Opinion: Squaw Valley — plenty of snow, not enough water
March 31, 2016
Visit bit.ly/1LMA969 to read more from Placer County about the proposed Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan.
Even as it snows, the future of Squaw Valley's water supply is still in question. And massive new development approvals are not part of a responsible answer.
This winter's Squaw Valley Public Services District newsletter includes an update on its proposal to run an eight-mile pipe for a "Redundant Water Supply" from Martis Valley. Go to bit.ly/1RIhEj4 to read it.
The update also provides an indirect warning: Massive development approvals make no sense in the context of the existing limited supply of water in Squaw Valley.
According to my conclusions, additional water from Martis is far from an assured solution to Squaw's water problems for the following three reasons, among others:
“In a limited alpine watershed, where the primary water district is already seeking a new source for water, is there really enough for 1,500 new bedrooms and an indoor water park?”
Access to the water is still in question: According to the newsletter, "The proposed source of water would come from existing municipal wells owned and operated by the Truckee Donner Public Utilities District (TDPUD) or Northstar Community Services District (NCSD)…" But it's not certain those districts — and their ratepayers — would be enthusiastic about letting Squaw stick a straw into their supplies.
Land is an issue: The district would need to secure an eight-mile right of way and land for the pipe and its infrastructure. "The preferred location of a new million gallon water storage tank," for example, "is on a parcel owned by the United States Forest Service." But it's not clear that a million gallon water tank is the best use of public forest land.
And then there's the question of cost: The district would like to avoid "a significant increase in water rates, a special assessment or debt financing," preferring, instead, "that funding for the project's next steps be from state or federal grants" or from "real estate developers." It's not clear how the pipe would be built — if no one wants to pay for it.
The newsletter also reminds us that the proposal to import water from Martis Valley is not driven by a need to "provide the primary water supply for the proposed Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan."
Indeed, the district chose the Martis pipe project as a preferred alternative in its 2009 "Final Alternative/Supplemental Water Supply & Enhanced Utilities Feasibility Study," published before KSL Capital Partners purchased Squaw Valley in 2010 — and before KSL applied to Placer County for permission to build 1,500 new bedrooms and an indoor water park, as part of the proposed Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan.
That reminder raises the biggest question of all: In a limited alpine watershed, where the primary water district is already seeking a new source for water, is there really enough for 1,500 new bedrooms and an indoor water park?
Tom Mooers is executive director of Sierra Watch. Visit sierrawatch.org to learn more.
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