Truckee River flood project clears Congress, but funding still not certain
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The Truckee Meadows is a bit closer to staving off a potentially devastating flood. On Thursday, the U.S. Senate authorized nearly 300 million dollars for flood control. But the project still has a long way to go.
Ask any long-time Reno resident, and they'll have a story or two about the big flood in the winter of 1997. Take, for example, Jackie Silvera-Sater, who was working at a school in downtown Reno.
"It was amazing to be there and hear that cracking of the glass, that shattering; it was a deafening roar when that river rolled in."
That January, the Truckee River flooded much of the valley-it was the largest on record. And this is why an overhaul of the river's bridges, flood walls and levies is critical.
Jay Aldean heads the Truckee River Flood Management Authority, which is overseeing the project.
"My task is to get this thing funded; figure out a project that we can build, which we've done; get it approved through Congress, which we've now done; and figure out a way to pay for it."
That last step is still up in the air. Even though Congress has just approved this appropriation, Aldean says there are still some potential roadblocks. The President has to sign off on it, and other national projects may have priority. And, even if the money comes through, it will only cover about two thirds of the project's total cost. Because of this uncertainty, Aldean's agency is working to find other sources of revenue. One idea is to implement a flood fee for businesses and residents in the area.
"The elected officials are going to have to vote for this flood fee but it's not going to be an easy an choice. I don't envy them. It's not going to be cheap for this community."
They're just starting to figure out the details with legislators. It could take years before all the money is found, though. Meanwhile, Aldean is keeping his fingers crossed.
"And remember, in the Sierra Nevadas, most big floods come after a drought. I don't want to be a prognosticator of future events, but we're on borrowed time"
The bill now heads to the White House for the President's signature.