The Nature Conservancy and Q&D Construction launched a massive excavation project on a 2/3-mile stretch of the Truckee River between Tracy Reach and 102 Ranch along the Truckee River near Sparks last week.
Q&D Construction began the process of moving around 300,000 tons of dirt and rocks in an attempt to reconnect the river with its natural floodplain and help mitigate the risk of damaging water overflows. Along with the excavation, Q&D Construction will build gravel bars to enhance the habitat and provide clean, healthy water for wildlife and people as well as improve the quality of the river’s flow for wetland and native plants.
Q&D Construction is completing this excavation with two excavators, four large dump trucks holding up to 40 tons, a bulldozer, grader, and water trucks for dust control.
According to a 2006-2010 study from the Department of Interior Economic Impact, the Truckee River Restoration Project has contributed $5.7 million to the local economy, created 37 jobs, and $2.7 million in labor income each year. During the excavation project, Q&D Construction will carve out available recreation space for kayakers, anglers, hikers, and birdwatchers.
The Truckee River once had hundreds of native fish and bird species, but over the last 100 years erosion and other factors caused the waterway to lose 90 percent of its forest, 70 percent of the area’s bird population, and native fish species disappeared too.
The Nature Conservancy’s Mickey Hazelwood said that in early 1960s Reno-Sparks development, sections of the Truckee River were straightened and widened in a well-intended but unsuccessful attempt at flood management. Instead, the river destabilized and began to incise itself into the landscape, driving the water table deeper into the ground. As nourishing floods became less frequent, native plant roots and riparian forest lost its water source and died. These failed efforts also caused bird species to dissipate instream habitats to be reduced. Without the essential tree canopy along the river, water temperatures increased which led to a decline in fishing.
The Nature Conservancy is working with federal, state, local agencies, and non-profit organizations to help with this restoration project’s success. Funding has been provided by partners such as: the US Bureau of Reclamation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Department of Wildlife, the cities of Reno and Sparks, Washoe County, Truckee River Flood Management Authority, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and more.
“The project will reconnect the river to its historic floodplain by excavating large volumes of soil to lower the floodplain to elevations closer to the currently incised river, constructing swales and overflow channels that will activate during spring flows, and creating point bars and riffles in the channel to improve instream habitat and restore some of the dynamic forces in the active river,” says Hazelwood.
“These actions/features serve to restore ecosystem function and create conditions that support native plant species. Those species will then be reintroduced through active revegetation (plantings) and passive revegetation (natural recruitment that only occurs when the proper conditions exist),” he added.
Over the last decade, The Nature Conservancy and partners have worked to restore almost 11 miles of the Truckee. This multi-year project is an important step in revitalizing the area, making it a great place to live, play and recreate once again.