Stormwater Issues Cost Northstar Mountain $2.75 Million

Northstar Mountain Properties, LLC (NMP) has agreed to pay $2.75 million as part of its settlement with the state of California stemming from water quality violations, the majority of which occurred at the Northstar Resort Community during the 2006 construction season.

This is the largest settlement ever reached by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board as a result of an enforcement action related to stormwater compliance activities associated with construction projects, officials announced on March 12.

NMP allegedly violated conditions of its Clean Water Act Water Quality Certification, Construction Storm Water Permit, and prohibitions contained in the Lahontan Water Board’s Basin Plan. Violations occurred at 11 different project areas in the Northstar Resort Community.

Under the terms of the settlement, NMP has agreed to pay $500,000 to be distributed between the State Water Resource Control Board’s Clean-up and Abatement Account (80 percent) and Waste Discharge Permit Fund (20 percent). The remaining $2,250,000 will fund a major supplemental environmental project proposed by NMP that will focus on watershed improvements within the Martis Valley area. The improvements will occur at Waddle Ranch, a 1,462acre parcel recently acquired by the Truckee Donner Land Trust for environmental conservation and within the Northstar community. In addition to water quality and habitat improvement, the project will ultimately result in a technology transfer to land managers within the Sierra Nevada through a "Watershed Evaluation, Treatment and Monitoring Handbook" and through a "Forest Fuels Treatment/Water Quality Protection Handbook."

"We take stormwater permit compliance very seriously," said Jack Clarke, chair of the Lahontan Water Board. "The development and construction industries should take note of the significant consequences associated with violating the state’s water quality protection laws and regulations, including Water Board enforcement orders."

In 2006, the Lahontan Water Board documented numerous violations at a planned development of approximately 325 acres within the existing Northstar Resort Community. The violations related to NMP’s failure to adequately install and maintain stormwater controls, some of which eventually led to discharges of sediment-laden stormwater runoff into area surface waters during rainfall events, and compliance with Lahontan reporting requirements.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is one of nine regional boards in the state. Its principal duty is to protect and restore California’s water quality east of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada crests from the Oregon border through the Mojave Desert. To do so, it sets water quality standards and waste discharge requirements, enforces federal sand state water quality statutes, regulates cleanup of sites that threaten water quality, and educates the public about water quality issues.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board consists of up to nine individuals, each appointed by the governor, and a small professional staff comprised mostly of scientists, engineers, and geologists.

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