Feds investigate Squaw Valley USA

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OLYMPIC VALLEY - Twelve federal agents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency served a search warrant and seized information at Squaw Valley USA Tuesday morning.

"There is no danger to anybody as far as health but the environment is in danger," said Jorge Urquijo, Environmental Protection Agency's special agent in charge.

The reason for the search or the information taken from Squaw's offices is not public at this time because the warrant is currently sealed, according to officials at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento.

Warrants are often served by the Criminal Investigations Department of the EPA for environmental crimes nationwide, said Urquijo.

"We only serve warrants for the most egregious cases of environmental crimes," he said.

Squaw Valley officials would only comment on the situation by saying Ski Corporation employees worked with the agents to help them retrieve the information needed.

Officials from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board knew about the search but would not confirm if they were present during the search.

"The only thing I know is that Squaw is part of a federal investigation," said Scott Ferguson, of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Placer County code enforcement officials did not know about the investigation, even though they are continually monitoring construction at the ski resort.

In the past, Placer County has issued stop work orders on Squaw construction projects.

The Ski Corp., however, did not comply with some of the stop work orders, including one in the fall of 1998 during construction of the Funitel.

Squaw has run into other environmental problems over the years and recently. In April, the Lahontan Water Quality Control Board issued a $250,000 fine for allegedly destroying a wetland and then taking five years to complete restoration work. Yet to be enforced, the fine stems from a 1994 expansion project of Squaw's Gold Coast pond, when 1.3 acres of wetlands were removed.

Over the past 10 years Lahontan has taken action against Squaw Valley at least five times for environmental violations such as fuel spills, discharges of sediment into Squaw Creek, putting fill dirt into a stream zone and for violations during the construction of the Funitel.


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