TRUCKEE, Calif. — A proposed mountain improvement project at Northstar California could generate several potentially significant environmental impacts, some of which would be unavoidable even after mitigation.
Those are some of the findings in the recently released draft Environmental Impact Report on the Northstar Mountain Master Plan, which calls for new ski lifts, additional trails, a gondola and more to maintain Northstar’s competitiveness as a resort destination.
Sensitivity to the surrounding environment was considered in the planning process, said Bill Rock, chief operating officer of Northstar.
Serving as a guide was Northstar’s Habitat Management Plan, a planning tool to conserve and enhance resort lands, he said. That plan was created in partnership with conservation groups Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation and finalized in 2009.
“The balance of the needs of Northstar Resort and the special environment we all treasure here in Martis Valley ... is in accordance with the HMP,” Rock said.
Despite that, the draft EIR prepared by Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based PMC found the plan would significantly impact a public view along Highway 89 in the northern portion of Truckee due to certain proposed lift facilities, and increase short-term construction emissions even after mitigation.
Two action alternatives proposed in the EIR would reduce project impact to the scenic vista and construction emissions, but they would still be considered “significant and unavoidable.”
“Potentially significant” environmental areas that can be reduced to “less than significant” with proper mitigation are: biological resources, noise, and hydrology and water quality among others.
Drainage impact is of particular concern to the neighboring Aspen Grove Condominium Association, said Richard “Dick” Bjur, its president.
After a Northstar retention pond was installed in 2004, downhill Aspen Grove homeowners have seen many aspen trees die, condo foundations get ruined and water-saturated grounds, he said.
Aspen Grove has been involved in ongoing litigation since 2008 in an effort to get the retention pond removed from its current location.
“We would hope that they will act more responsibly in any future uphill development,” Bjur said.
According to the report, environmental areas to be less than significantly impacted or not impacted are: traffic and circulation and hazardous materials and hazards.
As of last Friday, no comments have been received on the draft EIR, said Gerry Haas, senior planner for Placer County.
The comment period will last until Jan. 13, 2014. Afterward, work on a final EIR will begin, with possible completion at the end of February 2014 and a Placer County Planning Commission public hearing in March 2014, Haas said.
That timeframe depends on the number of comments received, their depth and whether additional analysis is needed, he said.