Historically dry, Silver Lake threatens flooding

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Historically, Silver Lake has been a dry desert playa, only occasionally holding water. All that changed with the winter of 2017, which saw the lake and other nearby playas fill, flooding nearby neighborhoods.

Two years later, the lake still holds water and is once again threatening to flood adjacent businesses in the Stead industrial area.

The driveway to the Urban Outfitters warehouse may be in the most jeopardy. The long driveway to it has water on both sides. With a few more inches in the lake, a strong wind which happens there often, the water would be over the roadway, cutting off access.

There's a lot of protection already in place to prevent flooding. The shoreline of the lake has been reinforced with rock to guard against erosion of the roadway. And Hesco barriers, now a common sight along all these lakes, are in place in some of the more vulnerable spots.

But the barriers end along the Urban Outfitters driveway. Trucks coming in and out of those businesses are traveling what already amounts to a causeway.

And, in at least one spot, we found the Hesco barrier damaged. looking as if someone ran into it, the sand filling it spilling onto the pavement--a potential weak spot in the protection of the roadway and the buildings beyond.

Elsewhere the drainage channels that cross the industrial area are full, water intruding on some parking lots, held back in some spots with sand bags.

The lake flooded some of these streets in 2017. That's when the barriers and other measures were put in place.

"We've left most of those Hesco barriers in place since the original flooding in 2017 waiting for the water to go down," says Reno's Assistant Public Works Director Bryan Heller. "It never did go down. So we never took the barriers out because one good winter could bring it back. This was that one good winter."

So they are a little ahead of the game, but they are keeping an eye on things. They are planning for protection against a rise of four feet above the current level.

Meanwhile, the city has sandbagged a sewer pumping station nearby. There are plans to build a berm separating the lake from a big drainage channel and extending the Hesco wall beyond Urban Outfitters.

But there's a lot of water in that snowpack up on Peavine Mountain, more on the way this week and spring runoff still ahead of us. So, this situation will bear watching for some time yet.