Lawsuit filed against approval of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows base-to-base gondola | SierraSun.com

Lawsuit filed against approval of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows base-to-base gondola

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

A lawsuit has been filed against Placer County’s July approval of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows base-to-base gondola by the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League.

“Creating the gondola is going to be a huge impact on the wilderness area,” said Deborah Moskowitz, president of Resource Renewal Institute, a nonprofit organization that oversees the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League. “We have an obligation to maintain the beauty of these places.”

According to the suit filed, the Protection League believes the gondola would “permanently alter what is now a pristine Sierra Nevada environment” endangering wildlife and destroying the natural habitat. The suit claims that the project has not undergone adequate environmental review or mitigation in the Environmental Impact Report certified by the county.

The project includes two base terminals and two mid-stations. The gondola will begin at Squaw Valley, traverse over privately owned property and end at the Alpine Meadows base area. The eight-passenger gondola would be able to transport up to 1,400 people per hour and will only operate during the winter season, according to a county staff report.

The project’s Final Environmental Impact Report outlines four alternatives. The approved project, the fourth alternative, was determined to have less of an environmental effect than alternatives, as it occupies the least amount of land, spanning 11,700 feet, and is farthest away from the Granite Chief Wilderness.

Moskowitz said the best alternative would be to not construct the gondola all together.

“This will desecrate a wilderness sanctuary,” said Huey Johnson, chair and founder of the Resource Renewal Institute, in a press release. “There are other less damaging alternatives that would allow this small subset of skiers to travel between Squaw and Alpine without constructing these towers amidst this pristine area.”

Throughout the planning process Squaw Valley collected 7,000 signatures on a petition in favor of the project.

“A tremendous amount of research and study informed the approval of this project,” said Ron Cohen, president of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “It is also important for the public to know that no part of this gondola will enter the Granite Chief Wilderness.”

Approximately 20% of the project will be located on national forest lands. The project received preliminary approval from the Tahoe National Forest earlier this year, but must be formally approved in order to move forward.

According to Joe Flannery, Tahoe National Forest public affairs officer, they received 12 objections on their draft Record of Decision from members of the public and local organizations including the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League.

Flannery said they will finish clarifying those objections in the next two weeks and release a Final Record of Decision in November.

“We are getting close to making a decision,” said Flannery.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at hjones@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2652.