Attorney General Becerra Files Motion to Intervene in Lawsuit Challenging Development of Wildfire-Prone Area in Lake County
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit challenging Lake County’s approval and certification of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Guenoc Valley Mixed Use Planned Development (Guenoc Valley) Project. Although the Guenoc Valley Project is located in a high fire risk zone that has burned repeatedly in recent years, Lake County finalized an EIR in July 2020 that fails to adequately analyze and mitigate the increased wildfire risk associated with the project, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions and other adverse environmental impacts. In today’s motion, Attorney General Becerra seeks to ensure that Lake County discloses and mitigates the impacts of the Guenoc Valley Project in a manner that fully complies with the California Environmental Quality Act.
“Lake County residents have borne the brunt of many of the recent wildfires that have ravaged our state," said Attorney General Becerra. "They deserve to know that the increased wildfire risks resulting from any new development in their area have been properly considered – and mitigated.”
The Guenoc Valley Project is a resort and residential development project located on the 16,000-acre Guenoc Valley Ranch property in southeast Lake County, along the border of Napa County. As proposed, the Project would include up to 850 hotel rooms and resort apartments, 1,400 residences, and various resort amenities, along with an off-site workforce housing development and water well infrastructure. The Guenoc Valley Project site is largely designated as a very high fire hazard severity zone, and was affected by wildfires in 1952, 1953, 1963, 1976, 1980, 1996, 2006, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2020.
During the environmental review process, Attorney General Becerra submitted two comment letters to Lake County regarding inadequacies in the final EIR’s analysis of wildfire impacts. Specifically, these comments provided detailed evidence that the Guenoc Valley Project’s design would exacerbate wildfire risk, would increase the likelihood of wildfire ignition, and lacked adequate opportunities for evacuation in a wildfire. These wildfire impacts were neither adequately analyzed nor mitigated in the final EIR.
In addition to increasing fire risk, the Guenoc Valley Project will also generate tens of thousands of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from gas and electricity usage, mobile transportation, and other causes. Rather than addressing these emissions adequately in the EIR, Lake County issued a last minute errata to the final EIR that purports to reduce the Project’s greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase on carbon offsets. However, the measure fails to include requirements to ensure that the carbon offsets are verifiable, enforceable, and quantifiable as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. Additionally, the final EIR fails to consider all feasible mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as measures to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
In today’s motion to intervene, Attorney General Becerra argues that the approval of the Guenoc Valley Project based on such an inadequate environmental review violates California law and must be overturned.
Attorney General Becerra seeks to join the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society in their lawsuit challenging Lake County’s EIR.
A copy of the motion can be found here.