The environmental organization Sierra Watch successfully blocked efforts to expand Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley ski resort after their appeals were granted by California’s Third District Court of Appeals, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The appeals successfully reversed a 2018 ruling which would have permitted the project to go forward. In order for the project, which was first proposed in 2012, to proceed now, the appeals court is requiring the lower court to change its ruling and to notify the resort of requirements it needs to fulfill if it wants to continue work on the expansion project — namely, ensuring that the expansion addresses issues related to water and air quality, as well as noise and traffic issues in the area.
The court agreed with Sierra Watch that the Placer County Board of Supervisors failed to disclose how the expansion of the resort would have negatively impacted Lake Tahoe in a variety of ways, including the clarity and integrity of the lake itself. Lake Tahoe has long been known for its crystal clear waters, but increased pollution due to heightened traffic in the area would have threatened the lake.
The judges also ruled that the plans failed to address issues related to wildfire evacuations. The project would generate about 1,353 extra car trips in the area each day. This could cause severe delays of more than 10 hours if wildfire evacuations were necessary. The panel noted that the environmental impact report created by Placer County miscalculated hypothetical evacuation times in the area, and those concerns would need to be reexamined.
The owners of the resort, Alterra Mountain Co., were hoping to expand the resort by constructing 850 new condo units as part of a string of high-rise buildings. They had also planned for other attractions, including an indoor waterpark and a roller coaster.
“Alterra was hell-bent on bringing Vegas-style excess to the mountains of Tahoe,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “It was a direct threat to everything we love about the Sierra.”
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and those backing the project expressed disappointment in the decision but remain committed to bringing the development to fruition, which they say will bring new jobs to the area, create more affordable housing options, and invest in the future of the area.
But opponents are concerned about the increased population the high-rise development would bring to the area, stating that the population across Olympic Valley would essentially double upon completion of the project. According to Sierra Watch, noise levels and the environmental effects of the development could be detrimental to the area and ultimately, to Lake Tahoe itself.
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