Tahoe conservationists challenge Martis Valley West court decision, seek adequate protections for Lake Tahoe

May 10, 2018 – The League to Save Lake Tahoe, Mountain Area Preservation and Sierra Watch are filing today a notice of appeal in California’s Third District Court of Appeals seeking adequate environmental protection for Lake Tahoe from the proposed Martis Valley West Project.

Earlier this year, Placer County Superior Court issued an order to vacate and set aside Placer County’s 2016 approvals of the Martis Valley West project, a massive and controversial development proposal on Brockway Summit that threatens Lake Tahoe. The ruling focused on Placer County’s failure to provide sufficient analysis of the project’s impacts on emergency evacuation, such as in the event of a wildfire.

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Although the Placer County Court decision halted progress on Martis Valley West, the court’s ruling failed to address several other significant environmental threats associated with the project, including impacts to the Lake Tahoe Basin. The three conservation organizations are asking a panel of three judges for the Court of Appeal to revisit those environmental hazards.

“While we are taking this action today to ensure that Lake Tahoe benefits now from the environmental protections that California law requires, this is also critical for the long term,” said Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “If we are to protect Lake Tahoe for future generations, we must set a precedent that future developments must take the health of the Lake into account.”

In 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved the Martis Valley West proposal, a 760-unit residential development with 6.6 acres of commercial, located on a ridgeline overlooking Lake Tahoe and the Martis Valley, immediately adjacent to the Tahoe Basin. Placer County records show the project would add more cars to Tahoe’s existing traffic.

Tahoe’s famed clarity—and deep blue color—is arguably the region’s most fundamental asset. Public agencies and state regulators, charged with protecting the Lake’s clarity, point to pollution and sediment caused by traffic in the Tahoe Basin as the chief culprit in degrading the Lake.

According to Placer County’s environmental review, the Martis Valley West project would add up to 1,394 vehicle trips per day to Lake Tahoe’s existing traffic, further jeopardizing ongoing efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue.

“While the project sits on the boundary of Tahoe, the impacts from increased traffic, including auto-related pollution that will harm Lake Tahoe’s water quality, setting a dangerous precedent for, projects on the fringe of the basin,” said Alexis Ollar, executive director of Mountain Area Preservation. “Martis Valley West offers up practically zero mitigation for Lake Tahoe. Filing this appeal helps to safeguard our environmental laws, while standing up for our natural resources and health of our community.”

Although the recent Placer County Court ruling has halted progress on the Martis Valley West project, its proponents assert that they can address the shortcomings identified by the court’s ruling and eventually move the project ahead without addressing the rest of its environmental dangers. The three conservation organizations filing today’s appeal seek to ensure the project’s environmental threats are addressed, and that a precedent is set that Lake Tahoe is to remain protected.

“This is how we work together to protect our mountains,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “By taking action today, we can stop one reckless project now and, also, prevent more irresponsible projects in Tahoe’s future.”

Mountain Area Preservation (MAP) is an environmental advocacy nonprofit organization based in Truckee, California and established in 1987. For the last 30 years MAP has worked collaboratively with our conservation partners to protect open space, advocate for smart growth development and educate the community on regional land use planning and policy. For more information, visit mountainareapreservation.org.

Sierra Watch works to protect great places in the Sierra Nevada. Founded in 2001, the Nevada City based non-profit has built a remarkable track record in land preservation in Martis Valley and on Donner Summit. Now they are leading the fight to Keep Squaw True. For more information, visit sierrawatch.org.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe, also known by the slogan “Keep Tahoe Blue,” is Tahoe’s oldest and largest nonprofit environmental advocacy organization. The League is dedicated to community engagement and education, and collaborating to find solutions to Tahoe’s environmental challenges. Learn more at keeptahoeblue.org.