Clark County, North Las Vegas tangle over plans for constant flow along Sloan Channel

From the edge of Nellis Air Force Base to the Las Vegas Wash, Sloan Channel is about 4½ miles of mostly dry concrete channel. If the city of North Las Vegas and Clark County can come to terms, that channel, which is 60 feet wide in places, will have a constant flow of effluent running down it, a stream of processed water 2 to 6 inches deep.

That depth is North Las Vegas’ projection based on initial estimates of an output of 18 million gallons per day from its new Water Reclamation Facility, which is scheduled to begin operating in May. The facility is designed to release as many as 25 million gallons per day.

Area residents haven’t been enthusiastic in support of the plan.

“They keep saying they don’t anticipate there being any odor,” said former Nevada Assemblyman Bob Craddock, who lives down the street from the channel and has lived in the neighborhood since 1961. “What they’re not saying is that there won’t be an odor. They’re not making guarantees or providing any options if there is a problem.”

Several North Las Vegas officials pointed out that the quality of the water to flow in the channel would be better than the water that flows through it when it serves its original intended purpose, channeling storm water. Rain runoff typically includes chemicals from lawns and automotive fluids that wash in from the street as well as animal feces and residue from anything else that might be lying in the streets and gutters.

“The water from the plant should be safe ; that’s not the issue,” said Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, whose District E includes a portion of the Sloan Channel. “It’s a matter of public disclosure and discussion.”

The channel predates the creation of the Regional Flood Control Commission, formed a quarter century ago. Longtime residents can recall storms that brought the waters near the top of the 6- to 8-foot-deep channel, but it has never overflowed its banks. The Range Wash Confluence Detention Basin, which the flood commission built on Nellis Air Force Base, makes an overflow a highly unlikely event.

“Our concern is not the flow rate impacting the capacity of the channel,” said Gale Fraser, general manager of the Clark County Regional Flood Control District. “A study was commissioned which showed this would have no significant impact on capacity. Our concern is the long-term maintenance of the channel when you have water flowing down it 24/7.”

Fraser explained that any repairs or general upkeep on the channel made after the water treatment facility is operational would require the district to move the water around the repairs via sandbagging, pumping or piping.

“It sounds to me like they’re just going to let them pump the water in,” Craddock said. “The County Commission has a long history of ignoring the problems in this part of town. That’s a real shame, because I love Nevada and it’s been very good to my family and me. But we’re just ignored out here.”

Initial plans for the North Las Vegas Water Reclamation Facility included two possible routes for the effluent, but the second route had to be scuttled when the Clean Water Coalition project it would have piggybacked was dropped. That left North Las Vegas with no Plan B.

Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins worries about safety.

“Kid s play in that channel. They ride their bikes in there,” Collins said . “A fence isn’t going to stop them.”

The channel is fenced off from the public, with signs forbidding trespassing posted prominently, but a recent visit to the area revealed dozens of places to access the channel. On that same visit several people along and in the wash said they were unaware that its dry days might be numbered.

“No way!” said one teenage boy who was strolling up the wash at mid day on a school day. “When is that supposed to happen?”

Residents living along the wash and people working with horses at a corral adjacent to the wash expressed a similar unfamiliarity with the plan.

The effluent would likely enter the channel just north of the corner of Carey Avenue and Sloan Lane and run due south. Currently this area, near the Robert E. “Bob” Price Recreation Center, is one of the most porous sections of the channel fencing. Sloan Lane follows the channel south until Lake Mead Boulevard. Fifty-year-old mobile homes line the other bank.

This is typical of the channel, which is paralleled by sections of Sloan Lane much of the way, with apartments, single-family homes and manufactured housing along either side. In many places a cement block wall separates the neighborhoods from the channel. In other sections, a chain link fence affords a view of the vast ribbon of concrete.

“During a 100-year flood, 2,400 cubic feet per second can flow down the channel near the North Las Vegas treatment plant, and that increases to 4,500 cubic feet by the time it joins the Las Vegas Wash,” Fraser said. “If you need a visual, a cubic foot is like a basketball in a box. … 2,400 of those would go by every second.”

As with all of the valley’s dry washes, a certain amount of trash and organic matter is strewn along the channel. Tumbleweeds are crushed against bridge abutments, and there isn’t a place in the channel where broken glass can’t be seen.

Around Linden Avenue, the first of several near-constantly running streams flows into the channel. The stream of water continues from this point on, beginning as a trickle and ending as a 10- to 12-foot-wide stream about a half-inch deep where it joins the Las Vegas Wash, not far upstream of the city and county water reclamation facilities. Ducks can be seen there, and there is deep green underwater plant life in the shallow stream.

At a March 19 public meeting at Martin Luther King Elementary School, 2260 Betty Lane, residents told tales of criminals using the wash as an escape route. The channel is a frequent target of graffiti. Some seemed dubious of the city’s claim that the water wouldn’t present an odor problem or attract insects. Most were upset about the lack of public input to the process. Many had heard about the plan only when they learned that the county commission rejected their permit to discharge the effluent.

“It’s poor planning,” Giunchigliani said. “They should have resolved this issue before the plant was built. Now they’re in debt and have the taxpayers on the hook. They’ve got a $280 million bond issue for the construction that they’ve got to pay off.”

While it seems likely that the effluent will end up flowing down the Sloan Channel once the city of North Las Vegas and the county come to an agreement regarding the annual cost the city needs to pay the county for the upkeep of the channel, there is at least one other option.

“They built a plant they didn’t need because they wanted their own instead of continuing with the interlocal agreement with the city of Las Vegas,” Giunchigliani said. “If we can’t resolve the issue, I’m sure they could go back to that agreement and work it out with the city.”

Contact Sunrise and Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 380-4532.

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