$250,000 fine urged for Squaw Valley ski resort

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OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - A $250,000 fine is being recommended for a Lake Tahoe ski resort accused of destroying a wetland and then failing to restore the damage in a timely fashion.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is tentatively set to consider the fine against Squaw Valley USA when it meets May 10-11 in Lancaster. The fine is being urged by its staff.

''By destroying the wetland and failing to quickly mitigate the losses, I think it's safe to say we have seen adverse water quality impacts on the south fork of Squaw Creek,'' Scott Ferguson, senior water resource control engineer at Lahontan, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Nancy Wendt, president of Squaw Valley Ski Corp., was not home Saturday and unavailable for comment, a resort spokesman said.

Squaw Valley is accused of destroying about 1.3 acres of a wetland during work to expand its Gold Coast Pond in 1994.

The resort was supposed to have a plan to offset the loss of the wetland before the project began, but failed to do so, Ferguson said.

In response to a later board order, Squaw Valley came up with a plan to restore the damage by the end of 1995 but did not complete the work until last October.

The proposed $250,000 fine is for Lahontan rule violations from June 1998 to last October.

Ferguson said there's an ongoing dispute about violations from 1995 to 1998, and his agency may go to court to recover about $350,000 for that time period.

Wetlands are considered good for water quality because they stop erosion and filter out sediment and pollutants.

Over the last decade, Lahontan has taken action against Squaw Valley at least five other times for problems unrelated to the Gold Coast Pond.

They've included fuel spills and placement of fill dirt into stream zones. They've also included alleged environmental violations during construction of the resort's $20 million Funitel tram in 1998.

''We have not had this type of history of violations with any other resorts that are in our region,'' Ferguson said.


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