Waiting for the water | SierraSun.com

Waiting for the water

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Plans forge ahead to build the Resort at Squaw Creek’s 221-unit condo project.

After granting the resort its much-anticipated will-serve letter in March to go forward with the development, Squaw Valley Public Service District is now working with Pacific Municipal Consultants to conduct the development’s environmental review.

The district met with the consultants Friday to outline the scope of the project study, which will include analyzing impacts of relocating two irrigation wells, the proposed use of Well 18-3R and the resort’s plans for an irrigation rollback.

The Resort at Squaw Creek’s original environmental review was conducted in the 1980s, but before committing to water service for the resort’s next phase of development, the district board voted to conduct a supplemental environmental review to ensure the proposals do not negatively affect the valley’s aquifer or Squaw Creek.

In early March the resort received final project approvals from Placer County, and needs just a building permit before starting construction. The resort still needs a water permit from the service district before Placer will grant the final building permit.

Pacific Municipal Consultants will conduct the environmental review in two parts ” looking to past studies and identifying any data gaps, and then determining the scope of work. The consultants will survey the resort’s plans to mitigate negative impacts of development on the valley’s groundwater aquifer and Squaw Creek.

But resort representatives are confident that the plans they’ve formulated to address development impacts on the valley’s water will assuage any remaining community concern.

“Because there is no net gain in water use in the aquifer, then therefore there is no impact,” said Cam Kicklighter, Resort at Squaw Creek’s director of development.

The consultants will likely complete the history and literature review by July, said Squaw Valley Public Service District general manager Rick Lierman.

And the entire environmental review process will take through next February, Kicklighter said.

The resort anticipates beginning construction of 188 high-rise units, 24 townhouses, nine employee housing units and a four-level parking structure by May 2009, she said.

With the valley’s delicate water supply in mind, resort officials have agreed to reduce golf course irrigation, dedicate a well to the district and relocate two irrigation wells away from the creek.

“I’m confident because there is no other example in the State of California where a developer has gone to this extent to balance the environmental needs of a community and also introduce development,” Kicklighter said.

But Squaw Valley Public Service District board members must wait for results from these environmental studies before making any further decisions about the resort.

“I think we have to follow the procedures we have now,” said board director John Moberly.

The resort has also developed a community benefit fund to be used for the restoration of Squaw Creek. The money will come from a percentage of the purchase price of each unit in the new project, which will raise about one million dollars to restore the creek, Kicklighter said.

“We believe creek restoration is a very important part of our future, to maintain aquifer quality and quantity,” Kicklighter said.

The funds would be managed by an independent body ” the Truckee River Watershed Council or the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation ” in cooperation with the Friends at Squaw Creek.