On Your Side: Has development triggered more flooding in Lemmon Valley?

The magnitude of the flooding in Lemmon Valley is something we have never seen before. Many residents are demanding answers about what has led to the flooding, and what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future.

One of them is Steve Hilton. He has lived in Lemmon Valley a long time, and he's never seen anything like the flooding that has devastated the area this winter.

What he has seen is a lot of development -- residential, retail and industrial. He and other residents wonder if any of that growth has contributed to the flooding we're now seeing.

"It was all rolling hills through here and it all absorbed water," he told us. "Now it's pavement and building and it no longer absorbs water."

Danny Cleous is another longtime Lemmon Valley resident who agrees with Hilton.

"Everything is paved or concrete, so there's no soaking up the water like it used to be back in the '80s," Cleous told us.

But city and county officials say that as part of the approval process for any project, developers must show they how they will mitigate drainage issues.

A hydrology report for a massive warehouse known as the Logisticenter off of Lemmon Drive and Military Road does show that water drainage could increase more than five times during a heavy rain event, compared to what the drainage was before the project was built.

The numbers in the report jump from 40 cubic feet per second to 212 cfs.

But planners say they took that into account and required the developer to build a giant retention pond to store excess run off on site until the water evaporates. The end result has to be no additional water running into the lake.

"We have development procedures in place where the pre-development flows are the same as the post development flows as far as the amount of water coming off the property," said Dave Solaro, the director of Washoe County's Community Services Department.

City and county officials say their planning policies are in place to protect residents as growth continues in and around Lemmon Valley.

It is a valley which poses unique challenges because nearly all of the water from the basin ends up in at the bottom of the valley, which is Swan Lake.

"It all pours into the lake from one place or another," said Hilton, the longtime resident.

There is some encouraging news to pass along. Washoe County commissioners approved a declaration of emergency Tuesday for Lemmon Valley. They'll have to vote on it again in two weeks, but at that point the county says the declaration could provide additional options for residents seeking assistance in the wake of the recent flooding.

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