EPA Orders Vail To Restore Wetlands

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Denver, CO, Oct. 27 (AP)--Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Vail Resorts to immediately begin efforts to restore a half-acre of wetlands illegally filled during construction of a dirt logging road.

It was just the latest episode in Vail Resorts' decades-long effort to complete a $14 million expansion project.

Environmental activists have set fires at the resort and recently lost a legal challenge over the expansion project's affect on wildlife, specifically the habitat of the lynx.

The logging road, built last fall to move heavy equipment and remove trees from the ski resort's new 885-acre area, was discovered earlier this year by U.S. Forest Service employees. Forest Service officials said it was causing excess sediment to flow into a water source below, and they ordered it closed in July.

The Army Corps of Engineers determined the road had violated the federal Clean Water Act. If the EPA agrees, it could fine Vail up to $27,500 a day. In 1996, Telluride ski area was fined $1.1 million for destroying 17 acres of wetlands.

The EPA on Friday ordered Vail Resorts to ``take action now'' to stabilize and winterize the road to protect the wetlands from further damage. The order requires the road remained closed and sets an August 31 deadline to complete restoration.

Vail Resorts spokesman Porter Wharton III said recently that construction of the road over the wetlands was an honest mistake. The road was realigned to miss one wetlands parcel and inadvertently affected another, he said.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Associated Press