Virtually all the rainfall runoff that falls in the Las Vegas Valley flows through the Sunrise/Whitney area, so it comes as no surprise that two of the area's biggest stories of 2012 involve washes and channels.
EARLY FALL FLOODS
In August, unusual rain patterns and heavy rainfall contributed to major flooding and death. It brought comparisons to the 1999 flood that took out a large section of the Miracle Mile Mobile Home Park. The flood shut down McCarran International Airport and much of the city for the better part of a day and caused $20 million in public damage.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the storms we had this summer, both Aug. 22 and Sept. 11, were worse (than 1999)," said Gale Fraser, general manager and chief engineer for the Clark County Regional Flood Control District. "I've never seen any storms like that since I've lived here."
In the Aug. 22 storm, 17-year-old William Mootz climbed over a cinder block wall near Stephanie Street and Sunset Road in Henderson to get a closer look at the floodwater and fell in. His body was recovered two days later in Clark County Wetlands Park, near Sam Boyd Stadium.
Maintenance worker Luis Lopez-Solis was repairing damage from the previous storm at the county-owned Desert Rose Golf Course when floods from the second storm hit on Sept. 22. How he ended up in the surging wash is unclear, but his body was recovered two days later near the Clark County Water Reclamation Facility.
The rains caused flooding that turned parking lots into lakes and flooded hundreds of houses that were not included in official flood plain maps. The storms caused $2.6 million in damage to county property.
HOLLYWOOD AQUATIC CENTER OPENS
On March 29, the long-awaited Hollywood Aquatic Center opened at 1550 S. Hollywood Blvd. The center, on the foothills of Frenchman Mountain, offers not only swimming and water play but also a spectacular view of the valley.
The project is one of several that were under construction in 2012 on the east side. Some are set to open in 2013. Residents can look forward to the revamped Sunset Park, the new Clark County Wetlands Park Visitors Center and improvements to the Winchester Cultural Center.
SLOAN CHANNEL TURNING POINT
The ongoing saga of the Sloan Channel reached a major turning point in 2012.
The channel became an issue in June 2011 when the city of North Las Vegas began releasing treated effluent from its newly constructed wastewater facility into the channel. The city contended that it was within its rights to do so, while the county, which owns and maintains the channel, did not. While both sides retained legal counsel, nature came into play. What had been a dry channel that only shunted rainwater away became a constantly flowing river and also the breeding ground for two kinds of small insects that tend to gather in cloud-like swarms.
The resulting insect invasion drove Sunrise residents from their backyards and parks. Clark County Vector Control developed a multi-step program to mitigate the problem. Much of 2012 was spent perfecting it and sorting out a joint maintenance plan with North Las Vegas, while politicians worked out the details of a resolution for the issue.
On Nov. 7, Clark County commissioners and the North Las Vegas City Council unanimously approved a deal to built a five-mile pipeline along the channel to carry the water down from the wastewater treatment facility on the edge of Nellis Air Force Base to the Las Vegas Wash at Desert Rose Golf Course.
The deal will initially cost the city of North Las Vegas $8 million for construction and another $1.5 million for roadway and other improvements, including landscaping originally planned as a buffer between the neighborhood and the facility.
"The first time we heard they were going to put the facility here was when we were invited to a meeting asking us what we wanted the landscaping to look like," said Sunrise-area resident Bob Craddock. "They were just going to put it here, and there was nothing we could do about it."
As it turned out, there was nothing that could be done about it. The facility was built on Nellis property in a deal that promised the base a new $25 million fitness facility and use of some of the effluent to water its golf course. The buffer park was lost in the hue and cry from residents but is now back in the plans.
The deal will also include $7 million from the county that the city of North Las Vegas has a decade to reimburse to the county.
The project will take an estimated 18 months to complete and is still in the early planning stages. It's likely that vector control efforts will become complicated as county experts try to work around construction. Initial plans call for a pipeline running down the channel, with complications added by a few particularly narrow passage areas under bridges.
"I'm just really glad we've worked something out," said Commissioner Tom Collins, whose District B includes much of the Sloan Channel. "It was the people of Sunrise Manor who were suffering, and we needed to bring back their quality of life."
DISTRICT B COMMISSIONER TOM COLLINS IN THE NEWS
Collins made the news in a different way on July 3, when neighbors to his North Las Vegas home reported gunshots. Police arrived at the scene and discovered empty beer cans, a whiskey bottle and bullet holes in a tree and wooden post. Police handcuffed the commissioner, read him his rights and confiscated his .40-caliber handgun but did not arrest him.
According to the police report, he told officers on the scene that he "was mad at his tree, so he took his firearm out of the truck and began to shoot at the tree and a post in his backyard. Collins stopped talking ... and he advised he wanted to take back that statement,"
The charges were later dropped.
Collins later claimed he had only performed his usual celebration for the Fourth of July. The commissioner lives part time on a ranch in rural Clark County.
Neither the July incident nor a bull escaping from his property and injuring a woman in August seemed to adversely affect his re-election campaign, as he won a third and final four-year term in a landslide.
LONNIE HAMMARGREN LOSES POLITICAL BID
Former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren threw his hat back into the political ring in 2012. He lost his bid to return to his previous position on the University of Nevada Board of Regents.
The colorful character, whose home near Flamingo and Sandhill roads is packed to the rafters with his eclectic collection of everything from butterflies to human skulls to full-sized elephant statues, was featured in two reality programs last year. He again opened his home to the public for Nevada Day, expanding it into a two-day event.
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.