Heavenly upgrade gets another look

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

STATELINE, Nev. ” Lake Tahoe land-use regulators said they will reconsider a plan by Heavenly Ski Resort to remove more than 1,000 trees for a new ski lift and other improvements.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency approved the plan last month.

But under threat of a lawsuit by environmentalists over the legality of the vote, agency directors Wednesday agreed to reconsider the matter in April.

Agency lawyer Joanne Marchetta recommended the action “as an accommodation” to the public without giving any merit to the legal challenge filed last week by the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Area Sierra Club and the Sierra Nevada Alliance.

“This motion is being made in the interest of avoiding delay,” Marchetta said.

In February, the board approved changes sought by the resort to its master plan. At the heart of the controversy was Heavenly’s plan to remove two aging ski lifts on the Nevada side and replace them with one, high-speed quad lift.

Environmentalists oppose the project because it would require removed of more than 1,100 trees, about 150 of them old growth-type trees with diameters up to or exceeding 24 inches. They support different lift alignments that would impact far fewer trees.

Blaise Carrig, Heavenly’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, said he was disappointed with the board’s decision to void last month’s approval, but was prepared to restate the resort’s case.

“We’ve always said we want to respect the process and we’ll continue to show the merits of our proposal,” Carrig said.

Environmentalists praised the agency’s decision Wednesday.

“I’m delighted. I think this will go a long way to restoring credibility to TRPA,” Michael Donahoe, a Sierra Club representative, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I’m hoping they will step up to the plate and do what’s right for the environment.”

Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said the action will allow the organization to raise issues about impacts to Tahoe’s water quality and old-growth timber.

“We’re really heartened that the governing board did the right thing today for the public and for solid environmental decision-making,” Nason said.