Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy said until test results are produced only “theories” can be devised at NDOW, one of which points to the fluctuating temperature and the harsh cold snap in late November and early December.
“In theory, the temperatures were in the low 50s at the Sparks Marina and then suddenly the daytime highs are in the teens and nighttime lows are below zero,” Healy said Friday. “We think that may have cooled the water temperature to about 40 degrees, which is when water is most dense, and without any turnover the oxygen levels below the surface decreased.”
Healy said dissolved oxygen levels on the surface could not reach the lower depths without wind or various storm conditions. Although the weather theory has yet to be confirmed, Healy said NDOW was undoubtedly thrown a “curveball” with the marina’s current situation.
“This is definitely a new one for us,” Healy said. “There is still some mystery to it, but we do feel confident that we are on the right track right now with our weather theory. As we move forward, we really could use a storm or some wind to help turn those surface waters over.”
City of Sparks officials have confirmed that the marina’s waters are safe, which has been the case since the city opened the swimming section of the beach in 2001. Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Domingues said Friday the Kids Fishing Day event, which occurs in the first week of June, has been put on hold but all other marina events are slated to go as planned until further notice.
“We don’t want to overreact,” Domingues said. “We have been told it’s safe so we will continue the programming until we find out more than the facts we already have.”
Domingues stressed ‘the facts’ Friday morning as Parks and Rec. staff were actively drafting statements and fact sheets to ensure the public that the Sparks Marina’s “oxygen problem” would not affect anyone looking to enjoy the park.
“We have provided a designated swimming area at the park for several years,” she said. “We would not jeopardize the public’s safety. We receive monthly reports from TMWRF (Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility) and our permits from the health department saying there are no issues.”
In 2013, more than 350,000 people visited the Sparks Marina, which holds about 1 billion gallons of water that is replenished with between 2 and 3 million gallons of water daily through a naturally occurring aquifer. Domingues said many locals view the marina as “a culprit” and have scrutinized its clarity and water quality, and the city’s Assistant Community Services Director John Martini said the facts are muddled when people forget it’s a natural lake.
“The water quality at the marina is really great, but people forget it’s like a natural lake at valley floor elevation – they expect it to be clear like a swimming pool or Lake Tahoe,” Martini said. “We test the water at the marina on a regular basis (monthly), to make sure it meets or exceeds the EPA’s water-quality standards for recreational use.”
Domingues said she can’t help but feel at a disadvantage because many locals remain locked in the idea that the marina is not up to state standards. Given the number of summer events continually visiting the marina, including the Pro Watercross Tour and the MyWake Global Challenge, Domingues said she finds solace in knowing she can’t convince everybody.
“It is a tough situation until we receive all of the facts from TMWRF,” she said. “The only way I really find comfort during these times is knowing that people’s perceptions are their realities. I can’t change that. All I can do is give them the facts and be consistent in doing so. How they interpret the facts is something I have no control over.
“We have these groups coming here to attempt Guinness World Records at the marina and they all talk about how much they love the venue. They come back year after year and the marina always has so many people down there. It makes it tough to hear that some people don’t trust it.”
Domingues and Healy both expect results of several tests on the marina’s water to come back in about two weeks. For more information or updates on the Sparks Marina, visit cityofsparks.us.