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Class-action suit accuses Reno of causing flood damage

June 18, 2019

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A class-action lawsuit accuses the city of Reno of causing flood damage to dozens of homes and property north of town in Lemmon Valley.

A trial began last week in the suit, filed in 2017, claiming the city pumped, diverted or discharged excess storm water into the normally dry bed of Swan Lake, which overflowed during the winter of 2016-17.

It says the flood was exacerbated by unchecked development in the area, where street paving eliminated ground that normally would have absorbed rainfall and snowmelt, permanently changing the drainage system surrounding Swan Lake.

The city maintains the homeowners were the victims of an unforeseen natural disaster.

Assistant City Attorney Jonathan Shipman also argued that residents it was a flood-prone area.

Fifty-six co-plaintiffs have signed onto the class-action lawsuit seeking potentially millions of dollars.

The Reno Gazette Journal cited documents in a series of stories last year that suggested the city knew Swan Lake would likely flood and ignored suggestions to build flood mitigation projects alongside new development in Lemmon Valley.

After another record winter in 2018-19 the water in Swan Lake began to rise again, surpassing the high-water mark set during the 2017 floods and re-inundating properties that had dried out.

David Westhoff, a hydrologist, testified last week that he reviewed a storm water study conducted in 2007 that showed that development in the area would increase the amount of runoff that made its way to Swan Lake.

The city counters that the 2007 study didn’t provide any specific examples of developments and their impacts on flooding. It says the city has an agreement with the state to dump water from the Reno-Stead Reclamation Facility into Swan Lake.

It also says if it didn’t pump water from Silver Lake in nearby Cold Springs to Swan Lake, Silver Lake would have been contaminated with sewage.

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