Dyer Mountain resort suit set for December | TheUnion.com

Dyer Mountain resort suit set for December

SUSANVILLE, Calif. _ Ten years after initial approval of Dyer Mountain resort, a court will take up environmental concerns about the potential mega-resort in a remote region of Northeastern California.

Opponents of the proposed Dyer Mountain resort in Lassen County on Thursday filed their opening brief with the Lassen County Superior Court.

Mountain Meadows Conservancy, Sierra Watch, and Sierra Club are together suing Lassen County, contending that the Board of Supervisors illegally certified the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that approved the development of a year-round resort of more than 4,000 homes.

Lassen County Superior Court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments in the case on Dec. 15.

The brief lays out the plaintiffs’ arguments against the proposed Dyer Mountain resort, noting the severe damage it would impose on environmental resources in the area. The resort is proposed for 6,700 acres of forest land. Dyer Mountain, which rises from the shores of scenic Mountain Meadows Reservoir, provides habitat for 17 special-status species, such as the endangered little willow flycatcher and the threatened greater sandhill crane. The Mountain Meadows Basin forms the headwaters of the easternmost tributary of the North Fork of the Feather River above Lake Almanor. The region is known for its unspoiled beauty and is home to nesting American bald eagles.

“This massive development proposal has no place on Dyer Mountain, which is in a remote, rural area,” said Steve Robinson of Mountain Meadows Conservancy. “And approval of the project failed to meet basic legal standards.”

Plaintiffs in the case argue that the county failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and are petitioning the court to rescind all development approvals.

According to Robinson, “Our goal is to take the development proposal off the table, as it never was subject to proper environmental review. We’d like to work with landowners and decision makers on a responsible vision for Dyer Mountain.”

The approved project would have sixteen significant environmental impacts that the developers would not be required to mitigate, ranging from excessive traffic and poor air quality to damaging the area’s scenic vistas.

Lassen County voters approved an initiative in 2000 that granted conceptual approval for a year-round resort. The proposed resort is among the largest development proposals in the Sierra Nevada.

The final proposed project would add 17,000 new residents to the area, completely overwhelming a region whose main town, Westwood, has a population of about 2,000 residents. The initiative granted the Board the authority to go back to the original zoning for the area if construction of the resort had not begun within seven years. Ten years later, the project is still far from construction.

The project has been a financial mess, mired in investor lawsuits, bankruptcy proceedings, and foreclosure. Among other debts, the current landowners owe more than $1.25 million in overdue property taxes.

The Dyer Mountain resort proposes to eliminate thousands of acres of timber land to make space for subdivisions, ski slopes, and golf courses. The land itself is largely pristine, with access provided by a one-lane bridge. The development would require new water services, sewage systems, and roads.

“The Dyer Mountain proposal is a poster child for outdated development plans,” said Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch. “It proposes the kind of mistake we won’t let happen in our Sierra. This is extremely sensitive habitat and one of the last relatively untouched areas of its kind in California; it’s time to drop the development proposal and work together on a win-win resolution that permanently protects Dyer Mountain.”

Conservationists see the effort to stop the Dyer Mountain resort as part of an encouraging trend in the Sierra Nevada: important Sierra areas are shifting away from development and towards conservation. In 2006, development plans in the Martis Valley near Lake Tahoe were scaled back significantly to protect the natural resources in the region.

A similar fight is underway to protect Donner Summit, where a private developer has proposed to build nearly 1,000 residential units. Like the proposed Dyer Mountain resort, the Donner Summit project faces substantial opposition on environmental grounds and is struggling financially.

“It is highly unlikely that Lassen County will see sustainable economic gain from this proposed resort,” added Sierra Club’s Grace Marvin. “Dyer Mountain is far more remote than the Lake Tahoe area where many Bay Area residents go to enjoy outdoor recreation. And the lower elevation at Dyer Mountain means that, as climate change takes further hold, it’s likely there will be little to no natural snowfall to support downhill skiing.”

The native Honey Lake Maidu tribe would also experience a significant loss if development plans move forward. Many of the tribe’s burials and sacred sites are located within the proposed Dyer Mountain resort area.

Plaintiffs Mountain Meadow Conservancy, Sierra Watch, and Sierra Club have retained San Francisco-based Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger (www.smwlaw.com ) to represent them in this lawsuit.

To read the full brief submitted to the court today, visit http://www.sierrawatch.org .

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