Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

A Twain Harte-based environmental organization has withdrawn its appeal of a U.S. Forest Service approval for a major expansion of the Bear Valley Mountain Resort.

The decision Friday by the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center comes after negotiations with the resort to ensure mitigation measures for increased greenhouse gas emissions and a letter from the Bear Valley Water District clarifying sewer service capabilities for the project.

It paves the way for the resort to go forward with expansion plans that include: two new chairlifts to provide service between Bear Valley Village and the resort, upgrading the Super Cub chairlift, adding 174 more parking spaces, constructing a 12,500 square-foot lodge and adding 85.5 acres of developed trails.

The environmental document approved by Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor Susan Skalski was appealed Oct. 30 by CSERC to Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore, based in Vallejo. Moore had 45 days to overrule, reverse or return the decision to the Stanislaus but the appeal was withdrawn before he did so.

"From the beginning, our center emphasized that we do not oppose the expansion of the ski area and that we are highly sensitive to the need for the Bear Valley area to have some sort of boost that can help it to recover from its depressed economy," CSERC Executive Director John Buckley said in a prepared statement. ""In this situation, there were many flaws in the (environmental review) document that we could have used to successfully litigate and block the project. But we focused strictly on trying to improve the project, rather than aiming to prevail in court. This negotiated agreement should be a win-win outcome for all sides."

Attempts to reach Bear Valley Mountain General Manager Jim Gentling on Monday for comment were unsuccessful.

Though the ski area expansion is now cleared to move forward as soon as next summer, the resort's ownership was scheduled for a public hearing this morning in Markleeville on further growth plans. The Alpine County Board of Supervisors was set to discuss and potentially vote on plans to add more than 300 condominium units, a new lodge and additional commercial development in the village just east of the Calaveras County line on Highway 4.