Olympic Valley officials weigh in on Village at Palisades, discuss traffic issues

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — The Olympic Valley Public Service District discussed traffic issues plaguing the valley and weighed in on the Village at Palisades project during its January board of directors meeting. 

Each weekend, traffic on California State Route 89 and Olympic Valley Road is backed up as people travel to Palisades. Residents of Olympic Valley have complained on social media, as well as to board directors and other public officials, that the traffic is causing a disruption to their day-to-day lives. 

While there wasn’t a specific agenda item addressing the issue, it was discussed during the community informational section of the meeting. 

The conversation was kick started by a representative of the Olympic Valley Municipal Advisory Council. The council will soon be holding a joint meeting with the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council, along with Placer County representatives to look for short-term solutions to the traffic. 

Brandon Burks, OVPSD operations manager, said the traffic has been affecting operations and snow removal, especially since back-up operators have to commute in from out of the valley. 

District Manager Mike Geary said if there was a major issue, like a water main break, it would be difficult for staff to respond. 

Director Katy Hover-Smoot asked that the district write a letter to the county about how the traffic is impacting operations, to which Geary said he could “absolutely” do that. 

The joint advisory council meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, at the North Tahoe Event Center. They are asking members of the public to come to the meeting with suggestions for short-term solutions. 

During the meeting, the board received an update on the Village at Palisades project. In Nov. 2022, the developers released an updated environmental impact report. The district sent in three letters to express concerns with three aspects of the EIR, including water, fire and sewer. 

In regards to water, the EIR uses models created in 2016 that predict water supply levels. 

According to the letter, “In 2018, the California Department of Water Resources developed and issued datasets and technical guidance for use in numerical groundwater models to predict impacts from climate change on groundwater basins in California.”

The district is asking Placer County and the developers to update the water supply outlook by inputting data from water years 2017-2022 to ensure the models are still accurate. 

The letter points out that the district secondary source of water supply relies on the aquifer under the ski resort’s parking lot as its sole source of water supply.

“As such, the long‐term water supply reliability continues to concern the district’s Board of Directors and its residents, particularly its resilience to the uncertain impacts caused by climate change. The absence of a back‐up water supply compels the District to utilize almost all available long‐term water planning tools to insure we do not overcommit our limited water resources,” the letter states. 

In the letter addressing fire and emergency services, the district raised concerns about the likelihood of wildfire impacting the valley. 

“The District continues to have concerns about the evacuation time and the lead time available in order to conduct an orderly evacuation,” the letter states. 

The district is asking the county and developers to make improvements to existing roads, as well as creating new roads, to be used for evacuations and emergency responders. 

“Traffic and circulation currently impact emergency response to Palisades Tahoe. Loading/unloading from public shuttles, buses, and personal vehicles regularly blocks emergency lanes. The OVFD feels strongly that the Transportation Management Plan should be developed now, and that the centrally located Transit Center should be developed in the first phase of project development,” the letter said. 

Finally, the board received an update on the Fuels Management Program. One of the district’s focuses on creating a 150 foot buffer zone between the neighborhoods and the forest. Part of the project includes outreach to homeowners, which is time consuming for staff. The district is applying for grants that could be used for staff time to do that outreach. 

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28. 

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