Groups challenge Lassen resort and subdivision | SierraSun.com

Groups challenge Lassen resort and subdivision

Laura Brown and Greyson Howard
Sun News Service and Sierra Sun

A coalition of conservation groups has filed a lawsuit in Lassen County Superior Court to overturn the county’s approval of what is believed to be the largest housing development in the Sierra Nevada range.

Dyer Mountain Associates proposes 4,000 new homes, three golf courses and a ski resort on 7,000 remote acres of forest land near Lake Almanor considered sacred to Hanylekim, or Honey Lake Maidu.

“We hope the court can step in and put the brakes on this project so we can come to the table and work toward a resolution,” said Executive Director Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch.

Sierra Watch, Mountain Meadows Conservancy and the Sierra Club contend in a 15-page petition filed last week that approval of the development is irresponsible and illegal.

The groups say county supervisors violated the California Environmental Quality Act when they approved a project that failed to assess traffic and sewage impacts during an environmental review.

“In a general sense, this is a familiar effort after Martis Valley because it is local residents, Sierra lovers, and conservation groups protecting a threatened landscape,” Mooers said. “But while Martis included areas where development existed and it made sense to allow some addition, Dyer is a relatively pristine area, so our goal here is to protect the entire thing.”

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The struggle over Martis Valley formed Sierra Watch, and Mooers said lessons learned there will be applied at Dyer Mountain.

Likewise, the Royal Gorge proposed development on Donner Summit presents a similar situation.

“Donner Summit is an example of the same forces at work ” market forces, as well as an incredible willingness of people to stand up and defend the land,” he said.

Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council, questioned the idea of building a new ski resort in the northern Sierra.

“The reality is the northern Sierra will be severely affected by climate change with reduced snow pack and early runoff, so putting a new resort at 6,000 feet and calling it viable is a little difficult to believe,” Frisch said.

From an economic perspective, Frisch said he thought more study should be focused on the cost of services in creating the remote development versus the taxes it would generate.

“I think a better development pattern for Plumas and Lassen would be town-centered development with infrastructure and services already in place,” Frisch said.

Dyer Mountain raises a larger question for the Sierra Nevada as a whole, he said.

“The Sierra Nevada needs to have a discussion on density, the tradeoffs for growth and the reduction of environmental impact,” Frisch said. “Projects like Dyer Mountain, Martis Valley, and Donner Summit really prompt the need to have that discussion.”