EPA raids offices of Squaw Valley USA ski resort

OLYMPIC VALLEY - Environmental Protection Agency agents have raided the business offices of Squaw Valley USA as part of an agency investigation into the ski resort's alleged environmental violations.

Twelve agents served a search warrant to resort officials Tuesday and seized more than 200 items, including computers, computer files and hard drives, reported KOLO television in Reno.

Agents also seized documents related to the resort's 1998 construction of the $20 million Funitel tram.

Squaw Valley is accused of engaging in a series of violations of the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, according to the EPA's affidavit requesting the search warrant.

The Lake Tahoe resort also is accused of knowingly discharging pollutants into Squaw Creek, a Truckee River tributary, during the Funitel's construction.

''There is no danger to anybody as far as health, but the environment is in danger,'' said Jorge Urquijo, the EPA's special agent in charge. ''We only serve warrants for the most egregious cases of environmental crimes.''

Squaw Valley officials declined comment other than to say they cooperated with federal agents.

Squaw Valley was threatened with sanctions after the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Board accused the resort of violating state environmental laws during the Funitel project.

The resort was accused of illegally blasting a mountainside away for the tram and moving the debris to a slope above Squaw Creek, allowing it to wash into the creek. The debris was supposed to have been hauled away.

The Lahontan board and Placer County slapped the resort with stop-work orders at various times during the Funitel's construction.

But the problems over the Funitel weren't the first between Lahontan and the resort that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

In April, Lahontan officials urged a $250,000 fine against Squaw Valley, claiming it destroyed a wetland and then failed to restore the damage in timely fashion.

Several years ago, Lahontan fined the resort for a diesel spill.

In 1989, the Sierra Club and Hewlett-Packard Co. co-founder William Hewlett sued Squaw Valley Ski Corp. founder Alex Cushing for $4.5 million, claiming he cut down thousands of trees for a new ski run without permits.

Lahontan officials said they were aware of the EPA search but would not confirm if they were present during it.

''The only think I know is that Squaw is part of a federal investigation,'' said Scott Ferguson, Lahontan's senior water resource control engineer.


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