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Cal Neva awaits environmental upgrades as deadline nears

Jason Shueh
Tahoe Daily Tribune
Published Caption: Bonanza Photo - Jason Shueh
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CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. – The Cal Neva Resort and Casino has less than three weeks to devise a plan regarding the property’s out-of-date environmental standards before potential penalties are levied, officials said this week.

The resort is not in compliance with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Best Management Practices, said Spokesman Dennis Oliver, and its active permit to update them ends Monday, April 26.

Oliver said while he sympathizes with the struggling resort, if construction on BMPs has not begun by April 26, the bi-state agency will notice the Cal Neva and possibly issue fines.

“What we’re mainly focused on is getting the work done so that the environmental work is realized,” Oliver said Wednesday.

Assessing the resort as a financially “distressed property,” Oliver said TRPA will do its best to work with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors – which owns the resort – to flesh out a BMP retrofit plan to avoid fines and potential litigation toward civil penalties. Oliver said an engineering plan would need to be developed for an exact estimate on BMP costs, although he said they would be “substantial.”

“Cal Neva can’t even keep the casino open there, so our chance of getting them to invest a bunch of money in BMPs by fining them isn’t the route to go,” Oliver said.

A spokeswoman for Sugarman Communications, Canyon’s public relations firm, said Canyon officials were unavailable for comment about a potential BMP plan.

This week’s announcement comes a week after the resort’s casino ended operations on March 31; in a statement, Canyon executive Richard Bosworth said he hopes to hire a Nevada-based gaming manager and reopen the casino by year’s end. The resort’s restaurants, lounges, showroom and wedding facilities will continue to operate during its closure.

Jessica Schwing, TRPA’s associate environmental specialist to the agency’s erosion control team, said the agency’s ultimate goal is for BMPs to be installed, and she’d rather see commercial property owners like Canyon Capital spend money on the improvements, rather than fines and attorney fees.

“We’re willing to work with folks and phase projects in,” Schwing said.

According to TRPA rules, Canyon would be served a Notice of Failure and must respond within 30 days with a BMP project plan and implementation schedule or a concrete reason why the resort is not able to install the necessary improvements.

Depending on that response, if it is deemed unacceptable, Schwing said TRPA could fine Canyon $1,000 for the first year of violation in addition to requiring BMP installation.

Fees jump each year, with a second year costing $2,500 and a third year costing $4,000. Beyond that, Schwing said TRPA counsel may initiate litigation seeking civil penalties and compliance with the agency’s BMP Retrofit Program.

“We have a lot more flexibility with commercial property owners if they come to us ahead of time before that notice is issued,” she said. “It’s just better to come to us before we come to you.”Ї


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