Sparks residents who live near the Marina may have received some unwanted mail today. The city sent out a letter to all homeowners and developers who reside near the Sparks Marina...that letter suggests they might want to invest in some costly flood insurance.
The area isn't currently a flood plain, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, may designate it one, if the city of Sparks doesn't take action.
The Marina was once nothing more than an empty sandpit. The New Year's Flood of 1997 brought the Truckee River's waters under Interstate 80, filling the pit up, and making it what it is today. Historically, anytime the Truckee flooded, water would back up in the Sparks industrial area, and travel under the Interstate.
"Starting in 2,000, the city worked with developers to remove that area from the flood plain. It involved blocking off storm drains under I-80 so water couldn't flow back through anymore," said Neil Krutz of Sparks Citywork
In July of 2005, FEMA took the area off the flood plain list. As a result, development near the Sparks Marina blossomed. In came 59 new single-family houses, 240 apartment homes, and dozens of commercial additions that are still in the works. Now two years later, in wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is back pedaling.
"There were a lot of people there who thought they were safe and though the facilities around them would keep them safe. They found out that they weren't."
Therefore, FEMA gave Sparks city officials 90 days to revisit their flood protection plan...or else, the Sparks Marina will revert to being a flood plain.
"We are working with NDOT to go through the certification process to demonstrate to FEMA again that that area North of 80 and West of Sparks Blvd will stay dry during a flood," said Krutz.
The City must convince FEMA that Interstate 80 can act as a levee if the Truckee spills over in the future.
"We have a pretty high level of confidence that it will. The facilities were constructed in 2004, certified by FEMA in 2005, and tested with the New year's flood in 2006. It functioned well during that event."
For the time being, FEMA has recommended all business and homeowners in this former flood plain near the Sparks Marina, purchase flood insurance.
We spoke with developer of the Harbour Cove houseing development, who says it's not going to be cheap.
He paid for flood insurance on the development when it was still being built, and homes were being insured at that point for anywhere between 300 and 15,000 dollars a year, depending on their elevation.
The city will be holding several community meetings to help resolve some concerns from homeowners. They will be held on June 11th and 18th at 6:00 p.m. at 1701 East Prater Way in Sparks.