Community Member

Lemmon Valley Flood Relief/Assistance

Lemmon Valley, Nevada

Flooding in Lemmon Valley.

In March 2019, the Reno Gazette Journal included a story saying: 

“It’s a failure,” Lemmon Valley resident Denise Ross told the Reno City County on Wednesday. “The residents are terrified they are going to lose their animals, they’re going to lose their homes, and even perhaps lose their lives.”

Denise Ross and other Lemmon Valley Flood Relief/Assistance members during their advocacy efforts.

The remainder of the story discussed how Washoe County Engineer Dwayne Smith was concerned people were being misinformed and overly concerned about the risks of flooding. But the variable that was missing from the County Engineer’s formula was trauma from surviving a major flooding event in 2017, something Denise Ross and the residents of Lemmon Valley were all too familiar with.

The community of Lemmon Valley, 10 miles north of Reno, sits at the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in a closed basin, with seasonal runoff being a regular spring event.

“It happened in 2017, when a string of nine rainstorms caused millions of dollars in damage and wrecked dozens of homes. Victims had to live in trailers, bought porta-potties to replace their damaged bathrooms and live still in houses with sinking foundations and walls separated from ceilings. The floodwater had nowhere to go, and much of it still stands today.”

Fair Warning in November 2020. 

What was even more disheartening was what Denise Ross, Tammy Holt, and the rest of the residents discovered about not only how much water flooded their homes in 2017, but what the source of the water was.

In working with Thriving Earth Exchange to better understand how to control the flooding to the communities around Swan Lake in Lemmon Valley, Lemmon Valley residents finally had two dramatic successes. 

First, Tammy Holt Still and Denise Ross of Lemmon Valley Swan Lake Recovery Committee in Nevada worked to research and protest a planned housing development in the watershed. Guess what happened? It was rejected by the Washoe County Planning Commission!”

Flood waters in Lemmon Valley nine months after storms flooded homes in the North Valleys in February of 2017.

Secondly, in June 2019, Washoe District court jury unanimously found the city of Reno liable for inverse condemnation in a class action lawsuit against the city over flooding that occurred in 2017. The class action lawsuit involved 56 plaintiffs. It had been determined the Swan Lake Basin flooded nearby homes in 2017 after the city of Reno pumped or diverted excess stormwater into Swan Lake Basin. 

The work continues as Denise Ross and Tammy Holt lead Lemmon Valley Flood Relief/Assistance to fight for awareness of the perils of over-development and poor flooding mitigation plans by their city and state. As they attend meetings and push for change, Tammy Holt leaves this thought behind each time, “The water is still there, I’m still here.” 

Written by Michele Gielis


City of Reno ordered to pay $1.1M to Lemmon Valley residents in ongoing 2017 flooding lawsuit, Reno Gazette Journal, March 17, 2021

More than $750K awarded to Swan Lake Flood Plantiffs city attorney fined for refusing to “admit the truth.”,  February 16, 2021

Lemmon Valley residents remember flooding, look warily at fresh snow and rain, KOLO TV January 29, 2021

After two year delay, Reno council rejects Prado Ranch development in Lemmon Valley, News 4 & Fox 11, January 13, 2021

Presto Chango: How Flood Map Revisions Allow Building in Risky Areas, Fair Warning, November 12, 2020

Jury finds City of Reno liable for property loss in Swan Lake flooding, Reno Gazette Journal, June, 26, 2019

Lemmon Valley residents speak out about flooding, KOLO TV, April 29, 2019

Swan Lake water rising again in Lemmon Valley — and nearby residents are worried, Reno Gazette Journal, March18, 2019

Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics in a Closed Basin, Thriving Earth Exchange – Aug 9, 2018


Michele Gielis

Michele Gielis

Michele has spent the last decade helping nonprofits raise their voice for change. She looks to make action meaningful by connecting people to the technology and messages that bring resonance and resilience. Michele is proud to support the Anthropocene Alliance working to get communities to #HigherGround


Denise Ross

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Climate Impacts

Flooding, Water Contamination


Fighting Industrial Contamination, Halting Bad Development

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