Floods in early 2005 in Clover Creek virtually cut off the Caliente Youth Center from the rest of the community, necessitating having to evacuate the facility by helicopter. Since that time, what to do to replace the culverts that are in the land bridge leading over to the Youth Center has been discussed numerous times.

At the County Commission meeting July 1, Coleen Shade of R.O. Anderson Engineering in South Lake Tahoe, said her company has been contacted by the Nevada Department of Public Works, “to prepare an environmental document so the bridge project can be shovel ready, and be able to apply for implementation funds from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) this fall.”

A 30-day scoping period closed July 5.

Shade said the needed work on the road to the Youth Center has been brought up as “a focus project for the state of Nevada, and also has the attention of the Governor.”

She said the proposed project now being analyzed is to replace the culverts with a 90-foot long span with the footage outside of the floodway. In addition, a very large grade control structure that would go 20-feet into the streambed, and armoring the banks above and below the stream bed, in order to control the water pattern flow.

Because of the need for FEMA funding, Shade said it is required to go through the National Environmental Policy Act process. “This document will be an environmental assessment to identify the reasonable range of alternatives.”

Questions must be asked about what kind of impacts will there be if nothing is done, if only the existing culverts are replaced, or if a completely new bridge is constructed?

Shade said, “This is a good way to go about it, because when you apply for funds for implementation, you have justification for doing other than nothing, and you can look to meeting the goals you are trying to accomplish with the project.”

She explained the goals are to eliminate access flooding, to increase public safety, improve stream hydraulics by improving stream dynamics, reduce or eliminate flood hazards to critical infrastructure, i.e., the power company substation on the banks above, plus sewer, water and phone lines nearby, and reduce the fact of after the flood cleanup.

FEMA is the lead agency for the project, Shade said, “and they are the ones that will review, coordinate with all the other federal, state, county and local agencies that might have various issues with the project, then give approval to certify the completed document.”

Donna Meyers, FEMA Region IX Environmental Officer in Oakland, Calif., is the person expected to give the final notice of certification.

The general purpose of the environmental document is to consider alternatives to have something to compare with, evaluate the issues and impacts that have been identified through the scoping process, and if need be, identify the mitigations that need to be put in place.

Commissioner Kevin Phillips, former Mayor of Caliente at the time of the floods, said a clear span bridge “is the only long term solution.” He said, “That would get the wash to scour itself and stop the siltation buildup. The design could cause the channel to clean itself out, without impediments such as culverts and other things, and let the natural system take itself back down to the natural state and not be impeded upon.”

Joe Phillips with Sunrise Engineering, the city’s consulting engineering firm, said something else that is needed in addition to the bridge is, “Rip Rap, an armor from about 200 feet before the bridge and swing around all the way under the highway bridge (U.S. 93) and we can turn it loose into the channel where is has a straight shot, that would be able to provide unimpeded flow for the 100-year flood through that section of channel.”

Shade said R.O. Anderson hopes to have the final environmental document “signed off on late this fall (October or November), just in time to submit an application for grant funding in the next round.”