Opinion: Placer County shows lack of commitment to Lake Tahoe
September 27, 2016
The following is an open letter to the Placer County Board of Supervisors:
We respectfully request that the Placer County Board of Supervisors begin acting in the public interest, adhere to the Placer County Code and comply with California law.
Ongoing county actions concerning two major development proposals near Tahoe (Martis Valley West and the Squaw Valley Village Plan) have to date disregarded several letters to the Board advising you of your legal shortfalls (two letters from the California Attorney General) concerning compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and County Codes.
Additionally, the county is ignoring hundreds of letters from its citizens, exhaustive testimony and the known realities of Tahoe's environmental setting and infrastructure limitations. The county is on a path that will cause numerous long-term and irreversible impacts to North Lake Tahoe, while demonstrating an alarming disregard for the public interest.
The state's Attorney General writes, regarding the county's environmental impact reports:
• "reasoning is flawed."
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• "entirely inconsistent with the purposes of CEQA."
• "EIR fails to include significant pending projects."
• "EIR analysis is impermissible under CEQA."
Not a good report from the state's top lawyer.
We ask you to uphold your legal obligations to the public. The proposed developments do not comply with the County General Plan or the local codified Plans, as documented exhaustively in letters to the county.
To date, the county has arbitrarily determined that the relevant Plan requirements intended to protect public health and safety (concerning traffic, fire safety and other issues) can either be waived, ignored or dealt with later. This is not good governance.
Auburn is telling the Tahoe public to accept over 20 significant and irreversible environmental impacts that would result from the Squaw Village project. Among other egregious consequences, the proposal would expose persons caught in a Squaw Valley emergency evacuation to a 10.7-hour traffic stall (per the FEIR).
Adjacent areas would face the same or worse evacuation conditions. The evacuating cars and buses (if not incinerated in Squaw or Alpine Meadows) would then be trapped on SR 89 from Tahoe City to Truckee.
At Martis Valley, prolonged traffic jams are already common. The CHP testified this July that cars on SR 267 has been backed up from Kings Beach to Northstar; one day the traffic jam did not clear until "around midnight."
Traffic failures in Kings Beach have forced police to use bicycles to perform their patrols. Both the Squaw and Martis developments would result in traffic "Level of Service F." The "F" is for failure.
You, our Supervisors, are telling us that 4-hour and 10-hour traffic delays are OK? Should the Tahoe Emergency Evacuation Plan simply say: "Good luck WAITING!"?
Will you be accountable to the families caught in the forest fires that will rage, at some point, through Tahoe? We all know for fact that our infrastructure cannot meet the demands these developments will put on our roads and safety systems.
The county continues to ignore the potential cumulative impacts posed by the numerous projects you are now processing (Martis West, Squaw Village, Tahoe City Lodge, Squaw-Alpine Gondola, Alpine Sierra, White Wolf, etc). Tahoe citizens seem to have a clearer understanding of, and concern for, the cumulative impacts these developments will cause to our future public health and safety.
When will the county engage in honest and constructive discussions of the pending cumulative impacts?
The State of California and a prominent California law firm have advised you, in no uncertain terms, that you are not meeting legal or professional standards in the county EIR's and County Plan "compliance waivers." The implicit disregard for the regionally established thresholds for Tahoe Basin impacts (per the subject FEIR's) suggests either magical thinking or government indifference.
The nation and Congress seem to understand that serious efforts are required in order to protect Lake Tahoe as a national treasure. Yet Placer County appears to lack a comparable commitment to the lake and basin.
We ask you to step up and act for the benefit of the long term health of Lake Tahoe, versus the promises of short term gains. We ask the Board of Supervisors to demonstrate accountability for the public's health and safety, and the protection of our environment.
We ask for leadership in requiring development proposals to responsibly address the realities of Tahoe's physical setting, our road limitations, the changing climate, a future with catastrophic fire, and the protection of Lake Tahoe.
We ask you to serve in the public's interest.
Daniel D. Heagerty is a member of the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League. Visit protectgranitechief.wordpress.com to learn more.