Trout Creek: A vision for a new direction |

Trout Creek: A vision for a new direction

Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun Lisa Wallace, executive director of the Truckee River Watershed Council, stands in front of a section of Trout Creek that has been rerouted using rusted scrap metal. The watershed council has met with the town to discuss partnering on the grant application for the town's restoration of the creek.

After over 100 years of abuse, Trout Creek is about to get some love.The creek that has been pushed around to service ice ponds and routed through concrete flumes and culverts to make way for downtown development, will be the beneficiary of several years of restoration work headed by the Town of Truckee. And these plans may soon get a big injection of state funding. Truckee officials, who have already landed $525,000 in grants for the project, plan to request a chunk of the $4.5 million available through the state’s urban streams restoration program. The program is part of the California Department of Water Resources and uses state Proposition 40 money to fund urban stream revitalization that often goes hand in hand with improvements to the surrounding urban area. The actual amount of the town’s request will be known closer to the application deadline.While the synchronization of the creek’s restoration and the development of the railyard location east of downtown is a priority for the town, an even more practical concern drives the restoration – the threat of flooding.The first piece of the puzzle will deal with the flooding problem, as the town builds a bridge just south of where the undersized box culvert currently routes Trout Creek under Donner Pass Road. The project will be completed before the end of next year.

“This phase of construction is not going to solve the flooding problem completely,” said Pat Perkins, senior engineer with the Town of Truckee. “It is going to help.” But that is the easy part. The rest of the project looks at improvements for the creek from its intersection with Interstate 80 to where it pours into the Truckee River. In that stretch the creek runs through ninety-degree-angle concrete diversions, is pushed to the north of the railroad track by rusted, sheet metal sections, and rambles through concrete culverts.The concrete flume that channels the creek from its Jibboom Street crossing past the Catholic church downtown is slated for removal to make way for the creation of a natural stream bed. And the removal of scrap metal that arches the stream north of the railroad tracks is another goal of the revitalization plan. Besides eliminating these “choke points” that could cause flooding, the effort is aimed at enhancing fish habitat. “At this phase it looks feasible to pull the flume out and have natural banks,” said Lisa Wallace, executive director of the Truckee River Watershed Council, which may partner with the town to solicit the state funding. “I would say definitely right now it is everyone’s intention to make a much more natural creek.”In 1997, the swollen creek showed the inadequacies of its concrete confines, flooding buildings, churches, and railroad tracks as it spilled over to seek its original path – through downtown to the Truckee River.”The creek’s been really pushed around and bounced around a lot,” said Perkins.

Development featureAnd it may be moved once more if Holliday Development, owners of the railyard, make way for it through their mixed use development on the railroad property.”We have a whole lot of opportunities of where this creek could go,” said Perkins.The town and Holliday development are exploring the options of making the creek a central feature in the railyard development, while returning it to a more natural and habitat-friendly course.

The creek bed could widen up to 100 feet across at the railroad property, and open up to around 40 feet through downtown.But these efforts are still in the planning stages, and the effort will take a lot of cooperation with property owners that border the creek to allow the creek boundaries to widen, Perkins said.The Railyard development and the urban stream restoration program may fit together perfectly, because the town and the developer are in agreement that the project may become a model for mountain communities throughout the state.”The state believes that this could be a model project for mountain communities,” said Darin Dinsmore, a consultant for Holliday Development, pointing to the $350,000 state grant the development has already secured.Meanwhile, the town and the watershed council believe that Trout Creek program stands a good chance of being awarded state money.”I have looked through the grant application, and we meet all the criteria of the grant,” said Wallace. “If we were to secure $750,000, that would allow us to make significant progress in several of the [sections of the restoration program.]”

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