Public meetings occurred in Alpine Meadows, put on by KSL, Squaw and Troy Caldwell. A large crowd showed up for the meeting at Alpine Meadows Lodge. Lots of questions, many answered but not all. Take-homes from the meetings: they intend to push forward with the gondola proposal, though the Forest Service permit application won’t be submitted as soon as originally thought. Studies are underway. They have set the alignment for the gondola and it would cross the boundary of the designated Granite Chief Wilderness Area. The gondola would be built very close to two of the Five Lakes and would be visible for much of the hike from Alpine to Five Lakes.
Troy also introduced his new development plan to construct 38 large residences at the base of the Great Wall, near his existing home. Several of these homes will likely be visible from Five Lakes Trail. Troy also described his plan for another chairlift (in addition to the one that has sat idle for 10 years) that would be private, linking to the gondola and then proceeding to the top of Lake Estelle Bowl. This chair would be part private and part public (?). Lake Estelle would be forever changed. Troy’s “new” chair and the 38 new houses he plans will go through their own environmental reviews, once he submits the permit application documents. He indicated a DEIR could be ready next spring.
Alpine Sierra’s development next to Bear Creek (38 new houses) is to have a Draft Environmental Impact Report out for public review “soon,” maybe November. The Squaw Village proposal, for 1500 more beds at Squaw and a ‘Walmart-sized’ recreation building, issued a DEIR that has received over 300 letters of comment, 97% opposed to part or all of the proposal.
All these development plans will impact Granite Chief, in different ways. The gondola presents the greatest direct threats to the Wilderness Area. The 38 houses below Five Lakes present long term noise, light and other urban impacts. The construction noises (10 years +) may be particularly harmful to the Wilderness.
Placer County has yet to substantively address the cumulative impact issues that the many North Tahoe developments raise. A primary role of the county government is the protection of the public interest and the public’s natural resources (the Public Trust Doctrine). This responsibility includes articulating a vision and holding to clear benchmarks for resources and quality of life protections. We the public will need to demand the necessary leadership to achieve these protections, recognizing our responsibility to the future generations.