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LAKEPORT, Calif. July 21, 2020— Despite warnings from fire experts and the California attorney general, the Lake County Board of Supervisors approved a sprawling development today in the fire-prone Guenoc Valley, just north of Napa County in Northern California. The project is a massive luxury resort and residential development spread over 16,000 acres that includes oak woodland habitat and critical wildlife corridors.
“By approving this big project in a fire-prone area, Lake County put development dollars ahead of the welfare of the region’s residents and environment,” said Peter Broderick, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Supervisors shrugged off expert warnings that this resort will put new residents and existing communities at risk. Despite California’s deadly experiences with fire, officials across the state are still astonishingly willing to OK development in wild places that are highly likely to burn.”
The site of the Guenoc Valley Mixed-Use Planned Development Project contains oak woodlands and habitat for the threatened foothill yellow-legged frog and western pond turtle. The resort will include a golf course, polo grounds, helipad and float-plane landing facilities designed to attract “high net worth individuals” looking to escape urban areas, according to promotional materials.
When built the project will bring thousands of new residents and visitors to this remote corner of Lake County, resulting in more than 30,000 metric tons of new greenhouse gas emissions every year and increasing the risk of wildfire.
The California attorney general repeatedly raised concerns about the county’s failure to analyze the risk of wildfire ignitions from the development and how the project would affect wildfire evacuations in the region.
A renowned fire-safety expert also expressed dismay at the project’s lack of evacuation planning, asserting that the project could pose a serious threat to public safety. Wildfire evacuation planning is critical because of the project’s remote location — accessible only by a single two-lane road — and history of wildfires. Impacts from the recent Butts, Valley and Jerusalem fires are still visible on the site.
The Center and members of the public have repeatedly raised concerns about the development’s impact on the environment and surrounding community, in a comment letter and testimony at public hearings. Today’s vote by the Lake County Board of Supervisors leaves the public with approximately 30 days to file litigation challenging the county’s environmental review of the project.