plan of 2016 (download plan) to the current plan.
TRFMA recently prepared several fact sheets highlighting project elements (updated in 2020 & 2021):
- Vista Narrows Floodplain Terracing Project Fact Sheet
- Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Levee Flood Wall Fact Sheet
- TRFMA Ecosystem Restoration Projects Fact Sheet
Additional fact sheets for the Truckee Meadows, Booth Street Bridge, Home Elevation, and other key project elements are currently being developed.
Project Cost / Financing
The Flood Project and TRFMA are currently funded by 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.
- 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
TRFMA is committed to building a cost-effective flood project to benefit the community. In response to local concerns regarding the overall cost and scope of the Living River Plan (which at one time was estimated to cost $1.6 billion), TRFMA worked with its consultants and numerous stakeholders to revise the plan, significantly reducing the cost while still providing a 100-year level of flood protection for the Truckee Meadows (thereby maintaining compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program).
Through a series of meetings in 2012 and 2013—including an in-depth “value engineering” exercise, the overall cost was reduced to just $446 million. This represents roughly 72% in cost savings to the communities of Reno, Sparks and Washoe County.
In 2017 and 2018 there was an attempt to increase funding levels using a combination of fees and new taxes. The Truckee River Flood Control Project Needs Committee was formed by the Nevada Legislature AB 375. Ballot initiative Washoe County 1 – proposed an increase in property taxes and possible establishment of fees but was defeated in November 2018.
In addition, the US Army Corps of Engineers rejected what was called the “Local Rate Plan” or “Locally Preferred Plan” in the fall of 2019. The Local Rate Plan had a federal match that could have accounted for up to $161 million additional dollars. The Corps’ own “National Economic Development (NED) Plan” for the reach developed in 2013 and authorized in 2014, that has a match of $161 million, has been rejected by both TRFMA and local decision makers because it leads to flooding in South Reno and adds mitigation costs well in excess of the match they provide.
At this point in time TRFMA is streamlining the project to implement it with existing 1/8-cent sales tax funds. These cost-cutting efforts include moving away from using floodwalls to using levees and wide berms. These efforts at value engineering and cost-cutting have made significant cost savings. At this time the latest iteration of the Meadows Portion of the Plan is estimated to cost even less than the 2013 plan (which was estimated at $446 million).
In 2017, Assembly Bill 375 (AB-375) was introduced during the 79th (2017) Session of the Nevada Legislature. The proposed legislation conceivably allowed “the imposition of certain taxes in a county to fund flood management projects of a flood management authority based on the recommendations of a flood control project needs committee and voter approval.” The ensuing WC-1 ballot initiative of 2018 failed. Since then, there have been no recent legislative efforts.
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—less than 8% of the overall cost of restoration project implementation. 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 relatively small 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.
Click here to find out more about our Truckee River ecosystem restoration projects.
TRFMA continues to support restoration efforts and working to better incorporate both in stream and floodplain restoration into its plans as it moves forward on the Flood Project.
As noted above, TRFMA has worked diligently with the Corps to implement the Flood Project. From 2009 to 2011, the Living River Plan was presented to the Corps as the Locally Preferred Plan (LPP) alternative for flood risk management. Unfortunately, due to recent federal budgetary constraints, the Living River Plan was not recommended by the Corps for Congressional authorization.
However, as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014), Congress authorized and pledged approximately $161 million in federal funds to construct the Corps National Economic Development (NED) Plan, which is designed to provide 50-year flood protection for the Truckee Meadows.
With the help of its lobbyists and delegates, TRFMA was able to draft a special piece of legislation to benefit the Truckee Meadows. Section 1036 of WRRDA 2014 directs the Corps to build a Locally Preferred Plan that provides a higher level of flood protection than the authorized NED Plan as long as the LPP meets certain Corps requirements. As noted, this LRP or LPP as it has been called was rejected by the Corps in 2019. TRFMA and local decision makers have rejected the NED Plan because it causes south Reno flooding, and the cost of additional mitigation is greater than the federal share offered. Because of these issues, until further notice, TRFMA is currently using its existing local funds to build the project without Corps assistance. The project remains authorized but there is no clear path for collaboration and match funding at this time.
Click the links below or visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers online to view key project documents related to the Truckee Meadows Flood Control Project, Nevada.
TRFMA YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQuBZ8Mk73rI0y8KuhDNoIw
Several new models are being developed for the Truckee Meadows and downriver. These models are often presented to the TRFMA Technical Advisory Committee and the Community Working Group and the schedule of meetings can be found here.
Other Local Efforts
TRFMA is a voting member of the Northern Nevada Water Planning Commission (NNWPC), a technical advisory group that develops and periodically updates a Comprehensive Regional Water Management Plan for adoption by the Western Regional Water Commission.
TRFMA is also a key partner in the Nevada Flood Awareness campaign, which is intended to “create flood resilient communities in Nevada that encourage the protection of life, property, water quality, environmental values and the preservation of natural floodplain functions.”