Elk Meadows Closed, Awaiting State Meeting

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Beaver, UT, May 23--The owners of Elk Meadows Ski & Summer Resort, who are ready to walk away from the area and hand it over to a charity, are awaiting a meeting on Friday called by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to go over their plans for installing a new sewage treatment system tied to a number of planned improvements at the resort. The meeting comes after owners-fuming over what they see as unwarranted delays by the DEQ-laid off 50 employees last week and suspended summer operations at the resort located 170 miles south of Salt Lake City.

At issue is a micro-filtration plant that would replace a traditional septic tank-leach field design. The system doesn't disturb land, takes less space than conventional systems and uses no chemicals. It uses strands of filament tubes perforated with microscopic holes that allow water to pass through while blocking bacteria. The treated water would then be used for snowmaking at the resort.

The system would be designed and built by the same company that installed a similar system at Grand Targhee, Wyoming, in 1998. (see SAM, Sept. 1999) While Utah DEQ officials have said they need more time to study the technology, Elk Meadows officials have said they need to go ahead with construction this summer. And because the resort still has too much snowcover, their engineers won't be able to survey the site for a final application for another two weeks. That gives construction crews less than four months to install the system and make other improvements. Plans to build a 22,000-square-foot day lodge and a 66-room hotel hinge on the sewage system approval.

"It's not fair to the taxpayer to have to sit out this conservative movement on the part of the DEQ . . . when our company is trying to be environmentally responsible," said Elk Meadows General Manager Jim Collins. He said the resort has had a very positive relationship with the Beaver County zoning and planning commission throughout the conceptual design stage of the project, but the county was "ambushed" by DEQ officials who warned against approving an "untested" technology. "This isn't such space-age technology," said Collins, explaining that when complete, the system would be able to handle the water treatment needs of more than 5,000 condo and business units.

Collins added that the owners had spent in excess of $15 million in improvements over the last few years and were prepared to spend that amount again this summer on two new lifts, lodges and the micro-filtration sewage treatment system, which is more costly than conventional systems. Elk Meadows, which employs 200 people during the ski season, has an approved master plan with more than $150 million in resort improvements on tap that would double the county's tax base. The resort had also agreed to host the Special Olympics and has been visited by a handful of national teams looking for Olympic training facilities.