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Andy Wertheim: Easy Hike In Truckee

Hello Friends,

I found myself in Truckee between appointments yesterday and decided to run out to the Sagehen Creek Trail for a quick walk.  This easy 5 mile round trip trail that follows Sagehen Creek to Stampede Reservoir.  The hike is relatively level and easy to follow.  Parking is in a small dirt area just passed the north end of a bridge that spans Sagehen Creek.  This is approximately 6.8 miles north of the intersection of Hwy. 89 and Hwy. 80.

Even though we have been having afternoon rains and snow the past week or so, including now (it is raining at the moment), the trail was dry.  Flowers are blooming along the path, trees and bushes are sprouting new growth, water is flowing higher than I would have guessed, and birds were sings there spring songs.  I took a few pictures of flowers along the way and attempted to identify them.  The photos are attached.  I walked briskly and noted a round trip time of 1.5 hours.  It is a walk one can do in between thunder storms.

This weekend does not look like it will be warm and sunny, but who knows what will really happen given our crazy weather patterns this year.

Most likely I will try and spend some time running an open house at River Run (condos along the Truckee River at the corner of Alpine Meadows Road and Hwy. 89) on Saturday.  Come by if you are around and say hello.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Village At Squaw Valley Project: Renderings, New Opinions & A Workshop

Much of Squaw Valley would be filled with buildings near 100 ft tall if SVRE plans are approved.

Much of Squaw Valley would be filled with buildings near 100 ft tall if SVRE plans are approved.

My e-mail inbox and Facebook feed keep filling with more and more information regarding the Village at Squaw Valley project. It’s way more information than most people can digest. Last week, we reported on the release of the draft environmental impact report, which in itself totals more than 2,000 pages of reading. I’ll be honest in saying that I have not yet read more of that material since posting. Here’s a summary of the latest developments:

Placer County Releases Architectural Renderings Of The Village Project

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Placer County Senior Planner Alex Fisch announced this week that Placer County has added the architectural renderings for the Village project on the county page that has been dedicated to the latest Specific Plan. The renderings are intended to give us a conceptual look at most of the buildings that will be included within the project. In short, the building look unremarkable. They look like every ski “village” you have ever seen. The same drawings could reflect the architecture of Northstar, Whistler, or Mammoth. It’s difficult to truly estimate what those building would look like relative to the existing buildings and surrounding area, as few of the renderings are in situ. We’re anxious for some tech savvy person to present an accurate mockup of what what we can expect if Placer County approves the plan.

Sierra Watch Releases An Initial Response To The Specific Plan & dEIR
Image courtesy of Keep Squaw True

Image courtesy of Keep Squaw True/Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch has done a preliminary press release reiterating its concerns regarding the Village project. Although the project has been scaled down from what KSL Capital first proposed in 2011, the project still would be the largest project ever seen in the Sierra. The release highlights a list of concerns very similar to those we shared last week (and over the last 3 years), they note that they have “lined up a team of experts in planning, hydrology, wildlife biology, land use law, and even herpetology to analyze the Draft EIR and its findings.”

“We will engage the best experts in our review of the Draft EIR,” said Isaac Silverman, Staff Attorney for Sierra Watch.  “Squaw Valley deserves no less.”

Here’s the entire text of the Sierra Watch Press Release.

Friends Of Squaw Valley Will Offer An EIR Response Workshop On May 24th

The Friends of Squaw Valley will conduct a public workshop regarding the Village project dEIR on Sunday, May 24th. The goal of the workshop is how to write a response and express your concerns regarding the impacts of Squaw Valley Real Estate’s proposed Village at Squaw Valley. It’s important that people put Placer County on notice that the concerns surrounding the proposed development are real and that the need to protect Squaw Valley and the surrounding area is important to all of us. The workshop will be held on the 24th at 4 pm at the Squaw Valley Public Services District in the community meeting room, located on the west end of the fire station.

Andy Wertheim: Visit to the Donner Summit Historical Society Museum

Hello Friends,

A little rain and some snow on the mountain.  We received a decent amount of rain Friday, although it did not amount to much.  The ground is wet which puts off the fire season a few more days.  This morning I could see snow on the ground and trees that were white above 7000 feet.  At day break the sky was clear and views beautiful, but soon after the sky turned gray as if filled with clouds.  It was cool and dreary most of the day.  Not the kind of day that makes you want to jump on a bike without a jacket or head for the lake with water skis or a paddle board.

However, it was the kind of day to take a short drive and visit something I have wanted to see for a long time.  We hopped in the car and drove to Soda Springs in hopes that the Donner Summit Historical Society Museum was open.

Photo by Andy Wertheim

Photo by Andy Wertheim

This is a small building at the corner of old Hwy. 40 (Donner Pass Road) and Soda Springs Road (the road used to access Serene Lakes).  This little museum is open on most weekends and is maned by Norm Sayler who has been living on the summit for many years.  He owned Donner Ski Ranch for a long time. Norm is a real Tahoe character.  Talking with him and listening to his infinite stories is worth the drive.

We spent a couple of hours looking through binders of photos and staring at walls covered with photos and other memorabilia.  You could easily spend days discovering photos that depict the history of the Donner Summit area.  Most of these photos deal with the area between Cisco Grove and Donner Lake.  The historical society has a program to place plaques along of Hwy. 40 from Donner Lake to Cisco Grove.  They have already installed over 40 of these plaques describing the history of the area.

Photo courtesy of the Colfax Record

Norm Sayler at the museum. Photo courtesy of the Colfax Record

Norm described a day in 1954 when he was at the old River Ranch Inn.  He was asked to take John Riley and Byron Nishkian up the rough dirt road into Alpine Meadows so they could survey the mountain that would one day become Alpine Meadows.

He talked about the days when he owned Donner Ski Ranch and how he was the first owner to allow snowboarding on the mountain in the country.  A great story he relayed to us had to do with mountain biking.  He told us about 3 young men who approached him one summer day asking if they could drive up and ride down the ski area road which was private property.  I think he said they wanted to drive up and then ride the bikes down.  Norm indicated that the dirt road was very rough and not something he thought they could drive their vehicle on, but he offered to let them use the ski lift.  He showed them how to start the lift and how to stop it at the top.  “Just jump on the chair and hold onto your bikes” was what he told them to do.  They spent the entire day racing down the road and riding up the lift.  One of the riders was Gary Fisher who later became one of the founders of mountain biking.

We talked about the train tunnels and learned that some of the old wooden snow sheds were taller than the others because they were constructed on wheels so they could be moved apart from the others when fire broke out.  This meant the entire length of a snow shed was not burned to the ground.  The old wood fired or coal fired engines often created heat and threw sparks in the tunnels that caught the wooden sheds on fire.  We looked at tons of old photos of single chair lifts and others built at Sugar Bowl, along with photos of Lake Norden when it was full and old buildings along Hwy. 40.  Ski photos from the 1950’s and before.  It is a fascinating place to browse.  While we were there one of the members of the Historical Society, and major contributor to the museum dropped by delivering a supply of books he has just written about the history of Donner Summit.  It appears the book is very through and should be an interesting read.  I bought one to add to my collection.

Enjoy your day.

Andy Wertheim

Village At Squaw Valley Draft EIR Released

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Even after several revisions to the plans for “new” Village at Squaw Valley, it’s still looks like a behemoth that is not needed for anything, except lining the pockets of KSL Capital investors. The draft Evironmental Impact Report, released today, is also a behemoth. Viewing the entire EIR would entail downloading 25 separate PDF files from Placer County. We have not done that yet. We did look at the Executive Summary section. While Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, Squaw Valley Real Estate and CEO Andy Wirth have painted themselves green, there’s an alarming number of impacts identified by the EIR preparation team, Ascent Environmental. Here’s a brief summary:

2.2.1 Significant and Unavoidable Environmental Impacts

Implementation of the proposed Specific Plan would result in the following significant unavoidable environmental impacts, following implementation of feasible mitigation measures:

Cultural Resources

  • Impact7-1: Demolition of historically significant buildings

Visual Resources

  • Impact 8-1: Adverse effect on a scenic vista (construction and operations as experienced by long-term residents)
  • Impact 8-2: Substantially degrade the existing visual character or quality of the site and its surroundings (construction)
  • Impact 8-3: Substantially damage scenic resources, including, but not limited to, trees, rock outcroppings, and historic buildings within a scenic highway (construction)
  • Impact 8-5: Create a new source of substantial light or glare that would adversely affect day or nighttime views in the area (operations)

Transportation & Circulation

  • Impact 9-2: Impacts to Placer County intersections
  • Impact 9-3: Impacts to Caltrans intersections
  • Impact 9-4: Impacts caused by vehicular queuing at Caltrans intersections
  • Impact 9-5: Impacts to Caltrans highways

Noise

  • Impact11-1:Construction noise impacts
  • Impact11-5:Exposure of new and existing sensitive receptors to operational project-generatedtransportation noise sources (potentially significant for existing sensitive receptors)

Greenhouses Gases & Climate Change

  • Impact 16-2: Operational greenhouse gas emissions (potentially significant after 2020)

Cumulative Impacts

  • Impact 18-12: Cumulative effect on historical resources
  • Impact18-14:Substantial adverse cumulative effecton a scenicvista
  • Impact 18-15: Substantial contribution to the cumulative degradation of the existing visual character or quality of the site and its surroundings
  • Impact 18-16: Substantial cumulative contribution to damage to scenic resources, including but not limited to trees, rock outcroppings, and historic buildings within a scenic highway
  • Impact 18-18: Contribute to cumulative light and glare or skyglow effects in the region
  • Impact 18-21: Cumulative impacts to Caltrans intersections
  • Impact 18-22: Cumulative impacts caused by vehicular queuing at Caltrans intersections
  • Impact18-23:Cumulative impacts to Caltranshighways
  • Impact18-31:Cumulativeshort-termconstruction-generatednoise
  • Impact18-32:Cumulativelong-termambientnoiselevels
  • Impact 18-43: Cumulative greenhouse gas emissions

Absolutely none of this is a mystery to anybody that has been following the progression of the project since KSL Capital and Squaw Valley Real Estate first proposed it in 2011. The latest revisions, completed in April of 2015 still call for:

  • Up to 1493 bedrooms contained within 850 housing units
  • Almost 300,000 square feet of commercial and retail space will be created, approximately triple the 100,000 square feet of commercial and retail space that will be removed.
  • Older employee housing will be removed and replaced by new employee housing for up to  300 staff on the East Parcel
  • Creation of the 90,000 square foot Mountain Adventure Center, which would include an indoor water park and other amenities designed to discourage visitors from leaving the resort
  • More than 3000 parking spaces would be created at full build out

It’s a project that would span an estimated 25 years of construction. That construction is not limited to just Olympic Valley. We have frequently talked about the Liberty Power project, the 8-Mile pipe and the need for significant expansion of the Highway 89 corridor to handle the needs of KSL’s proposed development. These projects will be costly to all of us: locals, part-time residents and visitors alike.

It’s not that we are against any redevelopment or expansion in the Lake Tahoe area. We’re just in favor of reasonable development that will support a healthy economy and a healthy environment for years to come.

The release of the draft Environmental Impact Report by Placer County means that the 60 day public commentary period opens soon. Public comments on the project will be received from May 18 through July 17, 2015. Comments may be emailed to cdraecs@placer.ca.gov or mailed directly to:

  • Maywan Krach, Community Development Technician
  • Environmental Coordination Services
  • Placer County Community Development Resource Agency
  • 3091 County Center Drive, Suite 190
  • Auburn, CA 95603

There is also a public hearing scheduled in Tahoe City on Thursday, June 25th at 10:05 am. The hearing will be held at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. We encourage you to attend the hearing and also submit comments if you truly care about the future of Squaw Valley, Olympic Valley, the Tahoe region and most importantly, our world.

We expect that we will see more detailed analysis of the draft EIR by Sierra Watch and other groups in the coming days. We hope to share their thoughts with our readers.

Andy Wertheim: Snow, A Bridge And Plastic

Photo by Andy Wertheim

Photo by Andy Wertheim

Hello Friends,

Snow again!  I do not think we are going to get much snow out of this next storm as the weather people are suggesting it is sliding south.  We may get an inch or two, but the Southern Sierra is scheduled to receive 8 inches or more and very far south they may pick up a foot.  Powder day at Mammoth Friday.  This afternoon it is cloudy but not too cold.

If you have not heard, the Alpine Meadows bridge is being replaced this summer.  A new wider, safer, bridge is going to be constructed to replace the old deteriorating one.  First the contractor has to construct a temporary bridge.  A few photos of the progress are attached.

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Last night we went to a presentation of Plastic Paradise at the Tahoe Art Haus.  This is an independent  documentary film produced by Angela Sun.  Angela was at the screening and gave a talk describing the film and later answered questions from the audience.  This is a film your children should definitely see along with their parents.  It is rather depressing as it deals with the huge amount of garbage and especially plastic that is piling up in our oceans, landfills, and just plain everywhere.  There are graphic images of birds and fish filled with all sizes of plastic.  Angela went to Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to film some of the footage.  Beaches that have more plastic on them then sand.  Dead Albatross lay in the sand.  They are opened on screen to show bellies filled with all kinds of our garbage much of it plastic. Plastic bags fly in the wind catching on tree branches and fences followed by animals eating them.  Angela admits we cannot free ourselves of all plastic, but she thinks a first step is to stop our use of plastic that is made for just one use.  Our oceans are dying from coral being torn up by floating abandon fishing nets that catch on them. They also kill fish of all sizes that become entangled in them.  Plastic water bottles are a big enemy of our environment that we really should not use.  Get a glass or other style reusable bottle.  It is certainly worth watching to enlighten yourself about some of the environment issues facing our generation.

Enjoy your day.

Andy Wertheim

Editor’s note from Mark: We challenged Squaw Valley Ski Holdings in our greenwashing piece last January. Plastic water bottles are sold property-wide at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. They offer a large profit margin at a huge environmental cost. Maybe a former wilderness ranger will take a stand and eliminate single use plastic water bottles from SquAlpine?

Sharing Some Alpine Meadows Love

We have known it for a long time. There’s a loyal breed of Alpine Meadows skiers and riders that have grown up at the mountain that many of us call home. Braden Schroeder is one of those people. He sent in a photo of his latest inkwork that proclaims that Alpine Meadows will never die. We love it.

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When will the marketing department at Squaw Valley Ski Holdings realize there is far more value in having two different brands that appeal to two different market segments? It’s far more valuable than just advertising a larger number of lifts, acreage, or a connection to a fake mountain village filled with chain stores. We salute Braden and all of the other people that want to protect a 54 year legacy at Alpine Meadows. #FreeAlpine