County watches Squaw’s Funitel lift | SierraSun.com
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County watches Squaw’s Funitel lift

Joelle Babula

A temporary operating permit was issued to Squaw Valley Ski Corp. to run the Funitel following a $1 million promise to Placer County that the ski company will comply with the existing conditions of the permit and any new mitigation regulations.

Squaw Valley was not given a permanent permit to operate this state-of-the-art skier transportation system because there is dispute over whether the conditions of the original project plans were violated, said Scott Finley, the senior deputy county counsel for Placer County.

Two separate letters of credit from Squaw Valley, one for $350,000 and one for $650,000, are a guarantee that if ski corp. doesn’t comply with permits and regulations, the county can retrieve the $1 million and take care of the problems.

“Winter is a difficult time to do work and there are still issues to be resolved (with the Funitel project),” said Anita Yoder with Placer County.

The Funitel opened Saturday at the ski resort.

“The situation will not be made worse by operating the Funitel this winter,” Yoder said. “Squaw will come back with another plan to resolve these issues. By issuing a temporary operating permit, locals and tourists have the opportunity to use this lift this winter and there is a plan in place to resolve some of the unfinished issues.”

Some of the issues in dispute concern whether Squaw violated project plans during the construction of the Funitel and whether they continued to work on the lift despite stop work permits from Placer County, according to Patrick Perkins with Placer County Public Works and John Short with the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Perkins and Short contend that Squaw Valley violated original conditions of the Funitel construction plans by blasting chunks of the mountain not cleared for removal, by bulldozing sediment over the edge of the mountain and into Squaw Creek and by cutting down trees they weren’t supposed to.

However, according to Alex Cushing, the founder of Squaw Valley Ski Corp., there are no outstanding stop work notices on the Funitel project. He also asserts that he’s been getting conflicting orders from different agencies regarding the construction process.

Nancy Wendt, the president of Squaw Valley Ski Corp., said in an interview last week the corporation is trying to satisfy all regulatory agencies, but is, “stuck between conflicting jurisdictions.”

All these issues, however, are guaranteed to be worked out due to the two letters of credit the county now has from Squaw Valley ,Yoder said.

‘It’s like a security deposit. It assures us that the work will ultimately be done,” she said.

According to Finley, Squaw Valley now has 30 days to submit a plan addressing the unresolved issues between county agencies and the ski corp.

“If they don’t apply, then we can go obtain the security in the letter of credit,” Finley said.

The first $350,000 letter of credit is a promise that Squaw Valley will reapply to modify the existing conditions of the project permits and comply with any new mitigation regulations in the future, “as a result of Squaw exceeding the scope of the original permits,” Finley said.

The second $650,000 letter of credit is to ensure that all of the grading and blasting is cleaned up and finished off. This money also encompasses issues outside of the blasting and grading, Finley said.

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