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Dry Creek Gets Dry Run in Flood Control Partnership.

Dry Creek in southeast Reno hasn't lived up to its name. Lying within a watershed area, the creek traverses under Virginia Street -- a main arterial for the city's 170,000 residents. Although Reno lies in a high desert climate at 4,300 feet, when waters do rise, flooding is severe.

"When Virginia Street floods, nearly 20,000 cars are impacted," says Bob Gottsacker, engineering manager for the City of Reno's Community Development Department.

With historic watershed problems and outdated flood plain maps, the city initiated a new study of the area which lies in a prime partially-developed section of south Reno. In 1994, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reviewed several studies and determined that Dry Creek should be reclassified from a "B" zone to an undefined "A" or higher regulatory zone. The result -- any potential development in the sprawling area south of Reno came to a halt.

Enter Trammell Crow Company, one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the country, which was under contract to purchase 52 undeveloped acre parcels in 1997. Portions of that acreage adversely affected Dry Creek.

To remove the Dry Creek properties from the flood zone, rite city required channel improvements to keep potential flooding at bay The challenge to the contractor was to persuade all the adjacent property owners to voluntarily agree to create a special assessment district (SAD) to finance needed flood control improvements.

"The easiest way to improve Dry Creek was through a SAD," says Gary Stockhoff, City of Reno Deputy Director for Public Works. "The improvements would not only benefit the 27 owners within that district, but also the surrounding businesses along Virginia Street that are impacted by Dry Creek's flooding."

While the flood and storm drain improvements were listed on the city's Capital Improvement Project list, realizing construction for Dry Creek was light years away.

Alone, Trammell Crow would literally be up a creek in trying to finance channel improvements. At an estimated $5.5 million for construction and landscaping, the project was simply cost-prohibitive. With the SAD in place, however, costs would be spread equitably among all property owners, with the added bonus of being able to once again build on land that the resulting FEMA "A" zone designation had rendered "unbuildable."

To initiate a SAD, they would need to obtain 100 percent participation among all Dry Creek property owners, a Herculean task that they approached the old-fashioned way They sat down with each property owner over coffee at their kitchen table. Less than six months later, they had 80 percent agreement among the owners, enough to bring the SAD before City Council.

Along with Public Works Director Steve Varela, Stockhoff presented the SAD in November, 1998.

Council recognized that the project would benefit not only property owners, but the city as well. They agreed to cover the rests of applicable assessments for properties that had already been developed as well as right-of-way costs associated with the new channel section. The city's contribution to the project would be nearly 20 percent of estimated project costs, or roughly $1,060,000. With the sale of 20-year bonds by the city, property owners of the 104 acres of undeveloped property would amortize the costs by paying roughly $3,860 per acre per year.

Once the application was approved and the proposed Flood Insurance Rate Maps were reviewed by FEMA, construction began in March 2000.

"It was nothing but pasture," says City of Reno Assistant Civil Engineer and Dry Creek Project Manager Charla Honey "With more than six acres of goo and overgrown vegetation that didn't function properly to hold water, the water went everywhere. Channel improvements will make a huge impact on the surrounding area."

To make Dry Creek work, construction included widening the channel by expanding it to 180 feet, along with landscaping and an asphalt path for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Construction also increased the capacity of the drainage structures under Virginia St. while creating a flume which perpetuated an existing irrigation ditch.

What was once unused property susceptible to flooding and restricted from development will soon be a landscaped area, open to the public and maintained by the property owners.

"Dry Creek has a measurable economic benefit to the city and adjacent property owners," says Brent Davis of Trammell Crow. "In addition, it's removed the threat of flooding from that area and consequently improved the safety of adjacent owners and businesses."

According to Gottsacker, the Dry Creek area will easily attract potential commercial businesses.

"The land value will go up dramatically thanks to the improvement," he says. "A hotel is currently permitted and ready to go. The remaining acreage will develop quickly."

"Dry Creek can be viewed as a model partnership because it addresses a known problem area through public and private resources. As funding sources become more competitive and harder to find, the use of such partnerships will become an increasingly viable funding option.

Details: Contact Brent Davis, Trammeel Crowe Company at 775-356-6181; Gary Stockhoff, City of Reno Public Works Department at 775-334-3830 or Gail Conners, City of Reno Community Relations Dept. at 775-326-6315.

Gail Conners is the Public Communication Coordinator for the City of Reno.
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Author:Conners, Gail
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U8NV
Date:Sep 4, 2000
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