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Environmentalists challenge Squaw Valley expansion

See the nice dusting of snow at High Camp at Squaw Valley in Tahoe

With opening day scheduled for Nov. 11, 2016, the recent storms dumped some snow at the top of Squaw Valley ski resort. This is the snow dump on the morning of Oct. 17, 2016.
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With opening day scheduled for Nov. 11, 2016, the recent storms dumped some snow at the top of Squaw Valley ski resort. This is the snow dump on the morning of Oct. 17, 2016.

A Nevada City advocacy group has filed a legal challenge to Squaw Valley’s expansion plan, saying Placer County violated the California Environmental Quality Act by approving the development last month.

County supervisors approved construction of hotels, condominiums and housing of up to 1,500 rooms, up to 300,000 square feet of commercial space and a “mountain adventure center” of 90,000 square feet at the famed ski resort.

Sierra Watch, which was instrumental in organizing community opposition to the plan, filed the legal challenge Wednesday in Placer Superior Court.

“KSL Capital Partners’ development proposal for Squaw Valley threatens everything we love about Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada,” Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch, said in a written statement.

County spokeswoman DeDe Cordell said the county has yet to receive the lawsuit and could not comment.

Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings LLC, defended the county’s decisions.

“The environmental studies on the project were performed by third party professionals hired by the county and conducted to ensure the project would adhere to CEQA statutes and guidelines. In fact, this project has been one of the most thoroughly studied projects in the county’s history, and was reduced by 50 percent based on community input and feedback collected at over 400 community meetings over five years,” he said in a written statement.

Supervisors heard from about 100 speakers during an all-day hearing on the project in Kings Beach. The majority of the speakers were residents of the Tahoe area and opposed the project.

The lawsuit claims the county approved the project without thoroughly estimating the impact it will have on Tahoe water quality, traffic and other things, thus threatening “the very qualities of scenic, natural beauty that attract residents and visitors to Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe in the first place.”

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