Down by the river

Truckee River Symposium

Pat Britchel and Tom Scott of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation examine an exhibition poster.

Pat Britchel and Tom Scott of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation examine an exhibition poster.

Photo by Ashley Hennefer

For more information about the Truckee River Symposium, or to help organize the 2013 conference, go to

A river ecosystem encompasses many elements—the soil, the foliage, the water itself and the creatures that dwell within it. But that’s just the tangible portion of its existence. Unseen forces, such as political discourse, fiscal planning, and the innovation of scientists are what ensure its survival.

Researchers, students and other members of the community gathered at the Truckee River Symposium Sept. 27-29 to discuss issues affecting the Truckee River and surrounding areas. The three-day event hosted at the Desert Research Institute is held biannually. With more than 110 in attendance, this year’s conference focused on progress, despite economic and political setbacks.

“We’re talking about a lot of restoration projects,” said Tim Rowe, chairman of the event and a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The poster presentations at the conference hall displayed improvement plans, such as the Derby Dam project, which reconstructed the riverbed to improve water quality for wildlife. Presentations by local and visiting speakers highlighted current and upcoming restoration ideas, and speeches were also given about increasing community outreach and implementing new technology into existing programs.

While the majority of attendees were working scientists, students were also encouraged to attend. Several were present at this year’s conference.

“It’s good for the students to see options for future jobs, and it’s also good for the organizations to see students,” Rowe said.

Professionals from the various environmental fields of study also found the conference thought-provoking.

“I’m always looking to expand my thought process,” said first-time attendee Cliff Lawson from the Environmental Protection Agency in Carson City. Lawson works primarily in water pollution control permitting and was among 12 members from the EPA who participated in the conference. While not all of the presentations were on water pollution specifically, Lawson said that they all raised relevant points and new perspectives.

“Most things having to do with water have to go through our office,” he said. “It was good to hear new thoughts.”

The majority of attendees were associated with local organizations or agencies like DRI and USGS, but scholars traveled from as far as Virginia and Tennessee.

“It’s great to bring locals and those around the country,” Rowe said. “It’s an opportunity to coordinate and collaborate. Researchers have a chance to share their data.”

Because policy and economic support is vital to infrastructure, restoration and conservation projects, Rowe said the planning committee invited political figures. The response was minimal.

“So much of what we plan to do relies on politics, so we would like more political types here,” he said.

The budget restraints in California and Nevada make it difficult for projects to happen soon after the conference concludes, but Rowe is optimistic about the symposium’s role as a facilitated collaboration effort.

“It does plant the seeds for the future,” said Rowe. “We’re here to figure out how to work together.”