New funding is in store for a parched Virginia Lake
Call it dry humor. As of April 17, Virginia Lake is “Virginia Pond,” says the city’s public works director, John Flansberg.
This means the beloved but environmentally contentious man-made lake—which flowed through June last year and through fall in many wetter years—is now so drought-stricken that its new circulation system wouldn’t even work if it were to be installed right away (“Algae blues,” Feb. 26 RN&R). Construction could start as soon as fall, but the project plan still isn’t a done deal, financially or otherwise.
As of press time, a $500,000 allocation had just been proposed for the lake, with the Reno City Council set to discuss the money on April 29.
“This is actually part of a $10 million fund identification … that needs to be allocated this fiscal year,” city spokeswoman Barbara DiCianno explained last week, “so Council talked about the different types of uses, and Virginia Lake was one of them.”
Flansberg said if the funding comes through, some of it will go toward the circulation improvements, which would also be partially covered by nearby builder Silverwing Development.
More plans are also on the table, including ones for a dog park that’s become a pet project—pun intended—for Councilmember Naomi Duerr and her constituents. Another idea involves using the lake’s stagnant “nutrient load,” which is a pretty word for bird shit, as fertilizer. With the help of a new sand filter, Flansberg said, the droppings could nourish surrounding plants.
“There’s a lot of different possibilities we could look at to manage the water quality out there,” Flansberg said, “but first and foremost, the concern is public health and safety.”
Long before Virginia Lake achieved pond status, its environmental state sparked debate. The area’s many avian residents inspired the term “pit of poop” at a public meeting last fall, for one, and local Audubon Society members and others entreated city staff not to harm or remove its small island, which is home to many bird species. Their droppings increase the likelihood of toxic blue-green algae, but poorly circulating water is at least as harmful.
“People really enjoy the opportunity to photograph the birds when they’re nesting, when they’re hatching,” Flansberg said. “It’s not a linear, one-thing park; it’s a lot of things to a lot of people, and we’re just trying to accommodate its many uses.”
A scientific panel is studying the issue in the meantime.
When it comes to biological solutions for the lake, “we need to trust the people who really are in the know to make the choice,” said Reno resident Scott Reimers, who grew up visiting the landmark, brings his own children to it, and has pondered the benefits of pollutants-turned-fertilizers, among other things. “We need to stop acting like we know better than the experts. Politicians are not experts.”