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Reno seeks $440 million for ageing storm water system

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 9:44 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - City of Reno Engineers say they want to prevent a disaster before one can happen.

Director of Utility Services Trina Magoon says the City has hundreds of overdue projects and if they’re left unchecked could lead to water flooding in streets, neighborhoods, and homes.

A KOLO 8 News Now investigation reveals three main areas of concern and this report will highlight them.

We started our search in south Reno at Dry Creek on West Huffaker Lane where an undersized box culvert directs water under the road. Its small size forced water to backwash under the concrete structure and erode the soil below.

In 2006, a hollow space about three feet deep and seven feet back from the culvert’s front face was discovered.

In 2013, cracks in the culvert walls were discovered and in July 2021 the problem could no longer be ignored as the hollow space beneath the culvert stretched back 15 feet from the culvert’s face.

“Potentially it could collapse the sidewalk and road above it,” said Director of Utility Services for the City of Reno, Trina Magoon.

City leaders took action and had the open space filled with an injectable foundation foam to provide support until a larger culvert is put in place.

Our investigation led us to a second problem at Virginia Lake where periodic water flow is leading to algae blooms.

”The cause of the algea blooms really has to do with the lack of movement through the lake,” Magoon said.

The proposed fix is to install an underwater diffuser to protect the fish and control the odor and a shoreline wetland filter system to reduce high nutrient levels from entering the lake and feeding the algae in the water.

A third problem was discovered at 4th Street and Stoker Avenue during a July 26, 2021 microburst when water flooded the area, but a project to correct this problem was recently completed.

The City needs to improve the water from this area to a proper drainage site.

These are just a few of hundreds of projects that need to be repaired or constructed to control storm water flow across the City of Reno. A 2019 study reveals Reno needs $440 million in stormwater upgrades and repairs over the next 20 years, but there is no stormwater utility fee.

City leaders take $3.50 from the sewer water fee Reno citizens pay each month for these projects.

Added up, that totals $105 million leaving City leaders looking for the other $335 million.

The proposal is to create a new line item on the sewer bill called the “Stormwater User Fee”.

It would be between $8.50 and $10.50.

This would pay for all the projects. KOLO 8 Evening Anchor Noah Bond asked Magoon why she can’t find the money somewhere else in the budget.

“Much of this infrastructure already exists. It’s aging. We need to maintain it and we do not have enough funding sources to maintain what we do have,” she responded.

Reno’s City Council will make the final decision on this fee increase.

The City of Reno is currently seeking public input on the potential creation of a new stormwater utility. A stormwater utility collects a fee from property owners to maintain or improve stormwater and flood reduction infrastructure. Residents will have another opportunity to get information and provide feedback during a public virtual meeting on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 from noon to 1:30 p.m. Registration details will be available at Reno.gov/StormwaterUtility.

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