Martis Creek Dam Safety Modification Study

The Martis Creek Project is located on Martis Creek, a tributary of the Truckee River, about 32 miles southwest of Reno, Nev. It is comprised of an earthfill dam, creating a reservoir with a gross storage capacity of 20,391 acre-feet. The project provides flood risk management and recreational benefits, and also retains the design purpose of future water storage. A population of approximately 72,000 is within the inundation zone for Martis Creek Dam, and includes large portions of the cities of Reno, Sparks and Truckee Meadows.

The project was completed in 1972, and consists of a 113-foot-high rolled zoned earthfill dam across Martis Creek, an upstream impervious blanket, several post-construction seepage control features, an outlet works conduit, and a detached concrete lined spillway in the left abutment. The inlet structure and control house are located near the upstream toe of the dam.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 Is the dam safe?
Although the dam is characterized as “high risk,” it poses no imminent danger because of the low water elevation currently being maintained at the dam’s reservoir.
 Why is the dam characterized as high risk?
The dam is currently experiencing underseepage and other failure patterns that lead experts at the Corps of Engineers to believe that a large flood event could potentially lead to failure of the dam. This, along with the presence of a large population downstream constitutes a high “risk.”
 When will be the dam be fixed?
We’re doing an extensive analysis of the dam, its structural problems and associated environmental issues. Rehabilitation of the dam is one of several alternatives that could develop as a result of the investigations and risk assessment.  Due to the complexity of the investigation, construction or rehabilitation of the dam is most likely to be several years in the future.
 Why not just tear down the dam?
Dam removal is one of the alternatives that will be considered, but it should be noted that the dam provides substantial flood risk management benefits.
 Will residents be warned in case of dam failure?
Absolutely! We estimated that it could take approximately 5 hours for flood waters to reach residents of the RSMA. There is also a flood warning system in place along the Truckee River to alert residents. However, we want to emphasize that we view this scenario to have a low probability of occurring. An emergency action plan will be updated and tested in the near future.
 How much would it cost to repair the dam?
Cost will depend on the alternative selected; we will have a better idea of the cost once the investigation/evaluation phase of the project is completed. Final cost estimates will not be known until the design phase of the selected alternative is completed.
 When did you first learn that this dam had problems?
In 1995, the seepage issue at the dam was discovered to be serious during a test filling of the reservoir. In 2002, a spillway adequacy study was performed for the Martis Creek Dam, identifying the spillway capacity inadequacy. In 2005, the Corps’ Screening Portfolio Risk Assessment identified Martis Creek as one of the top 6 Corps of Engineers dams in the nation in terms of risk. This was due to the potential loss of life in the highly populated RSMA and the unacceptably high probability of failure of the dam due to seepage.

Contact Information

For more information on the
Martis Creek Dam Safety Modification Study,
please contact us at the following:



Mailing Address:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Sacramento District
Martis Creek Dam Safety Mods Study
1325 J Street, Room 1513
Sacramento, CA 95814

Photo - Martis Creek Dam & Lake