Our Birds Will Now Be Safe!

Following the controversy over the removal of bird nests from the golf course cart path tunnels last year, the Somersett Owners Association (SOA) commissioned Rubicon Environmental Consulting to conduct a biological recourses and habitat evaluation survey throughout Somersett. The purpose being “to identify sensitive biological resources that require protection measures during maintenance and disturbance activities to comply with local, state, and federal regulations”. At the February BOD Meeting, the Board accepted their report, which may be accessed via the following link:

Biological Resourses and Habitat Evaluation Report

Those interested in Somersett’s environmental setting (e.g., climate, hydrology, soils, vegetation, animal species, etc.) complete with maps and pictures, will find the report very interesting. The report further identifies sensitive plant and animal species found within the greater Reno area and whether the habitat for such is found within Somersett. These include:

Plants: 1) Webber’s Ivesia, 2) Steamboat Monkeyflower, and 3) Altered Andesite popcorn Flower

Animals: 1) North American Wolverine, 2) Cui ui – a large sucker fish, 3) Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, 4) Townsends Big-eared Bat, and 5) Osprey

So what does this mean for Somersett? Actually nothing, as field assessments (described within the report) did not identify any suitable habitats within Somersett for the above or any other sensitive species.

The report also contains a recommendation for conducting nesting bird surveys and to perform maintenance activities outside of the migratory bird nesting season (March through August), this to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Note: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. The migratory bird species protected by the Act are listed in 50 CFR 10.13.

How this Act applies to SOA maintenance activities is unclear. Perhaps the bird nests removed from the golf cart tunnels were listed in the 50 CFR 10.13 regulation. Any ornithologists out there care to comment?


And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

Submitted by Geoffrey Brooks, Somersett Homeowner

Double Rockery Wall Failure at Trail Ridge Ct.

The SOA had a report prepared by CME (Construction Materials Engineers, Inc) of Reno to look into the reasons behind the failure of the rockery walls. This report may be accessed via the following link:

Trail Ridge Rockery Wall Failures Report

The report is thorough, makes interesting reading, has plenty of documentation concerning the building of the walls and whether they were built to normal standards.

CME dealt with how the wall was engineered – pretty standard. They also talk about the location of the walls, built in a part of the Peavine foothills that were terraformed to allow for the building of housing and Golf Course fairways and greens. These rockery walls were placed in areas where fill had been placed to enable pads and houses to be built. Analysis of the soils showed that a mixture of many different soil types, including clay soils, were used to backstop the walls.

Nothing unusual here, other than if one was to buy a building pad in Somersett – soil analysis would be required, and if clays were found (apparently quite prevalent in the foothills), they would have to be removed. Clay does not make a suitable foundation material in a building pad on which a house is to be built!

CME’s report indicates that we had unusually heavy rainfall a year ago, causing the soil behind and under the wall to become super-saturated. The lower wall (on the SGCC), was found to be built to 14’ high, outside the normal 10’ height. Those boulders are mighty heavy, and extra 30% in height adds immensely to the load on the wall.

So, the weight of the rocks caused the soil under the wall to move, and the wall came tumbling down. The slumping soil de-stabilized the upper wall which secured the building pads for the houses on the edge of the golf course – and that came down as well.

Why do soils flow when saturated? In the Santa Barbara hillsides, the sandy soils, with houses, gardens, rockery walls have been washed away by these “mud flows”. Once mud gets going it is difficult to stop! Clays form thixotropic systems – very thick when static – but under sheer they will flow very nicely.

Digressing slightly, In cosmetics they aid the even spreading of foundations on the skin… their ability to flow when rubbed in is responsible for the great soft feel of the product.

Trail Ridge (in Mountain Crest) has suffered from failing pads (prior to the 2017 rains) causing Toll Brothers to spend upwards of $500K on fixing up 5 houses, securing them on the pad. This was blamed on improper pad construction. Terra forming gone awry? I suspect that Toll Brothers in Village 6 – the layout so dramatically changed, requiring walls to be removed and new ones built – have made sure that all the 160 + pads are a great place for a house to be built.

Based on what has happened, it seems that the Trail Ridge area in Somersett is especially vulnerable. Other areas in Somersett where there are extensive rockery walls separating folks from golf, include Laurel Ridge… these walls did not fail. We have 71,000’ of rockery walls only 760’ have failed. We have an understanding of what went wrong. As sad and expensive as this event was, it can be fixed. Walls over 10’ high, built on, and backstopped by fill can be inspected… the chances of further failures are slim

Somersett is well, life goes on. By understanding the failures, we can manage the risk! Now, we have nothing to worry about.