By Kayla Anderson
The City of Sparks celebrated the completion of the years-long North Truckee Drain Realignment Project last Thursday. This $40 million project, consisting of a series of underground culverts to send water from the North Truckee Drain to the Truckee River was designed and constructed to ensure that flood waters reduce the impact it causes to lower lying properties.
The project was first discussed in the early 2000’s and then the City took a closer look at it in 2008 after the North Truckee Drain Alternatives Analysis came out stating that Sparks ranked the highest in flood insurance payouts in state of Nevada. Realignment of the Truckee River drain is expected to minimize flooding in heavy storm periods- especially in the city’s industrial area.
Sparks residents and businesses funded more than 90 percent of the project through a $5 increase their sewage bill (residents were charged quarterly and commercial businesses charged monthly). The Truckee River Flood Authority also gave an additional $4.75 million. The multi-phase project broke ground in February 2014, designed by HDR and built by Q&D Construction.
Past city council members and the city manager along with current city council members, Senator Julia Ratti, and Mayor Geno Martini all came together to celebrate the completion of the project.
“People who’ve been around since the beginning and wanted to see it through showed up,” says City of Sparks Community Relations Manager Julie Duewel. “We have all spent hundreds of millions of dollars mitigating floods in the last several years and the industrial area gets hit the hardest. We are all thrilled to have this in place,” she adds.
City of Sparks Utilities Manager Andy Hummel took over the engineering design and construction management of the project about 10 years ago. He helped secure funding and for the last five years has been working with property owners to get easements.
“Sparks is the drain of the bathtub so to speak, everything flows naturally here,” Hummel says.
With the new drain alignment in place, Sparks residents should see at least a foot less of water during flood incidents. He says that the most challenging part of the project was the property acquisition and communicating the changes to residents that would be most impacted by the project in Phase 1.
Phase 1 and 2 were built at the same time due to a bid coming in lower than anticipated. It kick started the project earlier than expected and the first two phases were built in 2013-14. In late 2016 construction of the project was awarded to Q&D Construction.
Although the drain realignment project took a while, Hummel says that he enjoyed the challenge. “It’s not something a whole lot of people get to do in their lifetime,” he says of managing the project. However, Sparks should now see lesser damage in heavy storm periods whish should save money and time in the long run.
“We’re better prepared in these flood events. We’ll be able to get people back to work faster,” he says. With the new drain alignment, less water pooling into Sparks will allow businesses- especially in the industrial area- to get up and running faster after a storm.