SPARKS, NV - It will cost $35 million, but the realignment of the North Truckee River Drainage could save billions in the event of a flood. The change will reduce the flood plane in the Sparks industrial area by a foot. It does not seem like a lot, but officials tell us it could make all the difference in the world when the water starts to rise.
During the New Year's Day flood of 1997, the Sparks industrial area was under five to six feet of water. Businesses in this area received $800 million in damage. Right now, the drainage is being adapted so the next big flood will not be as catastrophic.
"We don't have the protection we need; now we are going to build this," said Jay Aldean with the Truckee River Flood Management Agency.
Just downstream from where the drainage currently flows is Steamboat Creek. That much water coming in at one place can cause the levees to overflow.
"The drain backed up because of where it was dumping in... this will prevent that now," said Ron Smith, Flood Project Chairman with the City of Sparks.
On New Year's Day 1997, flood waters covered most of the Sparks industrial area. This new project aims to protect those businesses.
"If they flood there again, we'll lose them all. It will be a billion dollars in damage this time and they won't come back and who is going to blame them," said Smith.
It won't prevent flooding outright, but it aims to reduce the flood plane by a foot, which is significant.
"When you get into an area like this, a foot or a foot and a half is huge," said Sparks Mayor Geno Martini.
For flood prevention, this is a good start. But moving forward, experts say there's still work to be done.
"The drain is just a part of this; the flood project is the rest and we have been trying with the corps of engineers to get it built," said Smith.
The $35 million project stretches about a mile end to end. Its three phases are expected to be completed in the next two and a half years.