Pictured: Olympic Valley under smoky skies September 7 2022

Meet the New Waterpark. Same as the Old Waterpark?

At two meetings under smoky skies in Tahoe’s Olympic Valley last week, Alterra Mountain Company gave a brief update on its proposed development; Placer County counsel described their legal obligations in the aftermath of Sierra Watch’s court victory; and planners laid out the steps in the upcoming public planning process.

The project and the process were portrayed as a steamroller – as if environmental review had been reduced to mere technicalities and the project is inevitable.

But it felt more like a train wreck.

Pictured: Olympic Valley under smoky skies September 7 2022

Pictured: Olympic Valley under smoky skies September 7 2022

We’ll start with the good news: officials informed us that, per court order, the Placer County Board of Supervisors will rescind all 2016 approvals of Alterra’s original project at its meeting on October 25.

This includes, as spelled out in the Final Judgment in Sierra Watch vs. Placer County et al, “the Specific Plan, the Development Agreement, the Large-Lot Vesting Tentative Subdivision Map, amendments to the Squaw Valley General Plan and Land Use Ordinance, zoning change, development standards, and related resolutions and ordinances… adoption of related findings of fact, statement of overriding considerations, and mitigation monitoring reporting program; and certification of the EIR.”

This is a major milestone in our ongoing work to keep Tahoe Truckee True. And it should provide a great opportunity for a clean slate, a chance to work together on collaborative planning for Olympic Valley and the Tahoe Truckee Region.

But County officials also informed us that they are already moving forward with a new public planning process for Alterra’s old project, this time known as the Palisades at Tahoe Specific Plan.

They showed us a slide of the proposed development: there were no changes to Alterra’s failed proposal – still 1,500 bedrooms, still 25 years of construction, still an indoor waterpark.

Pictured: Placer County planner Alex Fisch presents slide of Alterra proposal – same as the old plan.

Pictured: Placer County planner Alex Fisch presents slide of Alterra proposal – same as the old plan.

Doubling down on the old, failed plan, Clayton Cook of the County Counsel’s office informed the audience that environmental review would be based on the time at which the proposal was originally filed with the County: 2011(!). 

As if the County had a Tahoe Time Machine that could transport us all back eleven years – and that nothing has changed in the meantime.

Members of the Olympic Valley and North Tahoe Regional Advisory Councils, as well as members of the public, pointed out the simple fact that: times have indeed changed – and not necessarily for the better. 

Drought is drying up our creeks. Climate change is shrinking our snowpack. Increased occupancy is straining local infrastructure and housing stock. Wildfires crest the Sierra as smoke fills our skies.

These are not mere technicalities. They are the most important issues facing Tahoe. And, as proposed, Alterra’s old plan would make each one worse.

Sierra Watch believes there’s a better way. We took to the podium to invite Alterra and the County to join us in a more collaborative approach: Take a time out from the train wreck, and see if we – community members, planners, conservationists, and Alterra – can come up with a limited development alternative that works for everyone. 

Without engaging in another ten years of conflict and, more important, without jeopardizing everything we love about our mountains.

Olympic Valley – and Tahoe – deserve no less.

They didn’t take us up on the invitation – yet.

But Dee Byrne, President of Palisades Tahoe, offered some words of encouragement, promising that Alterra is “only interested in doing a project that adds value to the community.” She said, “We’re only interested in doing the right thing.”

It’s our job, in the months and years ahead, to hold Alterra to that commitment.