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Flood project moves forward at rapid pace
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Feb 18, 2014 | 1252 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- City of Sparks and Washoe County officials toss dirt Tuesday during a groundbreaking ceremony signaling the start of phase one of the North Truckee Drain Realignment project, which will reduce the flood plane by one foot for the Sparks industrial area.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- City of Sparks and Washoe County officials toss dirt Tuesday during a groundbreaking ceremony signaling the start of phase one of the North Truckee Drain Realignment project, which will reduce the flood plane by one foot for the Sparks industrial area.
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The City of Sparks broke ground on a major flood management project Tuesday morning that will help protect its industrial area, a 2,100-acre southern region of the city that plays host to 25,000 jobs, with up to a one-foot flood reduction benefit. The North Truckee Drain Realignment (NTDR) project began phase one, installing about 1,600 linear feet of reinforced concrete blocks for a culvert across Greg Street and within Larkin Circle.

Sparks City Council members, city and county officials and members of Q&D Construction, which is under contract to complete phase one for about $9.1 million, gathered on Larkin Circle for the ceremonial groundbreaking. Sparks City Councilman Ron Smith, who sits on the Truckee River Flood Management Committee, said the money for the project comes from the Sparks Flood Rate fees installed by the City Council nearly five years ago and he added that the region benefits from the NTDR project.

“I have heard people say ‘why do I have to pay for the flood? My house doesn’t flood,’” Smith said. “When we have a flood, it is not Sparks or Reno, it is the region. It impacts everybody. Unfortunately when we do the fees, that is how we have to look at it.

“The truth is that if we have another flood like we did in 1997, the businesses here may not come back. We could lose close to a billion dollars in business in the area if a flood were to come and we did not protect this industrial area.”

Smith said of the 25,000 workers held in the Sparks industrial area, 60 percent of those people do not live in Sparks, providing proof that the NTDR project is a regional effort. The City of Sparks has worked closely with Washoe County, the US Army Corps of Engineers and many stakeholders to ensure the needs of the region are met.

“The project region-wide is really essential because it’s not just about how it affects the industrial area in the City of Sparks. We are talking about 25,000 jobs, and if you have that amount of workers idle, that is a devastating hit to the economy in northern Nevada,” Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung said. “Regionally, we need to come together and make sure that this project gets done. It affects all of us. It doesn’t matter if you live in Washoe Valley or Spanish Springs or Verdi. This is an essential project.”

The Sparks Flood Rate fee of $16.23 per quarter, and funds from the Flood Project Authority, will help fund the full project estimated at about $35 million. Phase two is estimated at $3.5 million and will help link phase one with the Regional Transportation Commission’s SouthEast Connector and many other improvements taking place along the Truckee River to prevent any devastating flood waters.

Andy Echeita, capital projects coordinator at the City of Sparks, said all three phases realign the Sparks Boulevard ditch further down the river, and each phase covers a similar amount of ground, accounting for the funding source over time. Echeita said the project has moved “very fast” and it will be picking up the pace in the near future.

“We have night crews working on redoing the sewer and this operation will turn into a 24-hour operation as soon as next week, just so we can expedite it and try to move everything forward as we go,” he said. “There is no grass growing under anybody’s feet. Q&D (Construction) is phenomenal and we have a lot of experience working with them. They are well geared and well prepared to do a job like this.”

Echeita said residents will be facing traffic controls in the future as Greg Street will tentatively be reduced to one lane, but he said with a little help and public awareness the project will be beneficial to the entire city.

“It’s going to take a little bit of help from everybody and a lot of patience from everybody," Echeita said. "Once it gets set and people get acclimated to what is going on, and when they see the outcome of what we are doing, they will see it is happening fast. It is really fun to watch progress like this.”
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