Funding Truckee Flood Project: It will be up to voters

Published: Mar. 29, 2018 at 6:29 PM PDT
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The Truckee has taught us some hard lessons in recent years. Given the right conditions--usually a warm storm hitting a big snowpack--it can cause great harm.

It's also taught us calling something a 100-year flood doesn't mean we can relax for the next century. In 1950, '55, 1997 and 2005, it showed what it can do.

We also learned each flood's impact could not be measured simply in terms of flow rates. Each time there's been more to damage and the bill has gone up accordingly. As our community grows we're putting more at risk.

In the wake of the '97 flood, the Truckee River Flood Management Authority was launched and from it--a flood prevention project.

Some of it has already been done; the Virginia Street bridge--a major issue in past floods-- has been replaced.

Land along the river has been bought to serve as a flood plain to take the power out of the river as it moves through the valley, but much more remains to be done. The price tag is about $400 million in today's dollars.

After enabling legislation was passed, a committee was set up to recommend a funding mechanism.

That recommendation has been sent to the county--a property tax increase adding about two and a half cents per $100 assessed valuation. That comes out to less than $9 a year to the tax bill on a new $100 thousand home--if such a thing were to exist.

The tax increase would be countywide, meaning those far from the Truckee's banks would be asked to pay. Authority Executive Director Jay Aldean says alternative funding sources such as a special improvement district just wouldn't work.

"The property owners would walk away from it. Those areas would be dead. The cities of Reno and Sparks would have to come up with new tax issues would come from."

That's a question that may come up again as the needs committee set up by the legislation turns its attention to drainage problems far from the Truckee in areas like Lemmon Valley. Those wouldn't be addressed by this ballot measure.