We’ve bragged about it enough on social media, but in case you haven’t heard, we had our First Annual One Truckee River Stakeholder Forum on September 30, 2015.
The forum, held from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the McKinley Arts & Culture Center, saw around 120 attendees from different organizations and businesses in Northern Nevada. Those 120 were broken up prior to the forum into nine different issues groups: Social, education, water quality, funding, stewardship, ecosystem, public safety, recreation and quality of life.
Once each person was settled at his or her issue table, name tag on and a plate full of breakfast food, the forum began. From Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful’s Christi Cakiroglu and her welcome to team introductions, the agenda also wound through a couple different slideshows to set the foundation of the forum’s subject: the Truckee River.
Lunch was generously provided by Reno Provisions and Pub n’ Sub.
The last hour consisted of team captains presenting their issue team’s main talking points and solutions to the entire group.
Here is a summary of what was said (we apologize in advance for the rough quality. We were typing quickly!):
- Social, Sheila Leslie (captain): Strong reaction to the list of issues. If we take care of the people living on the river, the problem of camping will be diminished. Overriding issues – illegal camping connected with mental health and social abuse. There are a lot of resources in the community related to housing and recovery – the program needs to be expanded. Discussion about storage and pets. Storage means things that need to be rid of permanently (dumping), but also personal belongings that aren’t allowed in the shelter. Bins are needed. More housing options for people to live with their pets and their stuff.
- Education, Jaime Souza (captain): Great experts at the table. Tricky to narrow down the issues, it comes down to engagement. We have to engage diverse audiences in our communities (cross cultures, youth and adult communities). Coordinating educational programs is a big challenge. Discuss simplicity of a message that shares all the stakeholder values – like Tahoe’s “Take Care Tahoe” that encourages people to care about resources. Coordination of resources, time, money, equipment, supplies; make it easy for teachers in schools. We need to coordinate with formal and informal educators to reach diverse audiences. Hope education inspires greater stewardship of the river and watershed.
- Water Quality, John Enloe (captain): Problem with water quality is water quality and pollution. It was hard to stay out of the weeds. Agree with the education table – there really is a lack of will and lack of understanding to make the Truckee River a priority. Fix the social issues (homelessness/encampments), fix the other issues from there. Source control and education getting a commitment and developing an understanding of WQ issues. We have lots of data, we’re good at monitoring, but what are we doing? Not analyzing and attacking the sources of pollution.
- Ecosystem, Mickey Hazelwood (captain): Biggest issue is actually ecosystem function. A properly functioning river provides benefits for wildlife, but ecosystem benefits – water quality, quantity, use. Streamlined prioritized list of restoration projects. Environmental community needs a seat at the table to discuss river operations. Opportunity in how water is managed and need to optimize benefits for consumption and ecosystem health. Secure and maintain adequate space for the river – stop encroaching on the river. Look at the issues on the watershed level, a lot of the issues are watershed issues. Need an ecosystem working group in place, coordination between groups so we know what each other is doing.
- Stewardship, Peter Gower (co-captain): Came down to multijurisdictional roles as the underlying issue. A lot of the conversations went to the issue of homelessness. Kept going back to that as the root cause that relates to stewardship. Maintenance challenges were also issues. Different agencies’ roles, responsibilities, and everything else they do in their box. Some solutions related to needing a Truckee River coordinator who needs to have the ability to issue citations. Have a River Ranger. Someone to move the effort forward, a champion, can be a group, an organization, a central head to keep the initiative alive and moving forward. An ambassador program. Whole river, all the way from Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, sharing information to keep the plan alive.
- Funding, Gabrielle Enfield (captain): Lack of coordination and collaboration across all the groups and entities across the river. Really understanding what is currently going on across the entire river – fundingprojects and responsibilities. Possible solutions include: development of a team, (MOU/MOA) task forces, new entity/current entity taking responsibility as the lead. First effort focused on what is the current environment. What projects, what resources are available to be dedicated to the river. See the gaps and opportunities for funding. Super important issue as far as funding and moving things forward – one message and making the Truckee River a priority to the community.
- Recreation, Cheryl Surface (co-captain): Maintenance as the issue, which corresponded with the other big issues – access, multi-jurisdiction, and land acquisition. Lack of funding a big group cause. MOA between the jurisdiction that leads the Truckee River; a river tax; don’t allow people to rebuild things that are flooded out; build floodable recreation amenities. Political and community and support. Need to walk the walk to love the river. Learn from other River Towns, and be inspired to make the river a great river. We need to make everyone want to fall in love with the river. Recreation can be a highlight. When you love something, you take care of it and provide opportunities for people to come.
- Public Safety, David Bobzien (captain): Multijurisdictions, roles and responsibilities as the overarching framework. Inconsistencies and conflicts – getting the courts on the same page for backing up what is happening in the field. Inconsistency in the legal framework from the DA and city attorney’s offices. Legal opinions on what agencies can and cannot do on the river. Building Truckee River Regional Public Safety Team (different than a task force), getting folks together in the room to talk about the broader legal frameworks – challenges with laws from Constitutional framework. Maximize what they’re able to do on the river. We have vegetation management – where the camping spots and spots that are unsafe turned to environmental design – doing a mile by mile assessment and really looking on the ground and documenting what’s happening and problem areas. Site-specific analysis can benefit all the groups.
- Quality of Life, Tim Ruffin (captain): As you go around the West Coast, all the communities market themselves with quality of life. It’s all how you look at it. Sense of place is the issue – it includes all the other issues. Whatever we come up with makes the river welcoming, safe, and clean. Research the cultural properties and have landowners cooperating. Research from the university and the railroad. Need community buy-in and start small to grow into a bigger project.
The next steps are already being taken. We recently sent out a Request for Proposal and are getting a lot of interest. Whoever we take on will be in charge of writing the official management plan with the help of our core planning team over the next couple of months.
Our goal is, of course, to care for our river. Cheryl Surface (captain of recreation) said it best: “When you love something, you take care of it and provide opportunities for people to come.”