Lake Tahoe’s Boulder Bay project receives criticism from local eco watchdog groups | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe’s Boulder Bay project receives criticism from local eco watchdog groups

Matthew Renda
North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

Boulder Bay courtesy illustrationA look at how the Boulder Bay property would be veiwed from state Route 28, heading toward the stateline from Incline.

CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. and#8212; After reserving comment for months on Boulder Bay’s 1,589-page draft environmental study, several area eco watchdog groups have teamed up to express united concern over specific elements of the proposed Crystal Bay redevelopment project.

In a recent joint letter to Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director Joanne Marchetta, representatives from the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Area Sierra Club, California Watershed Network, North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, Friends of the West Shore, Friends of Tahoe Vista and Friends of Crystal Bay/Brockway identified two overarching concerns regarding Boulder Bay and#8212; the overall scale of the project and the traffic impact study included in the Draft Environmental Impact Study.

and#8220;As initially circulated, the Boulder Bay DEIS was fundamentally flawed,and#8221; the letter reads. and#8220;Responses to the DEIS highlighted many crucial deficiencies that cannot be corrected with mere clarification or inclusion of supplementary data. Additionally, the document failed to include relevant and necessary data.

and#8220;Consequently, the analysis provided in the DEIS misstated the true and actual significance of the project and the public was denied the opportunity to review the potential impacts of the proposed project.and#8221;

Full text of the letter can be viewed within this story at http://www.tahoebonanza.com.

According to TRPA spokesman Dennis Oliver, the agency is revising aspects of the draft study, which dissects the ecological and economic impact of the proposed project in Crystal Bay and Brockway that aims to redevelop the Tahoe Biltmore and Tahoe Mariner sites, offering five alternative options.

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Boulder Bay has supported alternative C, which boasts a 300-room hotel with a 10,000 square-foot casino, 59 whole-ownership units, a spa and other amenities while promising significant water quality benefits.

Many residents have voiced support for the project and Boulder Bay’s preferred option, Oliver said.

and#8220;We’ve received hundreds of comments regarding the project and the overwhelming majority are in support of the project, citing the environmental and economic benefits to the region,and#8221; Oliver said.

However, not everyone is happy.

and#8220;The proposed project is just too big,and#8221; said Carl Young with the League to Save Lake Tahoe, in a phone interview this week. and#8220;There are also significant concerns with the traffic study.and#8221;

NTPA President Ann Nichols said the mathematical formulas TRPA and Hauge Brueck Associates, which prepared the DEIS, have used are faulty.

and#8220;Instead of using existing traffic conditions, which demonstrate the average daily automobile traffic is 1,835 trips, they employed a projected number of 5,500 they derive from estimation based on potential peak traffic numbers,and#8221; said Nichols.

The draft study estimates the impact of the new development would generate 3,415 daily trips, which can be an increase or decrease in traffic impact, depending on which statistical analysis is employed.

California Attorney General Edmund Brown submitted a letter to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency regarding perceived statistical manipulation.

and#8220;The use of a hypothetical baseline, rather than observed existing conditions, likewise distorts the Draft’s … analysis,and#8221; Brown wrote.

Boulder Bay President Heather Bacon, said, regardless of numbers, the proposed project contains many transportation elements designed to mitigate the use of automobiles, including providing guests with electric bicycles, a car-sharing program which allows patrons to rent a vehicle for a short duration and a shuttle service which provides transportation to the Reno airport.

and#8220;We want to provide people reliable transportation by developing solutions that work,and#8221; Bacon said. and#8220;I think the nature of Boulder Bay as a health and wellness center means that people won’t just stop by to gamble for a little bit and move on. They’ll stay for longer, and when they do want to shop at local businesses, we’ll provide environmentally sound ways for them to do so.and#8221;

Oliver said the traffic study portion of the DEIS is being revised in preparation for the Final Environmental Impact Study, which should be released in the next two months.

Bacon is hoping for TRPA governing board approval this spring, which would allow the Boulder Bay team to enter the planning process while structuring finances for the project. If approval is granted this spring, Bacon said construction could begin in the early summer of 2011.

Regardless of how things progress, Oliver said an overhaul is needed at the Biltmore site.

and#8220;The fact remains that the Tahoe Biltmore is a huge energy hog, which allows thousands of pounds of run-off from parking lots to reach the lake,and#8221; Oliver said. and#8220;Redevelopment of that site is the best way to ensure significant environmental gain, while promoting the region’s economic health.and#8221;