Dozens of northern Nevada residents are suing the city of Elko for more than $3.6 million over damage caused by extensive flooding last February.
State Assemblyman John Ellison is among the 60 plaintiffs listed in the negligence suit filed earlier this month in Elko District Court, the Elko Daily Free Press reported Tuesday.
Two months of heavy snowfall followed by unseasonably warm temperatures led to snowmelt runoff that overflowed the banks of the Humboldt River in early February, flooding south Elko neighborhoods and closing an elementary school in the town along U.S. Interstate 80 about 100 miles west of the Utah line.
The city council declared a state of emergency Feb. 11 as flood waters prompted NV Energy and Southwest Gas to shut off service to flood-impacted areas and crews to work 24-hour shifts.
The suit filed Dec. 15 accuses the city and others of being responsible for the damage as a result of the relocation of a river project beginning in 1979,
Among other things, the suit alleges that a levee constructed at the 12th Street Bridge was determined in 1992 to be inadequate, exposing the southside “to heightened risk of flooding.” It also claims the defendants failed to maintain and/or remove the flood gates and decided not to replace the gates, “aware that southside of Elko was at risk for flooding.”
City Manager Curtis Calder says he can’t comment on pending litigation. But he told the newspaper the city worked with a consultant over the summer to identify areas to fix, including waterproofing manhole covers.
The lawsuit claims the city and others “should have known that there would be instances, including weather events and run off, that would cause the Humboldt River to rise above the level of the culverts.”
“The City should have known the snow pack, coupled with foreseeable and/or predicted weather events would raise the risk of flooding to southside residents unless the flood gates were properly installed and/or utilized within the storm drainage system,” the lawsuit said.
The suit charges negligence, trespass, nuisance and inverse condemnation by the city which “engaged in activities that were a cause of the flooding.” It also names 50 unidentified individual, corporate, associate or otherwise as co-defendants who “engaged in conduct that was tortious.”
The plaintiffs say they sustained damage to their homes, property, diminished property values, emotional distress, inconvenience and loss of income.
Each action asks for $15,000 per litigant named in the suit, totaling $915,000 per action, or a total of $3.66 million. It also states the plaintiffs are entitled to recover attorney’s fees, costs and expenses.
Calder said the improvements targeted by the consultant include waterproofing manhole covers which sent 5 million gallons (18.9 million liters) of water to the sewer treatment plant, double the normal inflows.
A report from Hansen Allen & Luce Inc. engineers commissioned by the city evaluated the river after the flood and recommended the city remove brush, trees and woody vegetation that were in the levee embankments.
The trees “basically acted as friction, or roughness, slowing the flow” of the water, Calder said.
City crews began removing brush in September, Calder said. He said the city also re-installed the storm drain outflow covers “in anticipation of more flooding which never occurred,” adding that the covers “are performing OK.”
The city reported that the cost of flood damage was estimated to be $869,193.
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