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March 20, 2006

More on Snowbowl's Snowmaking

When will the insanity end?

FLAGSTAFF - A group has presented the city with petitions that asked the City Council to block snowmaking with reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks.

The unofficial petitions were delivered to Mayor Joe Donaldson on Friday, the same day that the Arizona Snowbowl ski area opened this season. Record-breaking low snowfall this year delayed its opening day by three months.


The Navajo Nation has appealed a court decision to allow the ski area to use treated wastewater to make snow, arguing that federal environmental policies weren't followed and the tribe's religious freedom was violated.

The Save the Peaks Coalition said its petitions contained more than 3,000 signatures, including those from people in other countries.

The petitions seek to cancel the already approved sale of the water to the ski area. An automatic renewal agreement has already been signed and approved twice by the City Council. Construction on the pipeline, to be financed by Snowbowl, has yet to begin.

Let me go through the argument briefly again.

Snowbowl wants to add snowmaking capability to their small resort that sits on Federal Land and is the only skiing/snowboarding opportunity within 3 hours of Phoenix, now the 5th Largest City in the United States with almost 3.5M people. The ski area takes up under 200 acres and the snowmaking will use reclaimed wastewater that the city of Flagstaff treats and normally releases into the local river. Most ski resorts use reclaimed water and most resorts offer snowmaking to ensure a consistent season. The Forest Service went through extensive hearings and decision making and OK's the plan.

The Navajos object because they claim the peaks are sacred. Using reclaimed water would desecrate their shrine. The Sierra Club objects because they either don't like the resort or don't like the environmental impacts of waste water, but the environmental assessment has disproven their theories. The White Mountain Apache Tribe owns a competing resort that uses wastewater for snowmaking and objects because it will impact their business to have Snowbowl expand and also out of solidarity against the White Oppressors of the Federal Government. People in Flag are mixed. Hippie Moonbats want to save mother earth, but some are also snowboarders or skiers which leaves them in a quandry. The net is that in order for the resort to stay in business, snowmaking is a must. So this is basically a choice between shutting the resort down, coming up with an alternate plan, or implementing a plan approved by the Forest Service, Town of Flagstaff, and affirmed by the courts.

Now, we have folks from another country coming in to sign petitions about what to do with Federal "multi-use" land that our courts have already affirmed are justified in using treated wastewater. Again and Again, different groups have used a "kitchen sink" approach to throw everything they can at the resort to stop the expansion. People that have never been to Flagstaff or the peaks. People that do not understand the term multi-use. We are not talking about a strip mine or clear cutting a forest. We are talking about a ski resort. And the only argument that holds any water is that of the religious rights of the Navajos being violated. Using Wastewater is being done at most resorts across the country.

I don't understand how pouring wastewater into the local river is OK, but making artificial snow with treated wastewater is not. Why is hiking on the peaks or simply looking at them ok, but skiing is now? This is not about wastewater, but about whether skiing should be allowed on the peaks, which the Navajos also sued to stop in the late 1970's and lost.

This sort of endless lawsuit process is retarded. This may well push the snowmaking out into the next decade while this snakes its way through the courts. And Snowbowl gets branded by the Sierra Club and the Navajos as the next Exxon Valdez.

Posted by Justin at March 20, 2006 12:50 PM