U.S. Water News Online
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Operators of Arizona Snowbowl received
approval recently to expand the ski area and install snowmaking
equipment that will use reclaimed wastewater, despite opposition from
some tribes and environmentalists.
Snowbowl, in northern Arizona outside Flagstaff, has hosted skiers
for 67 years, and its operators sought authorization to add
snowmaking equipment and to use reclaimed Flagstaff city wastewater
to remain competitive, particularly in years when natural snow is
"It'a great day for Arizona Snowbowl and our employees, our
customers and the Flagstaff business community," said general manager
Coconino National Forest Supervisor Nora Rasure said her decision
will allow for a consistent ski season and provide an economic boost
for Flagstaff, but her primary reason for approval was that it would
benefit skiers and other recreational users.
In addition to snowmaking, the recently approved proposal allows
construction of a snowplay and tubing facility, more lifts, two
enlarged guest lodges and modifications in terrain to existing ski
runs, Rasure and Peaks district ranger Gene Waldrip said.
The decision will provide for "a consistent and reliable operating
system" for Snowbowl and give the general public an opportunity to
enjoy the public lands, while still maintaining most of the San
Francisco Peaks as undeveloped, she said.
Rasure could have opted for no new development or expansion
without snowmaking equipment.
She said she recognized that the expansion might have some adverse
impacts on natural resources and a number of tribes, which consider
the San Francisco Peaks sacred. Mitigation efforts including reducing
soil erosion and visual impact will be undertaken, she said during a
teleconference call from Flagstaff.
Arizona has suffered through prolonged drought in recent years,
despite the current wet winter in which El Nino storms off the
Pacific Ocean have dumped significant snowfall. In recent years,
Snowbowl has been open as few as four days in a season because of
Operators want the ability to make snow to offset dry years and to
lay bases in good years. The owners said they would sell the resort
unless allowed to upgrade.
But several American Indian tribes and environmental organizations
opposed the plans, arguing that the resort should not be allowed to
use reclaimed wastewater or cut trees for new trails and development
because of the affect on the environment and on tribes. A number of
local tribes consider the peaks holy and continue to practice
The Hopi Tribe is "deeply disappointed" with the decision, said
Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr.
"Once again, the federal government has made a decision that is
clearly in opposition to the passionate pleas of Native American
nations who hold the peaks as sacred," he said.
Leigh J. Kuwanwisiwma, the Hopi cultural preservation director,
called Rasure's announcement a breach of the Coconino National
Forest's responsibility to his tribe.
"Coconino has placed a dagger in the Hopis' spirituality,"
Tribal officials and environmental advocates contend that
artificial snowmaking will negatively affect the environment of the
mountain and watershed.
"The Forest Service has squandered an opportunity to do the right
thing. This plan is culturally and environmentally destructive," said
Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club.
Rasure said she anticipates the Forest Service will be sued over
Her decision can be appealed, and Kawanwisiwma said he anticipated
the tribe would make every administrative appeal possible.
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