By ELISE DUNCAN

The proposed Squaw Alpine gondola project is now out for public review and its environmental impact statement outlines many significant effects. We, the public, must oppose this plan — to protect our wilderness, heritage, and natural resources the future generations deserve to experience.

The gondola has been sold to us by Squaw/KSL as not only environmentally friendly, but even environmentally beneficial (reduced traffic, less pollution). But the U.S. Forest Service is pointing out 33 adverse impacts that would be caused by the project. KSL’s preferred alternative has been found to be the most environmentally damaging. Our wonderful Granite Chief Wilderness would be forever diminished, endangered species would lose habitat, and the 37 metal gondola towers would forever impact the views and the very popular Five Lakes Trail. The Caldwell land the gondola would cross has been marred for 15 years by the numerous metal chairlift towers, unused for all these years.

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The damages this gondola would inflict on our public lands is too much. The project would cause more development at the base of our Granite Chief Wilderness, with 36 houses, horse stables, tennis courts, and another private chairlift. Moreover, there are related fire and emergency evacuation threats.

Squaw/KSL insisted since day one that the gondola would reduce traffic between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, and that it would reduce the carbon footprint of the ski resorts (thus benefiting our future climate). It turns out the project will exacerbate our existing horrible traffic problems and increase the carbon emissions that harm our climate and future snowpack, according to the environmental impact report. Though Sierra Watch and the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League have been challenging those KSL claims from the get-go, now the federal government is setting the developers straight.

I don’t understand how a gondola would operate in a predicted future that will have more frequent “shut down weather” and less (or zero) snow. Given the storms that hit upper Alpine this year, one has to wonder just how often that gondola would be able to run? I also struggle to see how they could operate the gondola “only in the winter,” as KSL has insisted for 18 months, given the likelihood of increasingly limited winter operations. Why care about summer gondola operations? It would bring masses of people, with coffee cups and heavy feet, into the Five Lakes Basin. The personal effort (the hike in) to Five Lakes is the best means we have to control the human impact on this sensitive area.

I was skiing at Squaw Valley in the early ’50s. My family has had a cabin at Alpine for five decades. We have never believed in that “vision” of connecting Alpine and Squaw. They are two very different experiences. Our family always believed in a bigger vision around the wilderness and Five Lakes, an area protected for its peace and unfettered beauty, rich with inspiration — a legacy for future generations.

Please go to the USFS website to learn more.

~ Elise Duncan of Mill Valley has been an Alpine Meadows cabin owner for over 50 years.

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