Trout Creek flood highlights restoration plans
Flooding last weekend in downtown Truckee highlighted the need to “fix” Trout Creek – a waterway that has been cemented, redirected and channeled over the last 150 years – once and for all.The worst flooding occurs where Trout Creek passes under Donner Pass Road near Assumption Catholic Church. During heavy flows, the undersized box culvert that carries the water under the road backs up, flooding the upstream area. The heavy flow of the past weekend’s rains soaked parts of the Catholic church and the Tahoe Truckee Mortuary, both of which sit in the low ground just upstream from the intersection. While no estimate could yet be given for the damage to the church, it was expected that it would take a month to repair completely. In November of 2004 the Town of Truckee was finishing plans to repair the downtown section of Trout Creek. At that time, town staff believed the project would be completed by the end of 2005.”I can’t say honestly that the town has done a lot on the ground, yet” Mayor Beth Ingalls said. “What we’ve done is lots of planning.”
The project was delayed until the town secured a $300,000 grant from the Department of Water Resources. Pat Perkins, the town’s senior civil engineer who is running the project, said plans for the section of creek are nearly complete and that construction should begin by this summer. The culvert will be replaced with a natural bank that will increase the cross-section of the waterway. A bridge will then be built over the creek, Perkins said. The project is the first part of the town’s program to restore the 6,600 feet of Trout Creek between Bridge Street and its confluence with the Truckee River. “Upstream from the culvert the creek banks have been hardened with cement while downstream the creek is pinched by development,” said Lisa Wallace, executive director of the Truckee River Watershed Council. Wallace said other restoration phases upstream and downstream of the culvert could begin in 2007. Flood control and creek restoration have been, “an A-plus priority for the town,” Ingalls said.
She said that the Department of Water Resources grant calls for the town to handle the creek restoration in a comprehensive fashion, not just by solving specific problems. Meanwhile, the railyard development – south of Glenshire Drive – is offering the town and Holliday Development a blank canvas to handle Trout Creek flooding before a new neighborhood is build alongside the creek. Currently, though, the creek pinches against the balloon track, making it difficult to increase the creek’s cross-section. Holliday Development and the town are drafting plans that will move the balloon track east. The creek will be deepened and realigned through the middle of where the balloon track currently sits, Perkins said. Flooding is not the only thing the proposed project hopes to change about the creek. Darin Dinsmore, spokesman for Holliday Development, said he believes that the project, when built, will turn the creek into more of a “people place.”
“Currently, there is not a lot of access to the creek,” he said, “there are lots of landowners right up next to it.”Holliday will use several thousand feet of creek frontage that runs through his property to open the stream up to the public, Dinsmore said. “The issue is trying to balance water conveyance with aquatic resources and cultural resources,” he said. Plans for the creek design will be finished this year, and a public meeting will follow their completion. Dinsmore said construction could begin in 2008.Thanks to the cooperation between the town and Holliday Development, Wallace said the restoration of Trout Creek will be a reality.”It’s one of the great aspects of redevelopment,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to correct the flooding problems.”