North Shore watershed dangers (Opinion) |

North Shore watershed dangers (Opinion)

Steve Dolan / Guest column
Steve Dolan

I may be Chicken Little, but I’m not saying, “The sky is falling,” it fell. 

Dangerously high waters will be at Incline Creek, Third Creek, and Wood Creek through spring and early summer; normal stream flows may not return until fall. In 2017, Woodcreek came within inches of breaching its banks at the Centerpoint building. I suspect, since there’s more water in this snowpack, Centerpoint is going to be challenged again this year. 

For big water events, west of the Village Green sports fields, Third Creek has a distribution network sculpted into the landscape. That network worked in 2017, although somewhat destroying the US Corps of Engineer’s downstream work. If things get really high, both Third Creek and Incline Creek are designed to spill into the Village Green Sports fields. Currently, the Incline Creek marsh below the lower field is full and thus it’s not working to filter water, so all of the poop and pee on these fields will be headed straight into the lake via both bordering creeks. This water should be avoided by man and beast.

Another big problem for the North Shore, as mentioned above, is that in 2017 the infrastructure from the Corps of Engineers rebuild of Third Creek at Village Green did fail. Logs the size of telephone poles headed down the creek; one of which we removed in 2020. However, there are several more that were never dealt with. And because it was not addressed at that time, which I recommended, the rest of that infrastructure, which is structurally codependent, is again vulnerable — now too are our boaters.

Boaters should be aware that we have large tree trunk rounds, limbs, and telephone poles headed towards the lake. There’s a term sailors have for these flooding conditions; it’s, “Watch for a Deadman,” which is a saturated log, one end sinks before the other so that the log bobs vertically straight up and down and will go below for a minute and then come up through the bottom of your boat. Boaters, this year in particular, should be looking for those “Deadman” logs, spring and summer.

The condition up-mountain on all three streams is such that there have been many ice and snow dams created. They are currently allowing under flow, however, with the melt and subsequent release of all the limbs that have been broken off, damning will be exacerbated until critical mass, then they will spontaneously release. In 2017, we experienced this several times down at the NDOW Rainbow Trout fish study at Third Creek, in Incline Beach Park, and at Incline Creek, Ski Beach Park. Those logs are not small, they come down and they slam you in the back. 

You probably shouldn’t be in the water anytime until the end of July. Twice, that rush of water took out the fencing at Lakeshore and Third Creek. Fortunately, (IVGID general manager) Indra Windquest, with the parks department people, have preemptively reconfigured that fence, so we may avoid that this year. That’s not to say there won’t be more random damning at culverts in different areas. Still, downstream, those surges of water can take out entire trees when the stream, becoming a river, gets into the root systems as it did in 2017. Those trees may be coming down as well. 

Our trickling streams will become rivers by June 1, so please be careful and don’t even think about fishing them, which is illegal anyway. The fish don’t like these conditions either.

Spend your summer time up-mountain, and hopefully enjoy the Super Bloom that may happen, as it did when the flowers thanked the gift of water from the 2017 winter.

Steve Dolan has lived full time in Incline Village for 31 years and has been studying Incline watershed and creeks for nine years.

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