Gov. Brian Sandoval said Friday he wants to help a battered Mount Charleston neighborhood get the protection it needs to guard against future flooding.
After touring the Rainbow subdivision, Sandoval said he was open to the state assuming liability for a proposed flood diversion project that the county rejected, adding that he needs to visit with federal and Clark County officials about the issue.
His comments were followed by rainfall on the mountain and a flash flood warning issued for the Spring Mountains by the National Weather Service for Friday afternoon. A Nevada Division of Forestry crew was busy filling up sandbags and offering them to Rainbow residents.
County officials in June had rejected an agreement with the U.S. Corps of Engineers for a flood control project because of county concerns about assuming the legal liability for the 1,700-foot earthen berm.
Sandoval said he isn’t sure what the solution is, but stressed action is needed.
“What I want to do is try to get this to an agreement so that we can start getting things fixed,” Sandoval said.
Earlier he met with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The storm that caused the flooding dumped 2.4 inches of rain on Rainbow Canyon on Monday. Homes suffered increased damage because of the lack of vegetation in the aftermath of the Carpenter 1 Fire that decimated nearly 28,000 acres of forest, including areas around Rainbow.
The flood washed out a road and damaged some two dozen properties, leaving lawns covered in rocks and debris and basements coated in mud.
Clark County and federal officials failed to reach an agreement that would have put a flood diversion project in place before the monsoon season started in July.
Angry Rainbow residents have criticized the county for rejecting the project, saying that the flood damage wouldn’t have been as bad if the berm had been built.
Sandoval said the concerns of residents about the unresolved situation are valid.
“They’re frustrated and they should be,” he said.”They’re mad. They should be.”
Sandoval also said he’s concerned about the area’s future risk for flooding.
Storms are in the forecast for this weekend, and U.S. Forest Service officials estimated it could take five to seven years for vegetation to grow back and protect the area from flooding.
“It’s not a matter of if,” Sandoval said of future floods without improvements made. “It’s a matter of when.”
He said the area needs protection to guard against a wider disaster.
“The other thing I’m concerned about is if it does happen again, it will be worse,” Sandoval said.
Rainbow resident Becky Grismanauskas welcomed Sandoval’s arrival as a hopeful sign.
“I think they’re going to help us,” she said. “I do. I believe it. I want to believe it.”
Corps officials have said they were prepared to start building the project in early June and finish it before the July monsoon season started. Corps projects, while built by the federal agency, typically require a local or state agency to sponsor the projects and take on the maintenance and liability.
Corps staff would need to reassess the area before starting the project because Monday’s flood damage might require changes to the design, said Richard Leifield, chief of the engineering division in the agency’s Los Angeles District, which includes Mount Charleston.
Corps staff had planned on completing the project within 30 days starting in June after visiting the area in March.
“We were ready to go,” Leifield said.
The county was willing to to maintain and repair the project during its lifespan of seven to 10 years, but didn’t want to take on the legal liability of the berm.
County officials have left the door open for further negotiations with the corps, despite rejecting the initial agreement.
County officials and management met with Sandoval on Friday afternoon and agreed to talk more early next week, said commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who attended.
“When we’re talking about the liability, that’s an unknown number and the county right now can’t assume that liability,” Sisolak said.
Despite the sticking point, both the state and county want to help the area, Sisolak said.
“We’re trying to keep the dialogue open,” he said.
The National Weather Service has a flash flood watch in effect from noon Saturday through 10 p.m. Sunday. Showers and thunderstorms are likely late Saturday and Sunday, according to the forecast.
The state forestry inmate crew filled up sandbags Friday afternoon, loading them into resident vehicles.
The county provided some 4,000 bags.
“We’re trying to get as many done as possible before it hits again,” said Tommy Lewis, a battalion chief for the NDF.
The 11-person crew will have to clear out once the rain makes it unsafe, he said.
Harder hit residents said sandbags are a futile effort against the force of mountain flooding.
“We’re just vulnerable to the flood,” said Rodney Dukes, who had 1,00-pound boulders land in his yard and 20 inches of mud fill his house. “It’s useless to do that stuff.”
Contact Ben Botkin at email@example.com or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.