Stampede Dam moves step closer to height increase |

Stampede Dam moves step closer to height increase

File photoA look at the Stampede Reservoir dam.

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; A proposal to raise the 239-foot high Stampede Reservoir Dam by 11.5 feet will have no significant impact on the environment surrounding it, officials announced recently.

If the federal Bureau of Reclamation-proposed modifications are completed, the dam and#8212; located about 14 miles northeast of Truckee and#8212; will have increased holding capacity, ensuring it can withstand a 250,000 year flood. Currently, the dam is certified for a 75,000 year flood.

and#8220;We are talking about an event where a heavy rain falls on a maximum snowpack,and#8221; said the Bureau’s Natural Resources Specialist Andrea Meier.

Pineapple Express storms, like the one to which Meier referred, drop rain at high elevations in the winter, melt the snowpack and send the rainfall and snowmelt downstream all at once. They are known meteorological events on the West Coast of North America; the largest, most recent event occurred in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1997.

and#8220;1997 was a big event, but it didn’t cause a dam to fail,and#8221; said Pete Lucero, public affairs officer with the bureau. and#8220;The magnitude of event we are concerned with would cause a failure at Stampede, overwhelm Boca Dam and then run unconstrained into Reno. We estimate the flow would be one million cubic feet per second, and the increase of water depth to be 40-60 feet.and#8221;

Stampede Dam would be raised by building two walls with compacted earth made with materials taken from local sources, said Lucero.

The modifications would be designed only to prevent catastrophic flooding from dam failure and would not allow for an increase of permanent water storage, Meier said, or in any way affect the outcomes of the more frequent events such as 500-year or 1,000-year flood events.

Meier said the project would cost approximately $30 million, a price tag that drew criticism from some residents during the public review process last fall. The bureau countered the criticism by saying the risk, however slight, to lives and property downstream warrants the project’s approval.

and#8220;We don’t know when or if it will happen. That’s not to say it will or won’t happen 249,000 years from now, or if it will happen next year,and#8221; said Lucero.

The and#8220;Finding of No Significant Impactand#8221; declaration allows the project to move forward without a mandate to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, a more extensive planning document often required by the planning process. From here, the project will be referred to the Reclamation Commissioner in Washington, D.C. It will then be reviewed and put before Congress for an approval of funding, Meier said.

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