A fledgling organization aims to manage the Truckee and its environs
In 2013, an anonymous donor approached Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful and asked the nonprofit to clean up the Truckee River.
“We looked at that, and we said, ’We can use this money to fund more cleanups, but it’s not going to provide any systemic change,’” recalls KTMB executive director Christi Cakiroglu. “What we need to do is look at what we can do to have a clean river long-term.”
The solution, Cakiroglu believes, is a comprehensive management system—a guiding document, of sorts, that spans every city the Truckee flows through and incorporates the huge swath of departments and agencies working to better the river and its environs. The new organization, One Truckee River, is a plan for a plan at this point, but gathering steam.
The project’s stakeholder team includes the Nature Conservancy, which is in the midst of a $25 million initiative to restore the river as a sanctuary for birds and wildlife, provide flood protection, and make more green space and water accessible to the public. Colliers International local director Tim Ruffin has agreed to represent business interests. Former state senator and assembly member Sheila Leslie (an RN&R columnist) is also on the roster, as are police officers, other government employees, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. The team will vote on any decisions the organization makes, said founding member Lynda Nelson.
The three-phase project is currently geared toward the slice of river that cuts through downtown Reno, and could eventually stretch from the state line to Pyramid Lake. Funding is by no means complete—it’s just enough to cover the plan-writing itself—but contributors include the National Park Service, which is offering planning assistance rather than money; the Northern Nevada Water Planning Commission and the Truckee River Fund. Though current funding is only slated for use within Nevada, One Truckee River will coordinate “with all the upper-watershed folks,” Nelson said.
The Truckee is “the gem of our community,” said Nelson, a county parks veteran who’s now a natural resources specialist for the Nevada Land Trust, “but there are so many jurisdictions that play a part in it that the idea behind the One Truckee River is to coordinate those jurisdictions, and say, “Who’s on first? Who’s doing what? And who’s not doing what?’ …There are water-resource people who are monitoring the water quality and the E. coli and the maximum daily sediment load. There are the recreation folks who work on bike trails. There are bits and pieces of everything, but there’s not one plan that puts it all together.”
The Truckee River Operating Agreement handles water flow and storage, for instance, but doesn’t touch issues like tourism or a lack of space at homeless shelters, which Nelson and Cakiroglu say is part of the overall problem. (A contact at Volunteers of America, the group that manages the downtown shelter, didn’t answer an email about this story on short notice).
“I hope there will be a good public education component, because there’s a lot of interesting history and interesting species living here,” said Kelsey McCutcheon Fitzgerald, a team member who runs an online field guide to the Truckee’s plants and animals. “It’s hard to get people to care if they don’t know that.”