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Mancuso backs Squaw Valley expansion plans

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. (AP) -- The Squaw Valley ski resort's expansion plans have drawn support from four-time Olympic skiing medalist Julia Mancuso but continued criticism from environmentalists.

Mancuso, who lives in Squaw Valley, backed the project along with other local athletes in an opinion column that ran in Truckee's Sierra Sun (http://bit.ly/1i94Fph ) this week.

The athletes, including Jonny Moseley and Travis Ganong, noted operators of the Village at Squaw Valley scaled back their expansion plans late last year to meet the concerns of critics.

They reduced plans for new hotel-condominium units from 1,100 to 750 and for new hotel bedrooms from nearly 2,200 to about 1,500. Maximum building heights were cut from eight stories to seven, and the size of the Mountain Adventure Camp was reduced from a maximum of 132,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet. Overall, they decreased the project's footprint from 101.5 acres to some 94 acres.

“We feel the leadership of the mountain is focused on the improvement of the mountain and that now, the redevelopment plans are very much in keeping with the soul and spirit of Squaw Valley,” the athletes wrote. “We have the utmost faith that they will execute the plan gracefully and make Squaw an even more magical place.”

But environmentalists say the scale of the plans is still too much for the Sierra Nevada resort that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, and that mountain views, traffic and water supplies would be adversely affected.

Some 50 comments were received by a March 24 deadline on Placer County's revised notice of preparation for the Village at Squaw Valley's plans.

“Keep Disneyland in Southern California, please,” wrote critic Elizabeth Hale, a resident of Lake Tahoe's west shore.

Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch, said comparing the current proposal with past ones is misleading.

“The (notice of preparation) misleads the public by consistently comparing the current project to (the owners') previous proposal, giving the false impression that the current project is somehow environmentally beneficial,” he said. “But the failed 2012 proposal is irrelevant. The county must assess the new proposed project on its own merits.”

A draft environmental impact report is expected to be completed by late this year and be circulated for public review before creation of a final EIR, according to Placer County officials.

“As previously, we are now working with the county and the community in addressing these concerns to the extent feasible and possible,” said Chevis Hosea, vice president of development for Squaw Valley.

The resort's goal is to begin construction in 2016.

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Information from: Sierra Sun.

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