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Arapahoe Basin, CO Feb. 8–A US Forest Service (USFS) decision to allow snowmaking at Arapahoe Basin ski area has been appealed by Colorado Wild, a Forest Service watchdog group. Colorado Wild has stated that the USFS decision would result in unacceptable impacts to water quality in the Snake River basin, a drainage already suffering from heavy metal pollution.
Under the USFS decision, A-Basin could divert water from the North Fork, a mountain stream that flows past the base of the ski area. The decision would enable A-Basin–the only Summit County ski area without snowmaking–to ensure a fixed opening date. Ski area officials have said they need that assurance to effectively compete for skiers and employees.
Colorado Wild maintains it wouldn’t oppose snowmaking if the plan ensured protection of the Snake River ecosystem.
“There is no question that any diversion of water from the North Fork of the Snake River will increase the existing concentrations of heavy metal pollution in the Snake River,” said Rocky Smith, Colorado Wild’s Forest Watch Campaign Chairman. “This would worsen an existing violation of Colorado water quality standards and make it even more difficult to realize the State’s designated uses for the Snake. We believe this is illegal under the Clean Water Act.” Ski area officials expressed disappointment at the appeal, but said it wasn’t unexpected.
“It’s not a surprise. They (Colorado Wild) seem to think it’s their role,” said Greg Finch, a vice president with Dundee Realty USA, A-Basin’s corporate parent. “It sure would be nice to see them make a more positive contribution to solving the problem rather than dancing around the outside criticizing those of us trying to make a living.”
According to ski area officials, the appeal does not raise any new issues that have not been considered, thoroughly analyzed, and publicly disclosed through the EIS process. They say the proposed diversion of water is in accordance with the ski area’s legal water rights and that it is consistent with both Colorado water law and the Clean Water Act.
“We believe strongly that the USFS has made the appropriate decision based on the NEPA process,” Finch concluded.
A team of Forest Service officials at the regional level will consider the appeal, with a decision due within 45 days.