Northstar fine funds still in limbo | SierraSun.com

Northstar fine funds still in limbo

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Seth Lightcap/Sierra Sun File PhotoIn light of a $2.7 million fine for previous water quality infractions, Northstar Resort has overhauled construction practices to exceed guidelines. Here, Isbell Construction employees rake up algae while draining an overflow pond below the Northstar Village parking lot in May of this year. Officials are still deciding how the fine money will be spent.

Local groups are still vying for funds from a $2.75 million water quality fine settlement at Northstar.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board settled with Northstar Mountain Properties, part of East West Partners, on a $2.75 million fine earlier this year for water quality violations during the 2006 construction season.

“We’d like to see the funds used on local environmental projects,” said Blake Riva, Managing Partner with East West Partners.

Originally, over $2 million of the settlement money was slated to go to a restoration work at Waddle Ranch in the Martis Valley, but at a July meeting after hearing requests from Northstar Community Services District officials, the board is considering shifting some of the funding around.

The Northstar Community Services District wants some of the funds for a forest fuels management project along a stream in the Northstar community, said Mike Staudenmayer, general manager of the district.

“It would benefit water quality as well as reduce the potential for wildland fire,” Staudenmayer said.

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The district, still negotiating with Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and Northstar Mountain Properties, would need about $400,000, Staudenmayer said, to pay for the work on the ground.

Overhead would come out of the district’s existing budget, he said.

The state water board requires that projects within Northstar don’t benefit Northstar Mountain Properties, Riva said, but should benefit the community as a whole.

Scott Ferguson, Senior Water Resource Control Engineer with the state water board, said the board hopes to complete negotiations and have the item up for decision by January.

“Our objective is to get it done so the project can hit the ground running once the snow melts,” Ferguson said. “A decision in January or March should allow ample time.”

During East West Partner’s extensive construction work at Northstar, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board recorded numerous violations in 2004, 2005 and 2006, leading to negotiations for the $2.75 million fine.

Areas where violations occurred included the village, parking lots, employee housing and Highlands Drive.

The $2.75 million fine ” the largest in the state water board’s history ” was originally proposed to be split $600,000 to the state water board, and $2.15 million to environmental work in the 1,467-acre Waddle Ranch preserved last year by the Truckee Donner Land Trust.